Country of origin:
Type of music generally:
One of the ectophiles' goddesses, her music is ethereal, alternative and mainstream pop/rock
Most recent release, Wonderland (seasonal, 2016); most recent non-seasonal release, Shine On (2014)
Sarah's Official Site
Wikipedia's entry on Sarah McLachlan
Sinéad O'Connor, Tori Amos, Enya. (Dirk.Kastens@rz.Uni-Osnabrueck.DE)
Sometimes she sounds like Sinéad O'Connor, but not always. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Mostly own, occasional covers
There are a few women I consider "essential ecto fare"; Sarah is one of them. Such beautiful music, and a wonderful voice to match. I can say there isn't a thing that Sarah does I don't like. Sarah is another of my personal goddesses, so there is nothing more to say. ;-). (Matt.Bittner)
when i first got Touch i thought, who is this fluffy singer? then Solace came out and i thought, good grief the fluff singer is pulling a Sinéad O'Connor. then Fumbling Towards Ecstasy was released and the rest is history...). (email@example.com)
Very good music, but you should forget her maxi singles. That stuff is zombied into something almost techno, and that does not fit AT ALL. Therefore she sounds great live. The recordings I have of her live are FANTASTIC. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Sarah McLachlan is a strange artist for me. Looking at her music objectively, I can pick many nits, large and small, which normally bug the hell out of me. Thus my written descriptions of her music always end up sounding like I can't stand her. Yet subjectively, I lap up all of her music, always hungry for more. Somehow all of the subpar pieces melt into a greater whole. With that semi-disclaimer out of the way, I'll still try to describe her.
Musically, McLachlan doesn't have much of a gift for melody or musical hooks. Very few of her songs continually run through my head. Her music doesn't call much attention to itself, serving more as an accompaniment to her voice and a setting for her lyrics. Her voice is a wonderful wide-ranging and versatile one. However, her occasional odd quirks, while I love them, still too often striking me as mannered or overly planned rather than natural or appropriate.
Lyrically, she rarely moves off her patch of exploring the emotions of all stages of a broken, often obsessive, love—fearing a treasured love will fall apart, trying to deal with a failing or failed love, and trying to pick up the pieces afterwards. However, her lyrical style has changed over her albums.
In general, each album shows a slightly different side of McLachlan and I find very little overlap between her songs with great lyrics and great music. One day she will put it all together and blow everyone away. (email@example.com)
Sarah has a strong, wonderful voice, but her recent music has become too easy listening pop for my tastes. I've had a strange history with liking her music and not liking it. I first heard Touch when it came out in Canada and liked it enough to buy it. We bought Solace when it came out and it grew and grew on me, and when I saw her live on the tour for that album it seemed like a revelation. But while most people find Fumbling Towards Ecstasy their favourite of her album, I found songs like "Good Enough" so musically bland that they coloured the whole album for me. I find Surfacing so bland as to be unlistenable. (Neile)
My favorite live artist, and one of my favorite recorded artists. Sarah is too talented. And I don't mind. It doesn't matter how crashingly mediocre Surfacing is, it can't change the fact that Sarah's music, from the first 3 albums plus various other sources, has had a more profound impact on my life than almost any other artist's. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
I think she is one of the artists I have really enjoyed without thinking too much about lyrics. Then a friend of mine recently mentioned that she considers her lyrics to be "fluff", and upon listening to her with that in mind, I am tempted to agree with her, though I resisted at first.... Some songs are more "fluffy" than others of course (whatever that actually means, though I think I know how she meant it).... But this is where I think the importance of music, and, in Sarah's case, I think especially *delivery*/emotional expression comes in. I think that probably only sarah could make the line "your love is better than ice cream" sound somehow profound :) (abehrend@Direct.CA)
I'm (sorry folks, sorry) burned out on Sarah. (email@example.com)
Sarah McLachlan is a talented woman with a beautiful voice and writes lovely songs but is shy on stage and not that cute (not my taste talking but MTV) and so will go on and on with many loyal fans for a long time...I guess that is the difference between a STAR and an ARTIST.... (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Sarah is such a great example of someone who I once loved and have become so bored with. And believe, me, it's not because of Lilith's success or her sudden popularity or anything like that. It's just that Surfacing seems so passionless compared to Solace or even Touch. Fumbling Towards Ecstasy has its moments, but that's definitely where I started growing disinterested. (Plasterofstevie@aol.com)
Two years ago I would have listed Sarah McLachlan on the list of my utterly favorite artists, but since Surfacing I've soured on her so much I don't think I'll ever be able to listen to Fumbling Towards Ecstasy the same way again.
