Tracy Chapman – Where You Live Elektra 7567-83803-2
By now, you probably be familiar with my attitude to singer/songwriters and acoustic guitars. So, it was with more than a little trepidation that I approached reviewing this album. Add to this the fact that I cannot read, let alone hear, the name Tracy Chapman without conjuring up a picture of the benign countenance and gruff whisper of Bob Harris. I don’t know why, but it’s guaranteed to put me off!
Therefore, when the first couple of tracks of this album turned out to be fairly ordinary S-S/A-G material, I was ready to give it a good going over. My mood was not abated on hearing Track 3, ‘3,000 Miles,’ which is repetitive to the point of torture. The next couple of songs were no improvement either, I’m afraid, although Track 5, ‘Don’t Dwell,’ had a certain lilting melancholy which did begin to catch my attention. The next number, ‘America’ started off a bit like Neil Young’s ‘Heart of Gold’ – always a bit dubious and disappointing to my mind – I think it suggests understatement but there’s really nothing there to be said. This was the same. And so it went on until…. Track 9 entitled ‘Before Easter’ hauled its arse into earshot and the album suddenly came alive. Strangely, this too suffers from a degree of understatement but there’s a suggestion there that it’s got hidden depths to be fathomed – and this is attractive to little old me. The CD then returned to its previous unremarkable and unremitting meandering gentleness, but somehow felt somewhat more interesting.
I suspect that, had the playing order had been changed so that Track 9 had come first or second, I would have heard it with a completely different ear. I’ve tried this but it didn’t work out for me – maybe because I’d been through the former process – but it does show that one song and where it appears on an album can do a lot to alter how it is perceived and, maybe, accepted, or not.
So, although my general attitude to the genre remains unchanged, my opinion of this CD has been elevated from a thoroughly average collection of sludgy dirges to a moderately interesting album to be played in the background at a dinner party. I guess that’s OK.
If, like Whispering Bob, you’re a fan of Tracy Chapman, I should think it’s right up your street!