01 Change (5:06)
02 Talk To You (4:27)
03 3,000 Miles(5:58)
04 Going Back (5:22)
05 Don’t Dwell (3:22)
06 Never Yours (3:37)
07 America (3:43)
08 Love’s Proof (3:44)
09 Before Easter (3:03)
10 Taken (3:42)
11 Be And Be Not Afraid (4:44)
12. Loose Your Love (6:27) (Japanese bonus track)
Order Where You Live from Amazon.com
‘Change’ Release dates:
Change . 2005 . Directed by Andrew Dosunmu . 3:36
Tracy Chapman: acoustic & electric guitar, backing vocals
Flea: electric bass
Mitchell Froom: harpsichord, organ
Joe Gore: electric guitar
Quinn: drums, persussion
TALK TO YOU
Tracy Chapman: electric guitar, keyboards, backing vocals
Flea: electric bass
Mitchell Froom: keyboards
Joe Gore: keyboards
Quinn: drums, persussion
Tracy Chapman: hand claps, clarinet, glockenspiel, electric guitar, backing vocals
Mitchell Froom: organ
Joe Gore: acoustic guitar, keyboards, lap steel
David Pilch: upright bass
Quinn: drums, hand claps, persussion, piano
Tracy Chapman: guitar, keyboards
Mitchell Froom: celeste
Joe Gore: acoustic guitar, keyboards
David Pilch: upright bass
Quinn: drums, hand claps, persussion, piano
Tracy Chapman: electric guitar
Joe Gore: electric guitar
Quinn: drums, glockenspiel
Paul Bushnell: electric bass
Tracy Chapman: strumstick, acoustic guitar, backing vocals
Joe Gore: electric guitar
Quinn: drums, hand claps, persussion, piano
Tracy Chapman: hand drum, electric guitar, persussion, backing vocals
Flea: electric bass
Mitchell Froom: keyboards
Joe Gore: electric guitar, percussion, backing vocals
Quinn: drums, mazur, persussion, backing vocals
Michael Webster: keyboards, backing vocals
Paul Bushnell: electric bass
Tracy Chapman: acoustic guitar, keyboards bass, backing vocals
Mitchell Froom: wurlitzer
Joe Gore: acoustic guitar, keyboard bass
Tracy Chapman: acoustic & electric guitar, electric mandolin, backing vocals
Mitchell Froom: field organ, Fender Rhodes
Joe Gore: electric guitar
David Pilch: upright bass
Tracy Chapman: acoustic guitar, electric bass
Joe Gore: electric guitar, electric bass, keyboards
Quinn: drums, percussion
BE AND BE NOT AFRAID
Tracy Chapman: acoustic guitar, harmonica, backing vocals
Joe Gore: dobro
LOOSE YOUR LOVE
Tracy Chapman: guitar, keyboards, backing vocals
Joe Gore: piano, backing vocals
Quinn: drums, backing vocals
PRODUCED by TCHAD BLAKE & TRACY CHAPMAN
Engineered & mixed by Tchad Blake
Recorded at Fuzzbox, San Francisco
Additional recording at Sunset Sound Factory, Hollywood
Mixed at Sunset Sound Factory, Hollywood
Assistant Engineers: Jared Miller (San Francisco & Hollywood) and Scott Wiley (Hollywood)
Mastered by Bob Ludwig at Gateway Mastering Studios, Portland, Maine
All songs written by Tracy Chapman
All songs published by Purple Rabbit Music (ASCAP)
Cover photo: Kasskara
All other photos: Jeri Heiden, Tracy Chapman and Tchad Blake
Art Direction and Design: Jeri & John Heiden at Smog Design
Thanks tp the Fuzzbox crew, Jared, Joe, Quinn and Tchad, and to Smog, Direct Management, Atlantic Records and everyone who supported the making of this record/
Special thanks to Flea and Mitchell Froom.
