In AliaVox’s release of the album Entremeses Del Siglo De Oro: Lope de Vega y su tiempo (1550-1650), which translates to “Intermission [music] of the Golden Century: Lope de Vega and his era,” we find soprano Montserrat Figueras and the group Hespèrion XX, Jordi Savall conducting, bringing us some of the finest examples of period music that I know of. The voice of Montserrat Figueras has the limpid and pure quality of a fine recorder, that is, each note is nearly as possible free from embellishment that became part and parcel of vocal training in the following centuries. The ensemble playing of Hespèrion, a group I’ve known for ten years, has never sounded better. Hats off to Jordi Savall. The music itself is akin to entre-act music written for the Elizabethan theater, most notably Shakespeare’s plays. You’ll note the similarity of the Spanish word entremeses and the English word intermission.
The songs on Solitude Standing, Suzanne Vega's second album, had years listed beside them on the lyric sheet, so you could see that some of them dated back to 1978. But that bold admission heralded the album's triumph – its diversity was what made it so good…
Though early comparisons were made to Joni Mitchell, Suzanne Vega's true antecedents were Janis Ian and Leonard Cohen. Like Ian, she sings with a precise, frequently half-spoken phrasing that gives her lyrics an intensity that seems to suggest an unsteady control consciously held over emotional chaos. Like Cohen, Vega observes the world in poetic metaphor, her cold urban landscapes reflecting a troubled sense of love and loss.
Retrospective: The Best of Suzanne Vega is essentially A&M's updated version of their 1999 issue, The Best of Suzanne Vega: Tried and True, adding "Tired of Sleeping" from Vega's Days of Open Hand, "Calypso" and "Solitude Standing" from Solitude Standing, "(I'll Never Be) Your Maggie May" and "Penitent" from the 2001 recording Songs in Red and Gray, and "Woman on the Tier (I'll See You Through)" from the Dead Man Walking soundtrack. Unfortunately, A&M chose to drop "Book and Cover" from the track listing, which was only previously available on The Best of Suzanne Vega: Tried and True, but the overall collection feels a little bit more hearty with a total of 21 tracks instead of 17.
Vega were one of several Andalusian and Spanish bands who flourished in the mid- to late seventies by making music that blended flamenco, folk and jazz at times with English progressive tendencies, often resulting in a colorful and rich fusion sound. Acts like Triana, Cai, Mezquita and Azahar would establish themselves as the preeminent players on these scenes, along with the more contemporary counterparts like Los Canarios and Alameda. In this vein Vega combined Andalusian instrumentation (and sometimes traditional arrangements) with a less well-defined progressive bent, emphasizing instead a heavy flamenco influence and the showcased guitar work of band leader Tómas Vega. The group released three albums in three years, each accompanied by one single. The first two are heavily imbued with flamenco-driven fusion compositions.