Tracy Chapman – Tracy Chapman – 1988
First listen?: Yes
I really didn’t know what to expect going into my first listen of Tracy Chapman’s landmark debut album. Of course I had heard signature hit Fast Car, notably current again thanks to a certain terrible tropical house version from earlier in 2016, but my knowledge of Tracy Chapman was nonexistent. The album itself is odd considering its release at the tail end of the 80s. In an era defined by hair metal and dance music that would become synonymous with the decade to follow, this acoustic led folk rock album is an anomaly. Chapman herself is an enigmatic figure at the centre of the record, with a uniquely distinctive voice that makes a song like Fast Car feel wonderfully poignant. It’s a true singer/songwriter record, where Chapman is in full control of her own artistic vision, with politically charged songs like Talkin’ About A Revolution and Why? delivering cutting shots of her own experiences to the album. Overall it’s an oddly straightforward listen, not quite as genre bending as Graceland, but not as dull some albums higher in this list, it’s a songwriter’s album, where Tracy Chapman shows that she has stories worth sharing. Standouts like She’s Got Her Ticket and Mountain o’ Things show opposite sides of her personality, while Baby Can I Hold You is a ballad simple enough that it was able to become a big hit for Boyzone 9 years after its release. Across The Lines is where the whole thing comes together for me, with that striking vocal, the message and the building guitar led production making for a brilliant song. For me personally, the album itself is lacking some sort of hook that would get me to come back, but it’s hard to deny the relevance it must have had at the turn of the decade.
Will I listen again?: Probably not.
Best Track: Across The Lines was by far my favourite moment of this record.