OFFICIAL PROMO SHEET (Atlantic Records)
Song by song, puzzle-piece by puzzle-piece, Tracy Chapman’s latest album mysteriously began willing itself into existence back in 2000. Now, after a five year gestation, the Grammy winning singer-songwriter has assembled those fragments into a remarkably intimate-sounding new record. Co-produced by Chapman and celebrated sound engineer and mixer Tchad Blake (Los Lobos, Peter Gabriel, Pearl Jam, Tom Waits, Bonnie Raitt, Elvis Costello, Randy Newman, Richard Thompson), Where You Live features 11 original compositions that run the gamut from haunting world-pop forays (“3,000 Miles,” “Going Back”) to coarse-grained Americana (“Before Easter,” “Taken,” “America”) and bright-burning acoustic rockers (the album’s maiden single, “Change”). Recorded at an improvised San Francisco rehearsal space turned studio, Where You Live is as notable for its soulful hearthside vibes as for its deep-felt songs.
Though Chapman is hard pressed to trace the inspirational source of her new material, the singer discovered a common thread after Where You Live was completed. “All the songs seemed to reference this idea of where you live,” Chapman explains. “In some songs, the reference is to a physical place and environment — where you live physically in the world. In some of the other songs, the reference is to a state of mind and to a state of being; where you live in your head and in your heart. I’d say there’s even a song or two that addresses how you think about yourself in relation to the universe. That’s how the title of the record came to be.”
With its memorable songs and true-to-life recording sounds, it seems inevitable that fans will embrace Where You Live with ardent enthusiasm. Chapman charts her musical course on the album’s first single, “Change.” Built on a rock-steady folk rhythm, this compelling opening track finds Chapman posing timeless rhetorical questions that seem all the more relevant in this discordant age of affluence and poverty, war and peace, faith and science. To wit: “if you knew that you would die today / if you saw the face of God and love… would you change?”
With “Change” serving as a point of departure, Where You Live proceeds to transport listeners to an all-encompassing world of musical possibility. On the gorgeously rendered “Don’t Dwell,” Chapman frames bittersweet lyrics against ravishing torch song melodies. On “America,” the singer ponders the escalating cost of western imperialism, setting her sentiments to driving rhythms that evoke the merciless lurch of progress. “Going Back” and “3,000 Miles,” examines the struggle for identity in an increasingly dehumanized world, while tracks like “Talk to You” and “Love’s Proof” follow in the romantic tradition of Tracy Chapman love songs like 1988′s “Baby Can I Hold You” and 2002′s “I Am Yours.”
To underscore the album’s truth-seeking lyricism, Chapman stripped away any sonic barriers that might impede the connection between artist and listener. Instead of booking time at a professional studio, the singer and co-producer Blake trucked recording gear into an unassuming Bay Area rehearsal space. The pair then invited a small but select group of musicians to join them, including guitarist / keyboardist Joe Gore (Tom Waits, PJ Harvey, Eels) and percussionist Quinn (eastmountainsouth). Legendary bassist Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers) was recruited to play on three tracks, while Chapman herself ably handled vocals, guitar, keys and clarinet.
The fortunate result of these experiments is the spontaneous, on-the-fly sound that animates Where You Live. Far removed from the claustrophobic pop productions of the day, Chapman’s new album boasts an airy, wide-open sound that complements the forthrightness of her songs. “I felt like simplifying things would give me the flexibility I was seeking,” the singer explains. “Playing with just a few musicians would give me the ability to do what I do when I play acoustic — that is, to give an interpretation of a song that’s for the moment, or a particular place. To me, it feels like this approach creates an opportunity for more emotion.”
Just shy of her 20th anniversary as a recording artist, it’s heartening to find Tracy Chapman still in hot pursuit of “more emotion.” After all, it was Chapman who brought the metal-weary masses to their senses in 1988 with her self-titled debut album. Fueled by the success of the singles “Fast Car,” “Talkin’ Bout A Revolution” and “Baby Can I Hold You,” Chapman’s album went on to sell 6 million copies domestically and captured three Grammy awards, including Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, Best Contemporary Folk Recording and Best New Artist. She was named Best New Artist (Pop / Rock) at the 1989 American Music Awards and was featured on the Amnesty International Human Rights Now! World tour with Peter Gabriel, Bruce Springsteen, Sting and Youssou N’Dour.
