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Folk/Americana - Released January 1, 1988 | Elektra Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Folk/Americana - Released November 20, 2015 | Rhino - Elektra

Apart from a 2001 import-only retrospective titled simply Collection, Tracy Chapman has largely ignored the whole anthology route. Since her remarkable eponymous debut long-player in 1988, the multiple Grammy Award winner has amassed more than enough quality material for a sonic victory lap, and this 18-track set from Elektra/Rhino doesn't disappoint. Chapman chose all of the songs, as well as had them remastered, so there is a nice mix of hits and deep cuts, and with eight studio albums to parse through, it's a far more comprehensive distillation of her career thus far than Collection ever was. Chapman's greatest strength is her ability to be both vulnerable and self-possessed, and her most compelling offerings ("Fast Car," "Change," "Give Me One Reason," "Crossroads," "Telling Stories," "Talkin' 'Bout a Revolution") are as relatable as they are powerful; beacons of hope and tough love in the midst of oppression and self-doubt. Nowhere does that fire for both compassion and social justice burn brighter than on an emotionally pitch-perfect, spotlight-stealing rendition of "Stand by Me," which she performed live on The Late Show with David Letterman in the waning days of the program's final season. With just her voice and an electric guitar, she managed to simultaneously bring the house down and build it back up again, which is no small feat, even for an artist who has proven herself time and again to be a powerful yet always benevolent force of nature. © James Christopher Monger /TiVo
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Folk/Americana - Released June 19, 1986 | Elektra Records

Tracy Chapman's self-titled debut album of 1988 was an incredibly tough act to follow, but the folk-rocker delivered an inspired sophomore effort with Crossroads. While it falls short of the excellence of her stunning debut, Crossroads is a heartfelt, honest offering that's well worth obtaining. Dedicated to South African freedom fighter Nelson Mandela, the anthemic "Freedom Now" is one of Chapman's best protest songs. Equally compelling is "Subcity," a lament for the poor, disenfranchised underclass that stands on the outside of the American Dream looking in. Much of the time, however, Chapman isn't going for immediacy -- introspective and subtle songs like "Bridges," "Be Careful of My Heart," and "All That You Have Is Your Soul" require at least several listens in order to be fully appreciated. © Alex Henderson /TiVo
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Folk/Americana - Released October 31, 1995 | Elektra Records

One might assume that the difference between Tracy Chapman's third album, which spent less than three months in the charts (and took nine years to reach gold status) after her first two albums had sold in the millions, and her fourth, which restored her to substantial commercial success, was the album's hit single, "Give Me One Reason." In fact, after a disappointing start, New Beginning turned around and started selling a few months after its release and before the single took off. It went gold the week that "Give Me One Reason" hit the charts. Of course, having a hit single helps, too, but since "Give Me One Reason" is a nearly generic blues song that isn't particularly characteristic of Chapman or of the album, it may have brought in an audience that didn't get what it expected. Though she has added a backup band, Chapman continues to take a simple musical approach that focuses attention on her voice and to sing lyrics that alternate between intimate emotional portraits and broad political generalizations that seem more felt than deeply thought out. Three songs here, "Heaven's Here on Earth," "The Rape of the World," and the title cut, are about the state of the whole world, which is viewed in either excessively sunny or gloomy terms. As such, Chapman's relationship songs, though they too can be a little vague, register more powerfully because they are so personal. As the title suggests, Chapman is adopting a more open and hopeful posture in both her feelings and her politics on New Beginning, and while the surprise success of "Give Me One Reason" is heartening from a career perspective, that's the real news here. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo
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Folk/Americana - Released October 15, 2002 | Elektra Records

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Folk/Americana - Released September 5, 2005 | Elektra Records - ATG

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Folk/Americana - Released November 7, 2008 | Elektra Records

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Folk/Americana - Released January 18, 2000 | Elektra Records

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Folk/Americana - Released April 14, 1992 | Elektra Records

Less bold and angry than her previous work, Chapman paces Matters of the Heart over an acoustic course that touches equally on personal vignettes and social commentary. With her fluid, rapid-fire delivery, Chapman takes aim at society and lands several direct hits devoid of self-righteousness: songs about the downtrodden ("Bang Bang Bang"), feminism ("Woman's Work"), and freedom ("I Used to Be a Sailor"). The album's centerpiece is "If These Are the Things," a subtle, passionate masterpiece about coming to grips with innocence lost. A couple of songs suffer from too much sweetening in the studio, diluting the impact of Chapman's potent lyrics. The extraneous bells and whistles dressing up "Dreaming on a World" provide the most obvious example of a trend Chapman would do well to avoid in the future. © Roch Parisien /TiVo
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Folk/Americana - Released August 9, 2005 | Atlantic Records - ATG