The Second Disc

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Reissue Theory: Tracy Chapman, “Tracy Chapman”

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We music fans live for that moment when a song comes from nowhere – through a radio, perhaps, or more likely through your computer speakers nowadays – grabs us and doesn’t let go. That was undoubtedly the case with “Fast Car,” the first single by singer-songwriter Tracy Chapman.

The song – for the ten or so of you who might have missed it over the better part of 20 years – is an achingly bittersweet, first-person ballad about a woman planning to escape her impoverished, broken family only to fall into the same hardships herself with the man she loves. The rapid delivery of the lyrics – sung in Chapman’s beautiful low voice without sounding overwrought – is balanced with those chords coming out of her acoustic guitar, particularly the moving bridge sequence that just knots your stomach with those lines at the end: “I had a feeling that I belonged/I had a feeling I could be someone.”

It’s hard to believe that, by all accounts, Chapman had a long, hard road to major-label success (Rolling Stone once reported that she sent a demo to a label which turned her down and suggested she learn how to tune her guitar). Frankly, had “Fast Car” not become a Top 10 hit and Chapman not won three Grammys (including Best New Artist) that year, it’s hard to imagine the next decade being as populated with such strong female singer-songwriters as Sarah McLachlan, Alanis Morrissette or Tori Amos.

It’s harder still to realize that, as Tracy Chapman the album gets older, it hasn’t seen the kind of reissue that such a lauded record usually gets. To honor her achievements (not to mention her 46th birthday, which is today), why don’t we take a look at how a re-release might go down, the Reissue Theory way. Hit the jump and keep on drivin’.

Tracy Chapman – Tracy Chapman (Elektra 60774-1, 1988)

  1. Talkin’ ‘Bout a Revolution
  2. Fast Car
  3. Across the Lines
  4. Behind the Wall
  5. Baby Can I Hold You
  6. Mountains O’ Things
  7. She’s Got Her Ticket
  8. Why?
  9. For My Lover
  10. If Not Now…
  11. For You
  12. Behind the Wall (Live in London) (“Talkin’ ‘Bout a Revolution” CD single B-side – Elektra 69383-2, 1988)
  13. Mountains O’ Things (Live at Montreux) (“Baby Can I Hold You” German CD single B-side – Elektra/WEA EKR 82 CD, 1988)
  14. House of the Rising Sun (from Rubáiyát: Elektra’s 40th Anniversary compilation – Elektra 9 60940-2, 1990)

Written by Mike Duquette

March 30, 2010 at 09:48

Posted in Features, Reissues, Tracy Chapman

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One Response

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  1. It’s even harder to believe that here in the States Chapman has no Greatest Hits release.

    Tom Lane

    March 30, 2010 at 18:58

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