Impervious to trends, Chapman has commendably stayed her musical course, winning acclaim for such albums as “Crossroads” (1989 — certified platinum), “Matters of the Heart” (1992 — certified gold),” “New Beginning” (1995 — 5x platinum), “Telling Stories” (2000 — gold) and “Let It Rain” (2002). The singer’s incandescent recordings have continued to win the approbation of fans, critics and peers. “Give Me One Reason,” the bluesy single from “New Beginning,” netted Chapman her fourth Grammy.
Now, with the release of her new album, Tracy Chapman continues on the strong-willed path that has made her one the world’s most acclaimed singer-songwriters. Where You Live possesses an aural integrity and nuanced emotionalism rarely evidenced in contemporary pop music.
Seventh heaven for the worthy woman who has lightened up
Since her 1988 self-titled debut, Tracy Chapman has had a bit of an uncompromising image that may have scared off lesser mortals. But this album, her seventh, is an absolute delight. Concerned with home, place, love and memory , it is bereft of folksy whimsy. There are elements of jazz and gospel, and even the most overtly political track, ‘America’, is underscored by addictive percussive elements. As Chapman knows to her cost, there are dangers when an iconic song reaches saturation point. But even if you’d rather have your teeth pulled than listen to ‘Fast Car’ ever again, I challenge you not to fall in love with new single ‘Change’. One of the most joyous things she’s ever done.
Seventeen years on from her first album, Tracy Chapman is still unique. She is, after all, the one black American performer to have mixed soft-rock balladry with angry lyrics and brought issues of politics and race to the concert hall in such a disarming fashion. Her new album follows the usual format, with her acoustic guitar matched against minimalist backing, strong melodies and sturdy but gloomy songs.
Chapman wasn’t to know it when she recorded the set, but after New Orleans the time is right for new songs pointing up the divisions and poverty within the US. Her furious, unexpectedly stomping tune America does just that, with lines like “We’re sick and tired, hungry and poor, ’cause you’re still conquering America”. Elsewhere there are sad-edged tales of squalid, brutalised neighbourhoods, tracks with religious overtones and (of course) unhappy love songs, such as the pained and personal Never Yours. She’s still on fine, if depressing form.
For nearly two decades, Tracy Chapman has been a truly individual voice on the modern musical landscape, charting and artistic path that owes nothing to trend and fashion, and everything to personal spirit, intelligence, and integrity. An eloquent teller of stories that are at once deeply intimate and yet speak to universal human concerns and a wider social conscience, Chapman has created a body of work that has been as consistently compelling as it is honest and uncompromising. Tracy Chapman returns to the recording fold with a new album that’s as notable for its soulful hearthside vibes as for its deep-felt songs. Co-produced by Chapman and Tchad Blake, Where You Live was recorded at an improvised San Francisco rehearsal space-turned-studio that inspired the singer and her accompanists to stretch out both musically and spiritually. The result is 11 original compositions complemented by some of the most intimate performances Chapman has ever captured. Running the stylistic gamut from hauntingly rendered ballads to coarse-grained Americana and bright-burning acoustic rockers, Where You Live is a remarkably intimate-sounding album that reestablishes Tracy Chapman as one of the premiere singer-songwriters of her time.
“I felt like simplifying things would give me flexibilty I was seeking. Playing with just a few musicians would give me the ability to do what I do when I play acoustic – that is, to give an interpretation of a song that’s for the moment, or a particular place. To me, it feels like this approach creates an opportunity for more emotion“.
Few people can be unfamiliar with Tracy Chapman’s self-titled debut album, released all the way back in 1988. With songs such as Fast Car and Talkin’ About A Revolution, she managed the rare feat of being both political and passionate, both earnest and enjoyable. With her strong, compelling voice added into things, its appeal was immense, its legacy considerable. Sixteen years on and it still stands up, will continue to do so – it’s a true classic. And, as such, it’s been difficult for Chapman to match. Her subsequent albums have had their moments, her impeccable musicianship remains, but with such high standards to meet she hasn’t produced a work as consistently brilliant. That’s not to downgrade what came later; 2002′s Let It Rain was particularly strong. Upbeat in places, drawing on elements of the blues and Gospel; the bulk of the songs concerning affairs of the heart.
Her latest album is musically a more understated creation; Where You Live sees Chapman engaging once more with the issues that move her. Issues of class and wealth; issues of faith and love. Her voice is gentler than it once was – there’s an occasional trembling quality to it now – but that somehow compliments her approach on this new collection of songs.
