Tracy Chapman – Where You Live (2005)
This is the first “surprise” that I’ve found in my album collection. According to Amazon, I bought it in June 2009, but I can’t actually recall buying it or listening to it, so it was probably bought at a low price amongst other bargains, listened to once and then filed away afterwards. It’s a shame that I’ve given “Where You Live” such little attention, because further exploration and review of it reveals it to be very good indeed and the kind of album you really need to give at least two or three plays to start to appreciate. In fact, the whole album requires a little effort on the listener’s part to stay with Tracy, as this isn’t exactly a commercial release. There are many downbeat, lyrically tough songs and little to lift the spirits – so if you need cheering up, Tracy’s seventh studio album probably isn’t the best record to listen to.
Don’t let that put you off, though, as there are some truly fine compositions on “Where You Live”. Album opener “Change” is a lovely track and is also the closest thing that this album has to a potential hit. “Talk To You”is probably my favourite song on the whole collection, a wonderfully heartbreaking tale of a relationship on the cusp of crumbling. “3,000 Miles” is deliberately bleak, both lyrically and musically, and would be very good if it wasn’t so repetitive. “Don’t Dwell” is a beautifully sombre, magnificently delivered, jazzy piece of brilliance, “America” is a defiant, angry song with a sparse, but powerful, beat which tackles her country’s violent history of inequality and imperialism and “Love’s Proof” is a tender, heartfelt message to the object of their desire, for them to forget yearning after somebody they can’t have and pay attention to the person who is there, offering love.
The greatest strength of this album is Tracy’s voice, sublimely dignified, beautiful and graceful. She has the skill and taste to never over-embellish and overly-complicate her songs, leaving plenty of space for the other musicians, who really do a wonderful job on this exquisitely produced, accomplished piece of work. There are a few tracks I don’t particularly care for and, given the subtle nature of “Where You Live”, I certainly understand why I passed this album by at the time, but I now have a greater appreciation for what is a rather fine collection of Tracy’s work. I won’t forget about this album again, that’s for sure.