Nearly three decades ago, this singer-songwriter stepped into the wider world stage after years of performing in smaller, more intimate platforms. Her voice is as distinct as her music. And boy, she sings with a message -- some that we were not always mindful about in our own corners of the globe. Today, here she is -- still is. Without any frills, she can come onstage and just sing with guitar in hand and we sit still where we are to listen.
Tracy Chapman and her musical journey has captured and continued to capture many a music lover through the years.
For some of us who had been a fan from day one, back when she released her debut and self-titled album in 1988, we are giddy that she has released a Greatest Hits album just this November. It showcases her songs from 1988 until 2008 as well as one live performance this year.
What is special about this album is that Tracy herself was hands on in choosing which songs should make the cut and in which order they should appear in the album. Choosing Telling Stories as the first track of the album is just appropriate. I say appropriate because that is how I perceive Tracy as a singer. She tells stories with her songs. This song was from her 2000 album with the same title. This is followed by the beautiful Baby, Can I Hold You Tonight from her 1st album; two other songs came from the same album: Fast Car and Talkin' About the Revolution. While I know it may be too much to ask for two more songs from that same album, I really miss having For My Lover and If Not Now in this Greatest Hits album.
As far as from what albums the other selections in this album came from, here goes: three songs from her 1989 Crossroads album (Crossroads, Subcity and All That You Have is Your Soul) as well as another three from the 1995 New Beginning album (The Promise, Smoke and Ashes and the blues piece and hit, Give Me One Reason). Two songs were each culled from the 1992 Matters of the Heart album (Open Arms and Bang, Bang, Bang), from the 2000 Tellings Stories album (Telling Stories and Speak the Word) and the 2008 Our Bright Future album (Sing for You and Save Us All). Only one song each from her 2002 Let It Rain album (You're the One) and 2005 Where You Live album (Change).
The album ends with Tracy's live performance of Stand by Me on one of the last episodes of The Late Show with David Letterman on April 15 this year. While some may wonder why she chose to end the album with the song, I think that once again it is appropriate in many levels.
Her live performance of the 1961 hit was simply powerful. It all reminded us why she and her music has endured through time. That song has also been given the distinction of being "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant" by the Library of Congress. And she can be indeed connecting to the historic and cultural siginificance of that song. But perhaps she also chose it as her last piece here to address her listeners, her fans. Through the changing seasons of the musical scene and of time itself, are we indeed able to stand by her, her music, her message?