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Suzanne Vega

‘Close Up, Volume 4: Songs of Family’

Amanuensis Productions

Vega puts a bow on her “Close Up” series of albums with this fourth volume. Long known for her acoustic rock-ey folk, Vega has upped the ante here and taken 11 previously released tracks and stripped them to their core. By presenting just the barest essentials required to step over the line from “poetry” to “music,” Vega manages to keep her lyrics and voice squarely on center stage, while still giving her hardcore fans something interesting to chew on. Casual Vega fans may be turned off by the comparatively emotionless versions of previously recorded material, but serious Vega-philes will delight in the re-invention. The last three tracks are previously unreleased material, which fit well with the overall feel of the album, save for ender “Daddy is White,” which moves at a much different tempo and feels like an outlier. CV


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Tony Bennett

‘Viva Duets’


Tony Bennett continues his trek to become music’s version of Kevin Bacon with his third compilation of duets. This time, for fear of running out of competent American voices to pair with, Bennett goes international with a slew of Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking artists. Those most readily recognizable to English speaking audiences are Marc Anthony, Christina Aguilera and Gloria Estefan, who actually manages to hand in the biggest surprise — and best track on the album — with her efforts on “Who Can I Turn To (When Nobody Needs Me)?” For his part, Bennett is in classic form. The 86-year-old’s voice is still strong and true. And while not quite as dynamic as in his younger days, Bennett can still croon and swoon with the best of them. The album, however, does feel a bit like a one trick pony; especially coming so quickly on the heels of 2011’s “Duets II.” CV

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