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Tara MacLean

Country of origin:


Type of music generally:

Alternative pop


Most recent release, Atlantic Blue (2017)

See also:

Tara MacLean's site

Tara MacLean's Facebook page

Wikipedia's entry on Tara MacLean


She is mostly compared to other Nettwerk artists, particularly Sarah McLachlan, Lava Hay, and Suzanne Little. She is also compared to Jann Arden, Heather Nova, Jewel, Ani Difranco, and Debbie Gibson.

Covers/own material:

Own, sometimes cowrites songs

General comments:

Tara's music sounds somewhere between early Sarah McLachlan and Lava Hay to me. (Something of a "Nettwerk sound", perhaps?) (Greg.Jumper@Eng.Sun.COM)

The sound and the voice is somewhere between Sarah McLachlan and Heather Nova, and the subject seems to be mostly broken-up relationships...if you haven't come across her yet she might be worth checking out! (

I, personally, am addicted to Tara's music. :) Maybe it's just the stages I'm going through right now, or that I really admire her strength or because she was so damn nice to me when I met her, but...not a day goes by when I don't stick a live tape in my walkman for the way to class, or practice my vocals to the EP or LP.... (1/98,

Not *that* bad, certainly, but she needs to diversify a little. She's learning to use her voice in a more passionate way, which makes her songs livelier. (

Bear in mind here that I am not a big mainstream folk/pop fan in the first place, but she is someone I found so bland in recording that I can't listen to her. The ballads and prettiness get on my nerves, and the disc flew in and out of my collection. I still have a cassingle that I listen to occasionally. (Neile)

i found tara to be really Nettwerk label music. not that this is a bad thing, but i wasn't all that impressed. *shrug* great voice though. (

My first exposure to Tara was a short live performance, and I was totally blown away—something that does not happen to me often. It was a totally emotive and often amusing presentation of her strongest material (including tunes not on the CD). She brought the small coffeehouse audience to a rousing ovation at the conclusion, marked by her impressive a cappella "Silence". Seeing her a second time, she once again floored me with her emotion and power. Now, having seen her live (and with her beau Bill Bell, the amazing accompanist) no fewer than five times, I think the If You See Me EP does a much better job of capturing the essential Tara than Silence, though it absolutely fails to show the warm, sincere, and often hilarious person Tara at her best. That's the trouble with recordings.
     Anyway, I just wanted to encourage those who hadn't tried Tara's music, or who might be scared (or annoyed) away by her CD. Your mileage may vary; I'm a committed Tara fan. :-) (Greg Dunn)

"Underwhelmed" is a great word for the reaction I've had to Tara all along, actually. Nettwerk is pushing for her to be the next Sarah McLachlan, but remember that it took her almost ten years to find her stride, too. (Sad, then, that it only took two more for Sarah to lose it.) Tara's young yet, and musically has been getting better over the past few years. (

Does she have an amazing voice! .") (

Comments about live performance:

