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The Formative Ones: Tracy Chapman (Self-titled Debut)

Continuing on in my series of the albums that have been most influential to me as an artist and musician, I must introduce you to Tracy Chapman .  .  .

Have you ever met someone who is so shy and so completely unaware of how beautiful she is?   Have you ever been in the presence of someone whose every word and gesture came buried under a layer of tenderness? 

This has always been my impression of Tracy Chapman. 

In 1988, she released her self-titled debut album.  I wonder if she had any idea how strongly her music would resonate with people.  At a time when Michael Jackson and Madonna were mounting their musical empires and teen sensations like Tiffany, Debbie Gibson, and New Kids On the Block ruled the airwaves, a soft-spoken woman with a deep voice and a quiet presence emerged out of nowhere.  Without fancy hair and makeup and with relatively little fanfare, the first single from the album was released.

Somewhere Between Thought and Experience...Casino Royale and More

On Mapping Happenings

As I sit here writing, I'm listening to thundering bass, guitar, and drums on the CD, "Cooking With Pagans", by the bad-ass psych/metal Swedish band, Freak Kitchen. Their treatment of the 50s Frankie Lymon hit, "Goody Goody", is unbelievable...and unforgettable.

But that is not what I want to talk about right now. I've been on the road again, just getting home Friday night. Friday night was the debut performance of Casino Royale, a band that was formed by notable journalist, songwriter, and musician, Bart Mendoza, with other notables, Normandie Wilson and David Fleminger. All have had quite a few bands with successful careers in San Diego and elsewhere. Normandie's album "Geography and Other Problems" was nominated for best pop album at the 2014 San Diego Music Awards, and David was in the bands, Manual Scan, and True Stories, along with Bart, as well as forming several other bands over the past decades, as has Bart. David currently has an excellent chamber-pop band, The Comeuppance, along with his wife, Heather Vorwerck on cello and more recently adding Tom Ward on bass. Normandie, a multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter, is currently part of the lounge-cabaret group, Blue Velvet, but has had a solo singer/songwriter career for years, along with playing in the sprawling, all-over-the-map-musically band, Red Pony Clock, which to these ears sounds like a collision between Jad Fair's Half Japanese, Ken Kesey's Acid Test recordings, and the Baja Marimba Band done fervently and joyfully yet with full-on teenage angst. Talking about collisions, Normandie (or rather her car) was rear-ended in a freeway accident just over a week ago and it was worrisome whether the whiplash from the accident was going to affect their performing. Luckily, pain-and-all, she was able to persevere.

On the way home from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania I noted that I would be arriving in San Diego, after connections in Philadelphia and Dallas, at 7:05 PM, if all would go as planned. Casino Royale would hit the stage at 8:00 PM at Java Joe's in Normal Heights. I could make it. Unfortunately some subconscious part of my being decided that my breakfast looked better on my shirt than in my stomach. I called Nancy and asked her to bring an extra shirt to the airport. It was Kismet. We landed in San Diego five minutes early. My bag was one of the first to plop onto the baggage carousel. Nancy scooped me up at the curb, and we pulled-over on a side street so I could change out of the winter coat and stained shirt, and to change drivers. I attempted my imitation of an amphetamine-driven taxi until we ran into a long line of cars waiting for an even longer train. Hurry up and wait. Despite this minor frustration, we made it before the band began. It was a friendly crowd. Most of the audience knew or had seen at least one of the three members perform and all were eager to hear this new trio of masters.

The band said they were nervous, but it sure didn't show once the first chord was struck. Normandie was drop dead gorgeous, but you could tell through her movements that her neck was giving her troubles. You could not tell from the quality of her performance. All were dressed in a 60s style that fit the music perfectly.

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