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Suzanne Vega Beauty & Crime [album]
Suzanne Vega: Beauty & Crime “The gentle, fresh voice
  of Suzanne Vega soothes
  your senses as you listen
  to the eleven original
  songs on her CD album,
  Beauty & Crime — her
  seventh album and her
  debut for EMI Records.
  You can almost feel the
  thrill of taking in the sights
  and sounds of The Big
  Apple and taking a
  leisurely stroll in Central Park...”

OVER TWENTY YEARS INTO HER STORIED CAREER, Suzanne has gained a loyal fan following. In this latest album she introduces her home town, New York City — Vega's signature poetry and folk-pop songcraft is illuminated by lush orchestral arrangements that are juxtaposed against cutting-edge beats. Her last album, Songs in Red and Gray, came out just two weeks after 9/11.

"That particular album was really personal," Suzanne says, "and it felt really weird to be talking about all these personal songs at a time that wasn't like any other in New York… I spent a lot of time thinking about things in the last six years, being in New York with my daughter, walking around. It seemed natural to write a bunch of songs that were about New York or little stories that had New York as a character."

An intensely melodic and heartfelt song, Ludlow Street — Suzanne's single release that also features on the Beauty & Crime album — is a fine example of her captivating tales of New York. Full of dark charm and fascinating images, it is loaded with strings and synths and is all about the layers of time that one can sense in one single spot — you can almost feel the texture of the buildings and the road beneath your feet.

Ludlow Street is on the Lower East Side and it is where Suzanne had gone to memorable parties when she was on the way up in the local music scene. She would later return there, under very different circumstances, to collect her brother for rehab. An influence for much of the album, he sadly passed away in 2002 and it came as no surprise to read on the album insert: "This record is dedicated to the memory of my dear brother, Tim Vega, who lived on Ludlow Street".

The translation from memory to recording is, as she says, a very personal one. The result is a beautifully bittersweet and compelling song that perfectly exemplifies the quality and continual evolution of Suzanne Vega as a songwriter. Her voice dances from one note to another, effortlessly expressing herself in the pleasing way we have come to expect from this established artiste.

Beauty and Crime opens with Zephyr & I, recounting a conversation with the seminal graffiti artist while strolling down West Avenue. New York is a Woman personifies the city as a hard-luck lady whose beauty still shines — "in her steam and steel is the passion you feel endlessly". But New York gives herself to so many men that she'll never truly be yours. Capturing the spirit of the New York she has known so well, the album goes from the city's past, to the present and looks to the future.

Two of her most personal songs yet are Bound — a love song for her husband — and As You Are Now, which is a dedication to her daughter.

The sessions were recorded in both New York and London and were produced by Jimmy Hogarth (Sia, Corinne Bailey Rae, KT Tunstall); mixed by Tchad Blake with an eclectic cast, including orchestral arranger Will Malone (Dido, seal, Corinne Bailey Rae); background vocalist and vocal arranger KT Tunstall; guitarists Gerry Leonard (David Bowie) and Lee Ranaldo (Sonic Youth); and bassist Tony Shanahan (Patti Smith). And also members of Vega's touring band, bassist Mike Visceglia and drummer Doug Yowell.

With the release of her self-titled debut on A&M Records in 1985, Suzanne began paving a path for an entire generation of female singer-songwriters to follow in the 1990s. Her 1987 album, Solitude Standing, established her as an international star, first with its surprise hit Luka and again later when UK electronic dance duo DNA released a remixed version of Tom's Diner (the song has since been remixed upwards of 25 times). Vega's other albums include Days of Open Hand (1990), 99.9°F (1992), Nine Objects of Desire (1996) and Songs in Red and Gray (2001).

Suzanne also played a fundamental role in the pioneering on two recent frontiers: digital music and virtual worlds. She unwittingly played an integral role in the creation of mp3 when central developer Karl-heinz Brandenburg used Tom's Diner as the subject for his experiments in audio compression. In 2006, Vega also became the first major record-ing artist to ever perform live in avatar form within the online virtual world Second Life.

Suzanne will return to the UK in October for a clutch of live shows to follow on for her rapturously received gigs last month. More details are to be confirmed.

Beauty & Crime takes its name from a line in the track New York is a Woman — "…you were dazzled by her beauty and her crime" — and was released on 11 June (2007). The album line-up is: Zephyr & I, Ludlow Street, New York is a Woman, Pornographer's Dream, Frank & Ava, Edith Wharton's Figurines, Bound, Unbound, As You Are Now, Angel's Doorway and Anniversary

Suzanne Vega's thought-provoking new single, Ludlow Street, was released on 15 October.