When I started writing this series of Listens To! posts, my idea was to:
A: Listen to the tonnes of albums I have acquired over the years that I hadn’t bothered to actually listen to yet and give my thoughts as I listened for the first time.
B: Catch up on those artists that I was aware of/liked certain songs by, but whose albums I had never listened to in their entirety.
C: Potentially get some new favourites based off what I heard or by recommendations from my billions of readers.
D: Because there are a tonne of albums which always appear on best of lists which I have never heard. As a musician, music fan, and human with working ears, I feel that I should give these a go.
To get some focus, I decided to go to 2000 Edition of ‘Colin Larkin’s All Time Top 1000 Albums’ because it looks fairly comprehensive (and there are a few extra sections listing top 100 albums by genre which cover selections left out of the main 1000 which I will also try to cover).
Greetings, Glancers! It’s time for another round of ‘point at the idiot’ as I wrap my ears around an album that I’ve never heard. Today, it’s the turn of Tracy Chapman to prove that she is worthy of a place amongst the greats. Colin Larkin seems to think she is, but as I’ve never met the dude I’m going to decide for myself, so Tracy, do your best – and if yo best ain’t good enuff, then do your worst.
What Do I Know About Tracy Chapman: She’s a singer, and I used to get confused over whether she was a man or a woman. I only ever saw the briefest of snippets on TV, and from the look and the sound, I couldn’t tell. She has a song called ‘Cars’ or something like that? Is her genre some mix of soft blues, light jazz, and easy pop? I’m pulling teeth here. All I know is that what I heard made me think I’d never have the desire to listen any further.
What Do I Know About Tracy Chapman: She’s a singer, an- what? Oh right, what do I know about the album…. nothing. Maybe there’s a song called ‘Cars’ on it.
Talkin’ Bout A Revolution: Acoustic guitars. Nice. Weirdo vocals. See, is it a man or a woman? I still have no idea. I like the melodies, I like the politics, but I just can’t stand the vocals. Better in the chorus. Repeat. Organ. A decent enough song, I’d probably like it more if it was covered by someone else.
Fast Car: Ahh, yes, this is the one I was talking about. Near Joni guitars in the intro. Nice melodies, more nice ideas about running away. The vocals are still annoying. The riff is overplayed with no break – needs a chorus or something else to give us a rest from the twiddly dee dee, doo do doo. More. Finally, I knew there was another part of the song. I-e-I-be someone. Hmm, didn’t last long, but still some respite. Yes, I realize the irony in the lyrics. Good song, a little too plain or empty or something – there’s definitely something missing here for me, but I understand why it’s so loved. Seems a minute too long.
Across The Lines: Another good riff. Ooh, backing instruments too, see this is what was missing from the last track – needed somthing extra, a violin, a cello, something. Even here it isn’t used to its fullest potential. Good messages. Nice melodies again, the vocals may be getting less annoying with each track. Lyrics a little repetitive.
Behind The Wall: Sounds tribal, melodically. Well, there is no music, yet. Someone’s getting a slap and sounds like no-one cares. Sounds like she has heard my complaints about not enough backing music and is flipping me the bird. Good on you.
Baby Can I Hold You: Chords softer. Wait a minute. I know this. It ain’t Ronan Keating’s warbling out the side of his neck. So she wrote this, or is it a cover too? It doesn’t fit with everything else so far, lyrically. Still it’s a nice song, still a little plain and bare, though there are some humorous Motown things going on in the background. It’s a good song, but I don’t think anyone has done it justice yet.
Mountains o’ Things: Plinky plonk. Maybe going for the full instrumentation here. Samey melodies. Here the backing music is too 80s and doesn’t work. Lets keep things classy, please. Yes yes, dreaming of the things which she no doubt has now. Lets hope she hasn’t forgotten her own message. Only halfway through this one… not great people, not great. Things are wonderful. It’s always better having things. A complete lack of anything catchy makes this a painful five minutes, like hearing someone with an awful voice speaking loudly beside you on the bus for five minutes.
She’s Got Her Ticket: Drum surprise. No guitar, only vocals again, and that is not a good sign. Guitars. Country. Dire Straits. Reggae. So this is basically another version of Fast Car. Just a bunch of lyrics with no real melody and some guitars slapped on in the background.
Why?: Groovy enough. Again, easy thoughtful lyrics. Nothing new that hasn’t already been said in a hundred songs, but that in itself is a travesty. Better melodies in a couple of places. All of this sounds very amateurish – just, like someone heard a demo and thought they would have a hit single then said go ahead, have an album written and recorded by next week.
For My Lover: Drums. Guitar. Sounds familiar. Different guitars. Too many yous. It’s ok, one of the better ones so far, but still I see nothing here that makes me want to listen again.
If Not Now: Softly softly. Piano. Similar melody followed by beautiful melody. Surge. Drums. This one is better, but again it just doesn’t go in the direction I’d like it to. Probably my favourite here.
For You: Samey guitars. She ain’t much of a player, at least what’s on display here. Vocals and nowt else again. I don’t mind that, but I need to like the vocals, and the melodies need to be present, but for too much of this album there are no melodies worth speaking of and the vocals are irritating. Nothing interesting here, just more of the same, I’m afraid.
Colin Larkin’s Ranking: 273/1000
What I Learned: That after finally listening to a whole song, and a WHOLE ALBUM by Chapman, that I still don’t like her voice. That I’m probably a horrible person for saying such things. That songs with a message need to be catchy enough so that message is conveyed and spreads. There’s no point in singing a protest song if it’s just a bunch of words strung together like worms in a toddler’s mouth.
Does It Deserves Its Place In The Top 1000 Albums Of All Time: Absolutely not. I was really looking forward to this one, hoping that it was going to deliver some hidden joy to me, but it’s boring, repetitive, plain, empty of music, hell it almost feels like its empty of soul and emotion even though I’m sure that’s not the case. There are a few good songs in here but the production is all wrong, and the vocals are worse.
You may now commence the name-throwing in the comments section, though I imagine Tracy Chapman fans wouldn’t stoop to that level. Tell me what I’ve missed? What makes this so special? Does the album hold a special place in your heart, or a hallowed spot on your shelf? Pray tell.
Even though, I have not listened to Tracy Chapman in a while, I think she is very talented and she even performs well in a live setting making her songs every bit as good on an album as it is performed live. Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂
I think I was disappointed because I assumed I would like it, given that I generally love ‘girl with guitar music’. But I just couldn’t get past her voice. I wrote that post almost a year ago so maybe I’ll listen again as it sometimes takes me a few listens to appreciate something