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TRACY CHAPMAN Our Bright Future Elektra (2008)

Tracy Chapman

It's a bugger when your debut album sets the standard so high that it's virtually impossible to rescale those heights. And that's true in spades when your debut is widely acknowledged as a 'classic'.

Carole King's Tapestry is a prime example - never bettered, and I'd put Tracy Chapman's eponymous 1988 debut in the same class. A wonderful singer songwriter record delivered with a unique vocal style and bucketfuls of attitude and anguish.

Trouble is, Tracy's debut was an emotional rollercoaster - pent up stories of heartbreak, hope and joy told by a woman whose stripped back vocals laid bare her soul and dripped emotion. 20 years on and 7 albums later, while Tracy's storytelling style remains the same, she's now (not unsurprisingly) operating in a comfort zone a million record sales away from her roots.

As a consequence, Our Bright Future comprising 11 new songs written by Tracy and co-produced by Larry Klein (Herbie Hancock, Joni Mitchell, Madeline Peyroux), while bearing all the familiar Chapman hallmarks - sparse arrangements and prominent warm vocals - lacks the raw emotion of her early work.

Easy on the ear and adding light touches of country and Norah Jones style jazz, Our Bright Future is a not unpleasant record. But looking another 10 years down the track, would any of this body of work feature on a career retrospective? I suspect not.


Review by Pete Whalley

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***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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