Sarah McLachlan

Nettwerk Productions / Arista Records, 1997



Who is that voice?

I waited until this astonishing song came to an end and heard the DJ say her name. "McLachlan? How would you spell that?"

Those two questions (in that order) are the first two questions you'll ask yourself upon the discovery of Sarah McLachlan (pronounced ma-KLAU-klan). Soon everyone from a fellow Donna Lewis webmaster to a guy in my class was telling me I'd end up liking her, so I eched up some cash and bought an enhanced-CD version of Surfacing (same cost as the regular).

The first verse of "Building a Mystery" had my eyes rolling. So much for friendship (and Donna Lewis cross-links) ... this is whitebread radio stuff. To be honest, my biorythms pick up when I hear this song pop out on my portable AIWA but aren't these "alternative" artists supposed to be, well, deep? The second single "Sweet Surrender" suffers the same condition but it's not as poppy; "folk rock"? It's "boring." "Witness" sounds exactly like a conversation between drunk college friends discussing the meaning of paradise (I don't know whether to laugh or be disgusted).my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

But some of these ... err ... upbeat tracks (for lack of a better vocabulary) work pretty well. "Adia" is brought to life by McLachlan's vaulted vocalizing which is a comfortable blend of air and country. Her voice is infectuously over-highlighted. Although she is singing to a woman, it doesn't sound like the big deal it should be; it might as well be a guy named Adia (hey, YOU go listen to Janet Jackson's "Tonight's the Night"). "Black and White" talks about acceptance in a critical chorus; the beat and lyrics resound of the self-awareness motif.

Many a listener will gravitate towards her ballads like "I Love You" and "Do What You Have to Do". The former processes her voice so the song sounds like a third-perspective listening when in fact she's singing in the first. The effect is starkly visual. The latter utilizes her piano (finally, I must add; it's track five and there hasn't been ANY piano before that) in an intimate voice-piano arrangement to directly convey emotions; an instant hit.

Two other ballads "Angel" and "Full of Grace" will also stop you from whatever you're doing. "Angel"'s initial theme takes a sympathetic view towards drug users but it's much more applicable than that; it's a lulluby in the most basic sense, though not for little kids. "Full of Grace" has the voice, the piano, the English horn, the violin ... the perfect McLachlan song. It's followed by the instrumental track "Last Dance" which reminds me of that scene in Batteries Not Included (the book) where, at the end of the day, Frank and Faye put on something on the Wurlitzer and just dance in the dark cafe.

I've heard her piano was top-notch, as it's proven in "Do What You Have to Do" but there is more emphasis on guitar in Surfacing. And that the enhanced CD presentation was one of the best ever produced (have you ever seen a Pentium lacking soundcard and CD-ROM? Have you ever heard of one?). I've heard that she was a dark Donna Lewis and I've heard that she can make you cry (almost).

Now people I can trust my Evangelion postcards with have said these things. I do recommend this album to John Doe, but it didn't meet my personal expectations. The good and bad are precariously balanced. Where it will tip is up to you.

Rating: B

User Rating: B



© 1997 JB and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Nettwerk Productions / Arista Records, and is used for informational purposes only.