Of Sarah's first three albums, Touch was definitely the most pop by far. Solace doesn't even approach pop, and Fumbling Towards Ecstasy might be a tad closer thanks to
the presence of "Ice Cream", but not by much. (email@example.com)
I'm going through a Sarah-crisis. I just don't have the same enthusiasm for Sarah that I had a year ago. Surfacing feels like a cop-out—Sarah didn't have time to write strong material, so she recorded songs that would normally have been set aside. No matter how many times I listen to 'Building a Mystery', it still seems dull, awkward and weighed down by inane lyrics. Same with most of the rest of the album. And with her new image, I get the feeling that she's caving into the record industry's demands for sex-symbol female rockers. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Solace is without a doubt my favorite Sarah album, although I still love Touch because that was the album I discovered her. I can still sing from memory every single song off of Touch, and most of Solace as well! Strangely enough, as much as I like the songs live, I've never really been able to get into Fumbling Towards Ecstasy or Surfacing much. I did like The Freedom Sessions, because she seemed to be having a lot more fun with the songs, not quite so serious.... (email@example.com)
who would have thought after the brilliance of Fumbling Towards Ecstasy and the accompanying tour (one of the best concert experiences I've ever had), that she would come out with the hugely disappointing Surfacing? I never listen to that CD and as a result have no interest in Mirrorball. *sigh* Maybe the next studio album will be better.... (firstname.lastname@example.org)
As far as Sarah goes, I love Sarah, but like even most of my favorite artists, not everything appeals to me. I got Fumbling Towards Ecstasy first, and thought it was *GREAT STUFF*. Then I got Solace and Touch. Didn't like them at first—too middle-of-the-road and folky. Forced myself to play them a few times. Ended up liking Solace the best, but not all songs. Mostly "Black", "Into the Fire", and the first song (or is it the second song). Now the stuff I thought was so way cool on Fumbling Towards Ecstasy seems like good music, more rock-ish, but not as much meat in the lyrics. Surfacing even more so. Never got into Touch that much, though some songs might go well on a compilation of sorts. Rarely listen to the whole album. (email@example.com)
Comments about live performance:
It was seeing Sarah live that made me a big fan. We first caught her during the Solace tour, and hearing her voice live doing that powerful material really knocked me out. We were also lucky enough to see her do a solo set at a small radio Christmas show when she was putting together the material for Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, and that was really lovely. But during her Fumbling Towards Ecstasy tours we didn't see her until her third pass through town, and by then she had slowed all the tunes down and wrung all the passion out of them. I kept wanting her to speed up and show some life. Maybe she was just tired because she'd been touring for so many months but I won't pay a big chunk of money to see her again. (Neile)
Lilith Fair: Okay during her first three songs, I just remarked to myself, "Wow, she's just so amazing live." But then, somewhere along the way, she kind of lost momentum for me. While the sound and musical quality were superb, the songs seemed a little overdone and sensational to me. I guess I'm going to chalk it up to the Faire aspect of the concert. Since it wasn't a Sarah McLachlan concert she couldn't really take the time to do anything but the really crowd-pleasing, BIG stuff. All-in-all she was still good. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
A beautiful performance that surprised me to the full. She'd been getting mixed reviews for her live performances, but I found her to be enthralling. Perhaps it was because she was the first (and only) performer to be able to play in the dark, but it made the set somehow more intimate, despite the 15,000 people. Unfortunately, my friends made me leave halfway through the set. But I think I caught the best parts of it—"Hold On" was the highlight for me. (email@example.com)
