Fumbling Towards Ecstasy

Sarah McLachlan

Nettwerk / Arista Records, 1993




Thinking back, Sarah McLachlan's Surfacing (reviewed here last year) sounded mostly like the leftovers of a larger album cut before. It was inconsistent, overwrought with confusing lyrics at points and the production effects were distracting.

But Fumbling Towards Ecstasy is almost brilliant.

And I only say "almost" because I just never could get myself to like McLachlan. The hype about her turned me off. But I dug up this tape in the discount racks of an obscure Bangkok record store and decided to give it a try. Some songs are on the level of epiphanies.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

As an album, Fumbling Towards Ecstasy substantially presents McLachlan's songwriting (really, the best part of her work is her lyrics) helped along by Pierre Merchand's dedicated production (the second best part has got to be the production). Most of the backing instruments are live with some synthesizers textured in; coupled with McLachlan's sorbet-fresh voice the effect is instantly refreshing and original.

The opening track "Posession" is a neat cut and has nearly all the elements of McLachlan's Sound but lacks somewhere in soul. A piano accompaniment version is also in the album as a hidden bonus track, and while this too is beautiful it doesn't have the emotional edge some of the other songs have.

Like the plain affection in "Ice Cream" and "Good Enough" or the bluesy "Ice". There's a beautiful hope in "Wait" ("like every generation yields/the newborn hope unjaded by their years") contrasting to the resolution in "Hold On". "Mary" benefits big from Merchand's hooks as does "Ice" with its textured folk guitar arrangement.

My favorite track is the profoundly ethereal "Fear" ("From above they say temptation will destroy our love/... but I fear I have nothing to give"). This song is as perfect as perfect gets.

The album's weakpoints are few. Compared to the other songs "Circle" has some overused material and "Plenty" is all hooks. The title track has some neat lines but in the end goes the way of "Posession". But like "Posession", the lack can be ignored to just enjoy the songs for their moods.

This is solid, solid work. Anyone who's into this stuff would love it, anyone else can appreciate it. Certainly better than Surfacing; make this the McLachlan album you get.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


© 1999 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 / Arista Records, and is used for informational purposes only.