Change, the opening track, starts out by asking questions – just what would it take to make you rethink your ways, but it’s more contemplative than polemical in tone. 3,000 Miles deals delicately with the harsh realities of poverty in urban America. Never Yours subverts the love song with ideas of control and possession: “I’ve been a lot of things, but never yours.” (And with lyrics like “say I’m a saint of mercy, say I’m a whore” I would like to have seen Boyzone attempt a cover version as they once did with Baby Can I Hold You Tonight).
If that all sounds a little grim then I’m not doing her justice. Chapman is an eloquent lyricist with a strong social conscience, but she’s also a superb songwriter and musician and Where You Live contains several instances of low key beauty. The most striking of these is Don’t Dwell, a strangely delicate love song; spare yet haunting and deeply atmospheric, quite unlike anything she’s done before.
With an insistent baseline provided by Flea from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers America is the most overtly political track on the album. Chapman sings about race and power in the US with justifiable anger and a to-the-point attitude: you “made us soldiers and junkies, prisoners and slaves, while you were conquering America.” Her message is stark and arresting, made even more relevant by the recent appalling events in New Orleans.
Chapman has a rare integrity and as a result her songs seldom feel overly worthy though, in lesser hands, it’s easy to see how they could. Where You Live is not in the same league as her debut – but then few things are; it’s nonetheless a powerful album from an artist who has stuck faithfully to her own path over the years.
Tracy Chapman’s seventh album features her reflections, it’s claimed, on “home, place, love, and memory” – a capacious enough net to cast as it is, further broadened by her extension of the notion of “home” to a national scale in “America”, whose founding fathers “were lost and got lucky, came upon the shore/ Found you were conquering America”. Set to softly adamant percussion and a gentle, rootsy pulsing of fiddle and harmonium, the song refocuses on the present day in that curiously prescient way that sets Chapman apart from her contemporaries, with lines such as, “We’re sick and tired, hungry and poor, but you’re still conquering America,” resonating powerfully with the political wrangling surrounding the New Orleans catastrophe. “Home is where you live; home is where you die,” she observes in “Going Back”, another song lent prescience by disaster. It’s not all portents and politics, though: the familiar Armatradisms are discernible in her desire to “sort things out” with a partner in “Talk to You”; elsewhere, Chapman takes an unusual attitude to Jesus in “Before Easter”, claiming she’s “Gonna hide myself from him/ I’m not the same.” Most surprising of all, though, is the sharpness of her rebuttal of a suitor in “Never Yours”: “Say I’m a saint of mercy, say I’m a whore/ I’ve been a lot of things/ But never yours.”
Presumably, a large number of people bought Tracy Chapman’s debut album, then decided that the “Chapman, T” section of their record collection didn’t need augmentation. If you’re one of those people, now may be the time to reconsider. The songs on Where You Live are the most memorable she has written since that debut. The evidence suggests that, as with many other songwriters, Chapman’s muse has been fired by fury at the current regime.
The album’s most resonant moment is called, simply, America: “The ghost of Columbus haunts this world/’Cause you’re still conquering America/The meek won’t survive/Or inherit the earth/’Cause you’re still conquering America”. The song’s juxtaposition of America’s domestic problems and global aggression is horribly timely. Four stars
Three years ago, Tracy Chapman revisited the stripped-down emotional terrain of her breakthrough debut to chilling effect with the acoustic-based “Let It Rain.” On her latest release and seventh studio recording, “Where You Live,” the San Francisco singer-songwriter goes the other way with producer Tchad Blake, who is known for taking folkie artists like Tom Waits and Suzanne Vega and making them sound as if they were singing in a glue factory. It’s to Chapman’s credit that the clanging beats, production-line riffs and steam whistles (OK, not so many steam whistles) don’t distract from the bruised, vulnerable blues of songs like “Don’t Dwell” and “Love’s Proof.” Well, not too much, anyway. “America” belongs on an Audioslave record.
