Chapter 1 - The Deep Freeze
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The Sound and Style of "Suzanne Vega."
"They [the producers] were careful. Sometimes I think they were too careful, because at that time I wanted to have something that was rougher sounding. I was kind of surprised when I heard it back after it was mixed and mastered and realized how ethereal it was. It made me depressed. A lot of people like that sound, but it was not what I had intended. What I had intended was something that was much more along the lines of R.E.M. Something much more roots-like, instead of this ethereal, almost New-Age sound. Some people seem to think that I was deliberately moving in a New-Age direction. Which I'm not. It was never my intention." 
Notwithstanding Suzanne's assessment of the production of this first album (made, it should be noted, in 1992, when she was perhaps more inclined to a much more critical assessment of the production of "Suzanne Vega" in contrast to "99.9" which had just been released) recordings that pre-date her first album tend to affirm the thesis that, far from deviating from Vega's intentions, "Suzanne Vega," with some exceptions, seems to generally conform to the overall sound and feel of Vega's performance style of the time.
A recording from a November 1982 performance at a weekly concert series, "Coffeehouse 790," at Jefferson Community College's James McVean Theatre in Watertown New York, and sponsored by the local AM radio station WTNY, emphasizes the consistency of Vega's performing style well before her first recording.
Immortalized in her journals and reproduced in her book, "The Passionate Eye," under the title "Watertown: A Journal," Vega's trip the week of November 1st was the beginning of a several days away from Suzanne's job at Crown Publishers. Earlier in the year she had graduated from Barnard College with her BA in English and had taken this day job, as Co-op Advertising Manager, to make ends meet. She was 23 years old at the time. Particularly striking, all these years later, is how closely songs like "Straight Lines," "Gypsy," "Neighborhood Girls," and "Knight Moves" match the sound one hears 3 years later on "Suzanne Vega." Also noteworthy is the manner in which her stage craft resembles her presentation years later: in style and approach, it's fascinating to observe how little has fundamentally changed in two decades.
Also fundamentally unchanged is the lack of contradiction in Vega's reaction to the production of "Suzanne Vega." She has always been drawn to both rhythmic "street" music as well as "folk" music. It may, however, reflect the fact that the sound she was able to produce solo with only her voice and acoustic guitar did not - indeed could not -- match, at least until "99.9," the sound she had in her head. Thus it is not so surprising that the music industry found Vega difficult to categorize and label, or, to put the matter more succinctly, why they erroneously chose to identify her with pastoral "folk" music. In the early reviews of her work, one can hear this seeming contradiction erupting into full view:
"New York folkies haven't had a singer to swoon over for a long time, but they do now. They have Suzanne Vega, whose self-titled A&M debut album is causing palpitations in Folk City circles. They're calling the twenty-six-year-old singer-songwriter the new early Bob Dylan, the new early Joni Mitchell, and yes, the new early Leonard Cohen. Those who worry she will be tainted by the folkie label are also calling her the new folk-style Laurie Anderson, Lou Reed, Patti Smith. It's not old-style folk music, they argue, it's proto-minimalist folk-rock. Several songs, they'll tell you, are prime examples of a new musical form: 'folk-rap fusion.'" 
" melody has never been easy for me. I prefer rhythm. That's really where I feel happy, dealing with rhythms. Melody is a bit of a mystery and I have to really work hard on carrying a tune and sculpting a melody." 
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