This was one of the best concerts I've been to this year. I'd been curious about Tara after hearing her wonderful song "Let Her Feel The Rain" from a Nettwerk Records sampler last summer, but when I scored an early copy of her first single I thought it was rather mediocre (mainly due to the drum machine production). So when her debut CD came out, I had actually forgotten all about it.
     In fact, I had lost so much enthusiasm, I arrived 15 minutes late, after Tara had already begun to play. Well that was a mistake, because what I saw was exhilarating, and I regret missing the first 2-3 songs! The first comparison that sprung to mind was Jewel, from the fact that young Tara was accompanying her beautiful, powerful, soaring soprano voice by herself on just an acoustic guitar. But Tara isn't really as deep in her songwriting as Jewel is, sounding perhaps more like Jann Arden in the way she writes of love and failed relationships. At one point she told us "I'm really a very happy person, but I seem to write mostly depressing songs", so she did her only cover of the night, of an upbeat The Pretenders song. By this time, the audience energy was absolutely electric; they were totally into this performer whom most had never heard of. Tara put down her acoustic guitar, and sat down at a Roland electric piano. She told us she had just recently started to play the piano and wasn't very good yet, but she wrote some new songs on piano and she wanted to play them like that. Then she launched into a flawless set of 2-3 incredible songs playing electric piano, apologizing between each for her beginnership. My Jewel comparisons were replaced by thoughts of Fiona Apple, especially because Tara comes across like a very giggly young schoolgirl, younger than her 23 years, just like Fiona did in the internet broadcast I heard. The last song she performed on piano also had some very Ani Difranco-like qualities. I hate to keep comparing her to other artists like this, but Tara really has her own sound, and little bits & pieces of all of these others come to mind, along with her label-mates Sarah McLachlan and Suzanne Little. As if this all wasn't impressive enough, she finished with an a cappella tune which she delivered with powerful accuracy, never drifting off key. I actually felt a shiver go through me for the entire song, it was that good. (10/96)
     Her performance in front of a packed house of music industry people was nothing short of spectacular—one of the best I have ever seen from her despite the short 40-minute time limit. Not only was she in top vocal form, but her musicians added just the right magic, and technically, the sound was terrific. To top it all off, Tara managed to squeeze a couple of rare gems into the set, rounded out by the strongest songs from her past and new CDs. Her song, 'Child', which by Tara's own admission she rarely performs any more was a real highlight for me, as was 'Red'. If Tara was hoping to sound (and look) like an up-and-coming artist with a bright future in front of her new record label, she most definitely succeeded! (1/00,

She put on a great performance. Tara performed solo with only an acoustic guitar. Her voice is so clear and strong and consistently on-key. Particularly in "Silence" Tara's ability to convey emotion through her voice really shines. She's soulful and sexy and a little menacing when she performs it. If you have the opportunity to see Tara, don't miss it! Her voice is equally as gorgeous as Sarah McLachlan's and the emotion and imagery in her lyrics is wonderful. Hopefully, we'll all be hearing a lot more from her in the future. (6/97,

Opening for Ashley MacIsaac, Tara MacLean did a fairly nice set. Some of her mannerisms really reminded me of Jewel, but again, none of the songs made that big of an impression. She played both guitar and piano, and had a guitar player accompanying her as well, and a drummer accompanied her on percussion for a couple of songs, too. Ending on a mediocre a cappella number, Tara never quite captured the audience's attention. (

Tara MacLean was really good, as expected from the reports on ecto. I spent her entire set going, "God, she reminds me SO MUCH of Sarah McLachlan!", so much so that I was often completely distracted from the music, which also sounded uncannily like Sarah. She's got a little bit of Jewel mixed in too, which got me involved in an argument with myself: "Stop harping on that and concentrate on her music." "Yeah, but she moves her hands just like Sarah! She smiles and giggles just like Sarah! Christ, woman, she even HOLDS HER GUITAR LIKE SARAH!!!" Sigh. Seriously, though, her music stands up well on its own. (

I saw her perform on a sidewalk (!) in September '97 (accompanied by Bill Bell: he was wonderfully understated with his electric guitar backup), and I don't think "stage personality" was an issue: She was warm, funny, confident (she handled a drunk heckler with enviable aplomb and good humor), and the power and emotion in her voice was strong enough to rattle the windows at the law offices of Dewey, Cheatham & Howe a block and a half away. (1/98,

She is simply amazing live now. Someone early mentioned about her lack of stage personality, and I think that if you've seen her in the last few months, you might not think that...she has a really cool way with the audience, is very cute and funny, and has power and emotion in her voice...she's also incredibly soulful, in my opinion. (