Poor Tracy Chapman. Even her honey-tinged, evocative singing did little to redeem her uninspired last few albums. So, let’s all issue a collective “hooray” for Where You Live, her wonderful new seventh effort, and her first consistently solid one since her fabulous self-titled debut in 1988. Chapman’s releasing Where You Live without much fanfare, and that’s too bad considering the strength of the material here. First single, Change, boasts a lurching groove, with Chapman’s infectious refrain, “If you saw the face of God and love/would you change” swirling around like a moralistic musical cyclone. Unlike her past work with its stale, minimalist arrangements that rendered Chapman’s low-key approach deadening, count on musical adventurism here to shake things up a tad. There’s the slinky Talk to You or the clattering intensity of America, with its hollow drum-beat and Chapman’s purring menace: “spoke of peace/waged a war/while you’re concurring America,” she sings, while the melody swells with driving organ and an intoxicating groove. Before Easter registers trepidation with its paranoid-sounding arrangement and talk of the afterlife. Think of it as stripped-down, haunted gospel.
Despite the sonic shake-ups, Chapman still shows a penchant for spare, hushed arrangements. The torpid Don’t Dwell is a bit plodding, even with its whispered sound. But Chapman has never sounded better than she does on Never Yours or the equally sparse Taken. A-
Where You Live is a reminder that somewhere during her career, Tracy Chapman softly transformed from just an early publicized face of contemporary folk into a quiet stalwart of social commentary and atmosphere. Though she is certainly best known for her hits “Fast Car” and “Give Me One Reason,” those two songs stand within her history as suspension bridge supports: visible from afar as beacons of a structure with purpose, whose job is to sustain the action from point A to point B in her slow evolution. And with major labels’ consistent tendency to lean further and further away from hosting artists for more than an album or two, it is commendable that Elektra seems dedicated in serving Chapman’s subtlety and dependable longevity, affording her the luxury of having producers and players aboard who nurture her sound through said evolution. Where You Live is yet another elegant and easy album from Chapman, just the kind her fan base has come to expect, and with the help of co-producer Tchad Blake, it embraces some details of Chapman’s penchant for darkness, where parts of her earlier records glossed over these folds. Judging by many of the artists with whom he has worked, Blake’s inclination seems to be to find minutiae such as this and latch on, his approach being generally heavy-handed, but here he has left plenty of room for the songs to really breathe around their most intriguing attribute: Chapman’s warm voice. Perhaps it was Chapman’s role as co-producer that served as a ballast, or perhaps it is an example of Blake’s growth, but it is worth noting Blake’s late-’90s trademark — ultra-compressed, watery, and claustrophobic drum sounds — has been given a rest in exchange for simple, dry, and tight drums played minimally by Quinn. This restrained foundation is integral to the dynamics of Where You Live, allowing any flourish to meet the ear with immediacy and purpose. Short of a few examples, Where You Live slides along at a gentle, mid-tempo gait. The nature of Chapman’s calm delivery, as with much of her catalog, is deceiving, considering some of the heavy subject matter, but it is perhaps one of her greatest assets that she is able to allow her messages to sink in like mellow fatigue on a late-summer Sunday evening. In anyone else’s hands, these smooth edges would likely suffer under the force of preaching, but her demeanor allows the words and melodies to work for themselves. Perhaps due to the album’s fluidity, no song from Where You Live immediately presents itself as the single; instead the album operates entirely as a measured course and will enlighten those who will choose to fall into its simple allure, rather than acting as a hook for new listeners.
Lyrical hardships always have been a key part of Tracy Chapman’s folk-music-for-the-masses, whether she’s singing about a Fast Car, Talkin’ About A Revolution or pleading an ultimatum on Give Me One Reason. Seventeen years after her self-titled debut, 41-year-old Chapman hasn’t let up in her reality checks. “How bad, how good does it need to get/how many losses, how much regret/what chain reaction would cause an effect/ makes you turn around/ makes you try to explain,” she sings on opening cut Changes, setting a morose tone that says our world, despite whatever progress has been made, still has parts in need of fixing (and in light of the Hurricane Katrina devastation, the aforementioned phrase couldn’t resonate any deeper).
Chapman refuses to restrain her social conscience on America and 3,000 Miles, nor will she let anyone take control of her (“I’ve been a lot of things/ but never yours,” she emphatically explains on Never Yours over a thumping bass line courtesy of Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea). Possessing a gentler vocal style, Chapman’s not quite as hard-hitting as in her earlier days; still, her strength as a tell-it-like-it-is songstress is further proof that she’s one of the top folk musicians for the masses. All we need to do is listen.
