Recording information: The Late Show, New York City (04/16/2015).
Photographer: Herb Ritts.
Apart from a 2001 import-only retrospective titled simply Collection, Tracy Chapman has largely ignored the whole anthology route. Since her remarkable eponymous debut long-player in 1988, the multiple Grammy Award winner has amassed more than enough quality material for a sonic victory lap, and this 18-track set from Elektra/Rhino doesn't disappoint. Chapman chose all of the songs, as well as had them remastered, so there is a nice mix of hits and deep cuts, and with eight studio albums to parse through, it's a far more comprehensive distillation of her career thus far than Collection ever was. Chapman's greatest strength is her ability to be both vulnerable and self-possessed, and her most compelling offerings ("Fast Car," "Change," "Give Me One Reason," "Crossroads," "Telling Stories," "Talkin' 'Bout a Revolution") are as relatable as they are powerful; beacons of hope and tough love in the midst of oppression and self-doubt. Nowhere does that fire for both compassion and social justice burn brighter than on an emotionally pitch-perfect, spotlight-stealing rendition of "Stand by Me," which she performed live on The Late Show with David Letterman in the waning days of the program's final season. With just her voice and an electric guitar, she managed to simultaneously bring the house down and build it back up again, which is no small feat, even for an artist who has proven herself time and again to be a powerful yet always benevolent force of nature. ~ James Christopher Monger