She was an endearing presence, but I wasn't that wowed with the show. Maybe I was just jetlagged or something, as I was the only person there who didn't seem completely bowled over. She got a rousing standing ovation from everyone else. Even live, I still felt some of that slickness in arrangement that ruins the album, even though the presentation was much sparser live. It seemed like she had two modes of singing, one that I liked and one that I didn't. The latter could have been more a fault of the sound system, but whenever she pushed really hard vocally, I thought she sounded kind of shrill, and those over the top moments threw me out of the songs. She did a cover of "Calling You", which received an oddly opposite treatment than Holly Cole gives it. I find that Holly's version starts off very slow and sleepy, always making me wonder why I like it so much when the song starts. But somewhere around the chorus, it just clicks in and practically makes me cry. Tara, on the other hand, could get that same effect from the verses. Right from the get-go, I thought her treatment of the song was stunning. But when she hit the chorus, style 2 kicked in and it seemed over the top to me, with the passion and edge disappearing. As I mentioned, this did not seem to be the popular perception. (neal)

Her live shows strip away the production and get back to the basics, including putting the focus squarely on Tara's beautiful and powerful voice. While the production on Silence has grown on me somewhat, I still far prefer the simple, straightforward arrangements in her live shows. Her live performance has also improved tremendously from the time of her first album release, although I'm in the camp of those who liked it from the beginning. When she did her residency at C'est What in '96 she was visibly nervous and somewhat apologetic to the crowd, but at the shows I've seen more recently she was totally self-assured and her stage presence was vastly improved. Even her performance was better.
     Anyway the bottom line is even if you didn't like her before it might be worth checking her out now. The Tara of today is far more polished than the Tara of yesterday. (

Tara was really great, and TOTALLY reminded me of Jewel, in her looks, singing, little "heh hehs" during that ex-boyfriend song. (

She is kinda a folky singer type thing, great voice, decent guitarist, though her studio album (Silence) leaves much to be desired, her live shows are great, probably due to the presence of guitarist Bill Bell, who reminds me of Adrian Belew, David Torn, Bill Nelson...lots of the semi-ambient rock/jazz guys. He's a killer player. Though it was a SHORT show, it was good. Anyway, she's halfway decent, if you see her coming through the area, check her out. (

I had never seen Tara live and she is much better live than on CD. I like Passenger a bit more than Silence but it's not something I play much. However, live she's funny and her voice is a lot stronger. I recommend seeing her if you get a chance. (5/00,

Just got back from Tara MacLean and Dido at the Fillmore. Tara opened and left most of the audience quivering silently in their boots. If you haven't seen her live since she supported Silence, or toured with Lilith, she seems to have grown in her stage presence. Bill Bell worked his usual spacey guitar fill to a frenzied solo while Tara sang out emotion-dripped background vocals during "Jordan". They also had a percussionist who really added a lot of energy. (3/00,

I love Passenger and listening to these songs live is just amazing, it's great! I was a fan of Tara before seeing the show but now, I am a fans BIG TIME! She's such a strong performer, it's incredible!!! (

Recommended first album:




Release info:

1996—Nettwerk Records—0 6700 30106 27



Ecto priority:

Recommended for pop fans

Group members:

Tara MacLean—vocals, backing vocals, voices, acoustic guitar, classical guitar

Guest artists:

Michael Been—electric & acoustic guitars
Mark V.—sequencing, drum program
Ash Sood—djembe, drums, percussion, shaker
Daniel Presley—keyboards, backing vocals
Tony Marryatt—bass
Bruce Kaphan—pedal steel
Chris Von Sneidern—acoustic guitar, electric guitar
Norm Kerner—acoustic guitars
Tim Haggerty—string samples
Veda Hille—piano
Robin Winburn—saxophone
Dave Revelli—percussion
Stephen Nikleva—acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass
Jack Hines—upright bass, string bass
Peggy Lee—cello & string arrangement
Mark Jowett—12-String, acoustic guitar, electric guitar
Dave Kershaw—Hammond, keyboards

Produced by:

Produced by Norm Kerner and Daniel Presley Associate Producer, except one song produced by Greg Reely & Stephen Nikleva, and another produced by Greg Reely, Stephen Nikleva, & Kevin Hamilton


There are several very pretty, sort of melancholy songs, and the disc as a whole is very nice. (Greg.Jumper@Eng.Sun.COM)

for what it's worth, i am rather fond of the *sound* of the album. the basics are fine and dandy, but there's something to be said for studio gimmickry. all the earnest singing in the world gets tiresome after a while. then again, as most of you well know, i'm not one to pay much attention to lyrics—the music tends to be what i react to. (

The album is quite good, with a distinctly Nettwerk/Sarah McLachlan sound. (

I agree that Silence is not the most scintillating CD (I think I've listened to it maybe 3-4 times and not at all recently), but having seen her live leads me to think that she's got quite a future in music. And she sure as hell gets around—she always seems to be performing *somewhere* at any given time. (

I think that Silence is a good cd for a debut, but look forward to her next cd because her voice and writing have grown so much. I did think Silence was a bit overproduced, but she's now working with her fiance and guitarist, Bill Bell, so maybe that will change for the next album...who knows. (

She writes too many ballads (Silence is about seven-eighths balladry). However, her live version of "Evidence" sounded great. Her voice does it for me, and her lyrics are interesting and certainly fit her music. (

Tara's work isn't as exciting on repeated listenings, so far. (

I find the first track ('Evidence') very strong, the rest of the album had to grow on me a bit. Smooth pop, but distinct enough to be interesting. Sometimes her voice reminds me of Debbie Gibson. I find that I play it quite often, and I like it very much. (Marion)

I've never really liked Silence, and having enjoyed her live shows immensely, chalked it up to overproduction. (

If You See Me

Release info:

1997—Nettwerk Records—0 6700 36323 2 4



Ecto priority:

Recommended, especially if you like Silence

Group members:

Tara MacLean—vocals, guitars

Guest artists:

C.J. Vanston—additional guitar, programming
Bill Bell—additional guitar
Mark McLean—drums
Gregor Berrisford—handrum

Produced by:

"Evidence" and "That's Me" recorded and produced by Norm Kerner with associate producer Daniel Presley. "Evidence" additional production and remix by Chris Lord-Alge


Track Listing:
1. Evidence (Chris Lord-Alge Mix)
2. That's Me (MPW Mix)
3. Calls To Nothing (Living Room Mix)
4. If Only (Live From WBCN)
5. Evidence (Live From Lilith Fair)

It has some amazing remixes on it, and she has grown a tremendous amount in the past year. (

I think that her EP If You See Me is a vast improvement over Silence, and taking recordings from live shows really helps capture some of the power that just doesn't exist on the lp. One of the tracks is even a nice stripped-down radio performance recording of just her and her guitar. Hopefully her next CD will be more in the flavour of If You See Me than Silence. (


Release info:

2000—Capitol Records—7243-4-97306-2-5



Ecto priority:


Group members:

Tara MacLean—vocals, piano, acoustic guitar

Guest artists:

Bill Bell—guitars, programming, mandolin, bass, wurlitzer, background vocals
Rene Coman—bass
Carlo Nuccio—drums
Malcolm Burn—Rhodes, bass, drum thing, djembe, Omni chord, background vocals, "everything else on 'Reach'"
David Rolfe—guitar
Pauline Kim—1st violin
Peter Martin Weimar—violin
Conway Kuo—violin, viola
Kathryn Sinsabaugh—viola
Michelle Kinney—cello
Mark Jowett—guitars
Xavier Sharpenpier—Akai trumpet
Jeff Treffinger—Omni chord
Robbie Buchanan—piano
Stephen Barber—string arrangement on "Poor Boy"
Sandra Park—violin
Sharon Yimada—violin
Robert Rinehart—viola
Allan Stepansky—cello
Eric Friedlander—cello
Astrid Williamson—piano
Steve Gorn—bansuri bamboo flutes