Even more bare bones than usual, Tracy Chapman recorded her seventh solo album not in a studio, but in a San Francisco-area rehearsal space filled with trucked-in gear. The result: beautifully written songs in Chapman’s signature simple and acoustic style.
The memorable tracks are “America” and the album’s first single, “Change,” which has Chapman posing a string of rhetorical questions. It’s great in the way of her break out hit 1988′s “Fast Car,” but doesn’t pull at the heart strings as much as it challenges the listener.
“America” is a spirited and revolutionary track that brings out Chapman’s mind for social justice. The song asks Americans to face their history with lyrics like, “The ghost of Columbus haunts this world. You’re still conquering America.”
Chapman includes beautiful ballads like “3,000 Miles,” which opens with a haunting percussive beats that make you feel mile after mile after mile. The painful and seeking lyrics of “Never Yours” will almost bring tears and memories of personal lost loves.
Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers guests on three tracks and Chapman is at her Grammy-winning best. She makes no tangent here. It’s just Chapman’s updated, intimate take on the world through her folk sound and intelligent, touching lyrics.
There’s something about Tracy Chapman’s voice that transports the listener to a simpler time and place, where good song writing and soul are worth more than over-produced Top 40 hits. Where You Live is Chapman’s first studio album since 2002′s Let It Rain, and once again she delivers soothing melodies and introspective, personal lyrics. On this project she also steps outside of the traditional folk genre on several more dramatic tracks and adds several instruments to her repertoire.
The album’s first single, “Change,” is in true Chapman style with a simple guitar hook that has just enough tempo to keep listeners humming along with the radio. What starts as a simple album segues to tracks that pose deeper questions about God, love, and social and racial divides. On the album’s strongest and politically-charged track “America,” Flea, from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, lends his skills on the bass and Chapman emotes on issues of war, peace, and slavery.
On the track, “Never Yours” she asserts her independence with lyrics like “Say I have known some / Too well for my own good / Say I’m a saint of mercy / Say I’m a whore / I’ve been a lot of things / But never yours.” Chapman reminds us she’s hopeful on “Don’t Dwell.”
Many of the tracks on this album were written and recorded as far back as 2001, and the extended process gave Chapman time to devote her musical expertise to each song – she plays the acoustic and electric guitar, keyboards, clarinet, strumstick, percussion, and harmonica throughout the album.
From her moving breakout song “Fast Car” in the late ’80s to the chart-topping “Give Me One Reason,” Chapman has quietly amassed a group of loyal fans who understand her lyrics are more than simple folk melodies. After learning the guitar as a child, she won a scholarship to Tufts University in Boston. During her time in the Hub, she took the opportunity to sing and play at local coffee shops before being signed in 1986. Her socially-conscious folk lyrics and unique style placed her on a different plane from virtually all music produced in the ’80s and she has been recording ever since.
While new listeners may not respond to Chapman’s politically-charged and compelling lyrics, fans will appreciate her honesty and sense of individuality on this latest project. Where You Live is challenging and rewarding; it’s the juxtaposition of socially conscious lyrics with a folk sound. It manages to stay true to the artist’s convictions without being overtly preachy. This newest release will probably put her back in the spotlight, as will her U.S. and international tour that will make a stop at Boston’s Orpheum Theater on Oct. 18. Chapman, however, is one of few musicians who shies away from the spotlight and prefers to let her music do the talking.
While she may possess more than a passing resemblance to the pre-hiatus Ricky Williams, Tracy Chapman has proven herself to be a much more reliable veteran in her respective industry. After a three-year interval since the release of her last album, “Let It Rain,” the dreadlocked diva continues to impress with her modest substance.
Simply put, Tracy Chapman makes good music. Listening to this album is a welcome relief from the crappy pop songs that have accumulated over the past few years. Her unique style is what makes her music so powerful – her piercingly clear voice somehow manages to simultaneously haunt and soothe the listener. Chapman is the epitome of elegance in simplicity – her tracks consist mainly of her pure, melancholic voice at its soulful finest with some tasteful guitar accompaniment.
