Our Bright Future
ESSENTIAL "I Did it All"
What has marked Tracy Chapman's work over the course of her two-decade career is her emotional intensity and clarity of vision, and both are in evidence on this fine new disc, her first in three years. Chapman's early success positioned her as a straight-up pop singer, but at heart she's a true, determined folkie capable of combining the secular with the spiritual, as she often does here ("Save Us All" and the title track). The songs are short and focused; only a couple, especially "Thinking of You," meander without resolving. Coproduced by veteran Larry Klein, the production is so crisp it makes your eyes sting. The songs revolve around love, commitment, and faith, all popular staples in her canon. The best, like "Sing for You," are tuneful and soul-baring, a rare and beautiful combination. There's a lovely curveball in the cabaret-tinged piano-based beauty "I Did It All," a remembrance of decadent days with sweet instrumental embellishments. A folk singer with genuine soul, Chapman proves over and over again that she's also an artist of the first order. (Out tomorrow) KEN CAPOBIANCO