Nothing New, Still Good

Tracy Chapman's latest album, Matters of the Heart (Elektra, 1992), is pretty good. Ten folksy tunes with some justice-for-the-underdog lyrics and beautiful, delicate guitar work. All in all, very Tracy Chapmanish. (That's the good thing about Tracy Chapman - she does Tracy Chapman so well.)

Not that it is a great album (cassette, CD, DAT, whatever you're working with). Some lyrics can be agonizingly unsubtle (to the point of ineffectiveness), and Chapman's incredible voice occasionally drags and loses its edge. Some of her songs have a definite deja-vu quality to them: Wait a minute...haven't I heard this angry tune about out-of-touch, amoral, and greedy capitalists before?

"Bang Bang Bang" (subtitled "Song for little man") should garner some attention in light of the events in Los Angeles. It's a plain-worded tune about the hopeless situation in the inner city and the country's joint responsibility: "If he preys only on his neighbors/Brothers sisters and friends/We'll consider it a favor/We'll consider justice done/But if he comes for you or me/And we can place a gun in his hand/Bang bang bang/We'll shoot him dead."

There are a couple of depressing but well-done songs about romance gone bad: "The Love That You Had," which is probably the best song in the collection, and "Matters of the Heart," which seems to go on forever, Chapman's voice soaring, crashing, and melding with the lyrics.

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