Prior to listening to the album, the listener could offer the same challenge to Chapman that she did on a previous hit single. Give me one reason to stay here, Tracy, and I’ll turn right back around. On “Where You Live,” Tracy Chapman gives the listener 11 quality reasons to stay, providing more than sufficient rationale to stick around.
The poignant genius behind “Where You Live” starts off strong with “Change,” a social self-reflection that manages to make its point without holier-than-thou condescension.
One of Tracy Chapman’s best qualities is that she approaches the subject of social commentary with the appropriate gravity of the situation. Unlike rappers who glorify the violence and misogyny of the rough neighborhoods where they grew up, Chapman maintains a somber tone as she sings about the abuses of women on “3,000 Miles.” She also displays her considerable poetic talent with such lyrics as, “Good girls walk fast/ In groups of three/ Fast girls walk slow/ On side streets/ Sometimes girls who walk alone/ Aren’t found for days or weeks.”
Despite her understated style, Chapman isn’t afraid to wax political. It would be an error to mistake her soothing tone for passive substance, as she sings with a voice that is both powerful and moving. “America,” a compelling song about minority abuse throughout American history, is a profound soapbox sermon on the history of racial injustice in this country and on the continued need for change. Her powerful words stand by themselves: “The ghost of Columbus haunts this world/ ‘Cause you’re still conquering America/ The meek won’t survive/ Or inherit the earth/ ‘Cause you’re still conquering America.”
Songs such as “Talk To You” and “Love’s Proof” are tragic love ballads provide ideal listening fodder for the recently broken-up or heartbroken among us.
In fact, if one critical comment were to be made about the entire album, it would be to tell Tracy to lighten up a little, and maybe try to create an upbeat song or two. However, the overall quality and consistent excellence of “Where You Live” proves that Tracy is still the proverbial Chap-Man.
‘Chicks’ rule autumn: Tracy Chapman, Bonnie Raitt in top form on new albums By: MIKE ROSS, EDMONTON SUN, September 25, 2005
After the summer of manly rock comes a sensitive singer songwriter autumn of “chick music” – and I mean that in the most respectful way, of course.
Paul Anka said recently that Norah Jones was so huge because she appealed to the “silent majority” who maybe buy one record a year – that record being the new Norah Jones. Carlos Santana said recently that rhythm is masculine, melody is feminine and their offspring is “wonderment.” So, uh, today, with those kernels of wisdom in mind, Tracy Chapman and Bonnie Raitt are lumped together not necessarily for their most obvious similarity, but because both are established in their careers to the point that new material isn’t going to do much to make or break them, yet each still has the potential to connect with the “silent majority.”
Both have merit – Chapman for what she says, Raitt for how she rocks it – and each CD reveals each artist at the top of her game.
Chapman doesn’t toy too much with the elements that made her successful. Where You Live is a melancholy, guitar-strumming collection of slow, occasionally bleak songs that seem to say more lyrically than musically. The first line of the first cut asks a good question: “If you knew that you would die today, would you change?” The Fleetwood Macish America has the most robust pulse in both criteria (Before Easter a close second). Elsewhere, while pockets of drear drag it down, this is some of Chapman’s finest songwriting.
Bonnie Raitt also knows by now upon which side her bread is buttered. The left-leaning axewoman eschews politics on her new disc, in favour of groove, soul and one tasty guitar solo after another. There’s some distracting experimentation, but the heart of Souls Alike is a solid exploration of all the forms and styles of music she’s made her own over the years. The lyrics might not be as thought-provoking as Tracy’s, but then again, Tracy can’t play a smokin’ slide guitar, can she?
In summation, you could buy either of these CDs for your girlfriend and do no wrong. It depends on what mood you’re going for, eh? Not everything has to hit every part of the body.
