Tuesday, April 5, 1988

Tracy Chapman’s debut released

First posted 2/26/2008; updated 10/4/2020.

Tracy Chapman

Tracy Chapman

Released: April 5, 1988

Peak: 16 US, 13 UK, 19 CN, 2 AU

Sales (in millions): 6.0 US, 2.4 UK, 20.4 world (includes US and UK)

Genre: contemporary folk rock


Song Title [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Talkin’ ‘Bout a Revolution [2:38] (7/30/88, 75 US, 45 AC, 22 AR, 24 MR, 85 UK, 42 CN, 66 AU)
  2. Fast Car [4:58] (5/7/88, 6 US, 7 AC, 19 AR, 5 UK, 1 CN, 4 AU)
  3. Across the Lines [3:22]
  4. Behind the Wall [1:46]
  5. Baby Can I Hold You [3:16] (11/5/88, 48 US, 19 AC, 94 UK, 27 CN, 68 AU)
  6. Mountains O’ Things [4:37]
  7. She’s Got Her Ticket [3:54]
  8. Why? [2:01]
  9. For My Lover [3:15]
  10. If Not Now… [2:55]
  11. For You [3:09]

All songs written by Tracy Chapman.

Total Running Time: 35:51


4.457 out of 5.00 (average of 14 ratings)

Quotable: --


About the Album:

“Arriving with little fanfare in the spring of 1988, Tracy Chapman’s eponymous debut album became one of the key records of the Bush era, providing a touchstone for the entire PC movement while reviving the singer/songwriter tradition. And Tracy Chapman is firmly within the classic singer/songwriter tradition, sounding for all the world as if it was recorded in the early ‘70s.” STE

Chapman’s acoustic-based music was a turn-off to many producers because of the popularity of snyth-driven, dance-pop music at the time. However, David Kershenbaum embraced her musical direction. WK He recognized that, as he said, “there was a sense in the industry of a slight boredom with everything out there and that people might be willing to listen again to lyrics and to someone who made statements.” WK

While the album may sonically be a throwback to the ‘70s, the subject matters “are clearly a result of the Reagan revolution. Even the love songs and laments are underscored by a realized vision of trickle-down modern life – listen to the lyrical details of Fast Car for proof.” STE

Music critics widely praised the album for its politically and socially-minded lyrics, as well as Chapman’s vocal ability and the simplicity of the music. WK “Chapman’s impassioned liberal activism and emotional resonance enlivens her music, breathing life into her songs even when the production is a little bit too clean. Still, the juxtaposition of contemporary themes and classic production precisely is what makes the album distinctive – it brings the traditions into the present. At the time, it revitalized traditional folk ideals of social activism,” STE but “the record continues to sound fresh because Chapman's writing is so keenly observed and her strong, gutsy singing makes each song sound intimate and immediate.” STE

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