Produced by:

Malcolm Burn and Bill Bell


I was hesitant to buy Passenger because I was underwhelmed by Silence. I love the song "Evidence," but the rest of the album, although pretty, didn't demand to be played. But I was sufficiently impressed by an in-store listen and a good price to try the new album. And I'm so glad I did. This is a really good album and shows a lot of growth from Silence. It's especially nice to see someone you think shows potential on a first album really start to fulfill that potential on later albums. (JoAnn Whetsell)

I've rather enjoyed Passenger from Tara Maclean. Despite and because of the production. I have to argue with someone who said that this album is just as produced as Silence was, just in a different manner. Silence was much more in the semi-ethereal vein following after Fumbling Towards Ecstasy while Passenger is very much a product of current musical pop fashions. Having Malcolm Burn on hand to help produce was a good thing. "If I Fall" is an amazingly catchy song and there are a couple of other standout tracks. I could do without the flute on "Higher" though, and the "hidden" track, "Shakota", is a weird animal (although the double drum fill is turning my head around in a cool way). For all the pop gloss and the cringe-inducing Native American flute on "Higher", this is a pretty solid album. It'll probably sound dated in a few years, but for now, the production isn't too offensive. "Jericho" and "If I Fall" are the gems for me. Malcolm Burns does a nice job as co-producer, but some more organic sounds would balance it out better. (

I have Passenger, and feel overall it's probably better than Silence—though there are fewer really stand-out tracks (such as "In the Wings"). I particularly like the hidden track—though I sure had a hard time figuring it out when I put 5 new discs in the CD changer, all of which had 12 songs or less, and I had to figure out who was playing. I certainly wouldn't have guessed Tara MacLean. (

It is nothing like Silence...very different.... The sound is much fuller, more lush...lots of trip hop effects and drum machine sounds and all that...the vocals sound really good, the writing is good, but it is very different from her debut.... I have mixed feelings on it...on one hand, it's a strong CD and she's obviously grown a lot and is 100x more confident now than when she started (which is evident just by looking at her, let alone seeing her live)...on the other hand, maybe she's changed a bit too much...I don't know, she's just very LA now...still awesome and she's so nice...but different. :) (

It's really, really good. I like it much better than Silence. Silence never did anything for me, but I *love* Passenger. I was turned on to it thanks to a few brief snatches of it in, of all things, an episode of Felicity. It's not as overproduced as Silence was, and the songs really grabbed me on first listen. I would highly recommend checking it out. (

It sounds quite different from her first, but though I was a bit worried at first, I found in the end I liked it in its own right. (

I have to say I got a little more into Passenger after listening to it a lot but it pales in comparison so Tara's live show. (

This album has a few nice spots, perhaps worth it for the odd spin, but I haven't thrown it in since the obligatory four listens after it arrived in the mail. Biggest mistake on the album: track 10, "La Tempête". All in hackneyed French, and it sounds as clunky as what I try to use at clubs on trips to Montreal. (

I was going to wait on this one since I burned out on Silence ( I like it, but it reminds me of freshman year of college now). But I saw it for 10 bucks and I'm pleasantly surprised with it. Production is heavier than Silence, every singer-songwriter now usues trip-hop beast ad nauseum. "Divided", "Jericho" and "Dryland" are standouts. I expect to her the flitty single "If I Fall" on the WB any day now. Overall though better than I expected. (

Atlantic Blue

Release info:




Ecto priority:

Highly recommended


An album of songs by eastern Canadian artists that was originally developed as a theater piece. The music is basically light folk-pop, but there's enough variation in mood and tempo to keep things interesting. And it's so good to hear Tara's voice again. She covers Anne Murray, Sarah McLachlan, even a previously covered song with a new version of "La Tempete". Covers albums have a reputation for inconsistent quality, but happily that is not the case here. I really enjoy this. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Thanks to Kevin Pease and JoAnn Whetsell for work this entry.

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