Après John Parish pour Let I Rain en 2002, c’est à Tchad Blake (Los Lobos, Peter Gabriel, Tom Waits, Elvis Costello) que la princesse du folk couleur ébène a cette fois confié les arrangements de son nouvel opus, moins introspectif mais toujours intime. C’est peut-être parce qu’elle est née à Cleveland l’année où la beatlemania a déferlé en Amérique, que Tracy Chapman est devenue une mélodiste aussi subtile, particulièrement à l’aise dans les ballades, mais qui ne rechigne jamais à accélérer le tempo, à faire rissoler le ton et les humeurs. Aussi à l’aise pour la pop mondialiste (Going Back), l’americana de haut vol (Before Easter) que pour les titres rock fermement menés à la guitare sèche (Change), Chapman propose ici un tour d’horizon de ses talents qui ont bien mûri depuis Talkin’ Bout Revolution.
Son groupe n’est constitué que de fines lames (Joe Gore, guitariste pour PJ Harvey ou Eels) parmi lesquelles Flea, bassiste des Red Hot Chili Peppers, dont la présence… pimente quelques titres.
La chanteuse américaine serait-elle devenue mystique ? Le premier titre de son nouvel album Where You Live semble le confirmer : « Si tu voyais le visage de Dieu et de l’amour, changerais-tu ? », chante-t-elle de sa voix traînante. Les dix morceaux suivants effacent cette première impression. Tracy Chapman a juste poussé son folk aux limites du dépouillement. Aux fastes d’une grosse production, elle a préféré l’expérimentation sonore d’un petit studio, avec seulement trois-quatre musiciens. « En simplifiant les choses, je voulais, comme en acoustique, une interprétation qui soit dans l’instant. » Cette liberté musicale lui permet de s’interroger sur sa permanente quête identitaire à travers des rythmes doucereux, interprétés par une guitare toujours aussi expressive. A. L.
Elle était apparue sur scène toute simple, avec sa guitare et sa voix si chaude, si rauque. Elle avait chanté Talkin’About a Revolution et touché d’un coup le coeur des gens. C’était en juin 1988 au stade de Wembley à Londres pour les soixante-dix ans de Nelson Mandela. Du jour au lendemain, cette jeune femme originaire de Cleveland dans l’Ohio, issue d’une famille monoparentale pauvre, était propulsée à la tête des hit-parades planétaires, rebaptisée « Dylan noire ». Dix-sept ans après, elle sort son dernier album Where you Live et porte toujours la voix des sans-voix, celle de l’autre Amérique qui accuse Bush. « Tu parlais de paix mais tu as fait la guerre pour conquérir l’Amérique, il y avait des terres à prendre et des gens à tuer pour conquérir l’Amérique, tu as servi tes propres intérêts au nom de Dieu pour conquérir l’Amérique, (…) nous sommes malades, affamés et pauvres car tu cherches toujours à conquérir l’Amérique… » Des mots extraits d’un des principaux titres de l’album America qui visent juste, pour chanter sa révolte contre la guerre, le racisme et pour se battre pour le droit à l’homosexualité. En 2003, son engagement politique l’a poussée à participer à la tournée Vote for change aux côtés des démocrates. Ses onze chansons sont « une sorte de responsabilité civique ». « Je suis déçue et attristée par ce qui se passe dans le monde aujourd’hui, affirme-t-elle. C’est peut-être le moment le pire depuis que je suis née. » Un moment où justement elle ne laisse pas tomber son public, ses fidèles… Comme ceux de La Nouvelle-Orléans.
The backdrop to Tracy Chapman’s seventh album is made up of the forgotten people she’s been concerned with throughout her career. But on Where You Live she puts personal politics in the foreground. For example, the opener, “Change,” could scarcely be more simple musically—at first. Chapman’s acoustic guitar sets the scene; gradually guitarist Joe Gore slips in and adds depth and complication, and ever-inventive engineer/co-producer Tchad Blake subtly tweaks the sound. (Gore, a superb, tasteful player, reports that Chapman was responsible for most of the guitar work on the album.) The musical evolution mirrors the lyrical progression as Chapman poses a series of seemingly simple propositions (“If you knew that you would die today”), each followed by the question, “Would you change?” It is a deceptively complicated meditation on the difficulties of walking the high road, not fearing difficulties, mistakes, or judgment. “Going Back” brings to mind the decaying cities Chapman wanted to flee on her first album, while the closing “Be and Be Not Afraid” is a straight-forward declaration about standing tall. Chapman’s concerns haven’t changed much over the years, but she’s as powerful and relevant as ever. (Elektra, www.atlanticrecords.com).