Enjoyed seeing her perform. I find I prefer listening to her music over watching her perform. Found myself tearing up to "Good Enough" though. I really love the way she kind of shakes her head back and forth when she's enjoying a fast song she's singing. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Sarah was disappointing. Nothing really new. And the live performance of "Black and White", my favorite track from Surfacing, was disheartening. If this is the best she and her band can do in bringing a song to life, then they shouldn't even try...*sigh*...I won't even go into how so many little things contributed to an uninspiring performance to my ears and eyes. (email@example.com)
Sarah closed out the show with a really solid set taken mostly from Surfacing. I haven't gotten into the album much. Actually, I just put it away and never listened to it, but some of the songs sounded great live. "Angel" and "Sweet Surrender" were notable standouts. She played a few hits from Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, but nothing from the older albums. (neal)
Actually, her voice is brilliantly amazingly incredible with a whole band backing—as long as she's in a theater like she's supposed to be, not some ridiculous arena or huge outdoor amphitheater (sigh). Trust me, hearing her sing the hard-rocking version of "Hold On" with the whole band wailing away behind her is an experience not to be missed. (10/98)
Back when she played mid-sized theaters and/or smaller, when virtually every song had a new and/or evolving arrangement, when you could show up for a general admission show and get front row seats without much effort—hell, when there were general admission shows.... Sarah, for those shows I got to see, remains to date my single favorite live act. (06/99, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Word has it that she did do captivating concerts in the past. The one live show I saw of hers (Philadelphia 1994) was rather lifeless, though it might have only seemed so because she was following a stellar performance by October Project. (10/99, email@example.com)
Recommended first album:
The one you find. They're equally good, albeit a bit different. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Fumbling Towards Ecstasy or Touch. (email@example.com)
- Touch (1988)
- Solace (1991)
- Live (live, 1992)
- Fumbling Towards Ecstasy (1993)
- The Freedom Sessions (demos, 1994)
- Rarities, B-Sides & Other Stuff (compilation, 1996)
- Surfacing (1997)
- Mirrorball (live, 1999)
- Afterglow (2003)
- Afterglow Live (live, 2004)
- Bloom Remix Album (remixes, 2005)
- Mirrorball: Complete Concert (live, 2006)
- Wintersong (seasonal songs, 2006)
- Rarities, B-Sides & Other Stuff: Vol. 2 (compilation, 2008)
- Closer: Best Of Sarah McLachlan (compilation, 2008)
- Laws Of Illusion (2010)
- Shine On (2014)
- Wonderland (seasonal, 2016)
1988—Nettwerk/Capitol (Canada)—W2-45; Arista (elsewhere) ARCD-8594
Sarah McLachlan—vocals, 12-string, classical guitar, piano, keyboards
Darren Phillips—drums, keyboards, percussion
Dave Kershaw—bass, background vocals, double bass
Stephen Nikleva—electric guitar
Tippi, Steve, Rudy—percussion
Naomi McLeod—background vocals
Greg Reely—drums, percussion
Jeff Krösse—bass, background vocals
McLachlan's debut album gives the basics that mark her work. As expected in a debut, it is awfully uneven. On one hand, it holds some of her best all-around songs, including her best melodies. On the other, it holds too many inferior songs and just plain filler. Her lyrics use a very metaphoric imagery more than the words themselves to convey her meanings. Some of the images are wonderful. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
A very atmospheric and melancholic album. (Dirk.Kastens@rz.Uni-Osnabrueck.DE)
Nice music and singing with good lyrics. Sometimes a bit too heavy for me (it reminds me somewhat of Philip Glass' music). (email@example.com)
We first heard "Vox" on Much Music, and weren't awfully impressed at first, but we borrowed a tape of this and then bought it because it grew on us more and more. To this date, 12 years later, I still love hearing this disc occasionally. (Neile)
Get it. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
I bought Touch and Solace and will never regret it. Different than Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, but still well worth the purchase. (Matt.Bittner)
1991—Nettwerk (Canada)/Arista (elsewhere)—Arista 261 955 (Germany) 18631-2 (U.S.)
Sarah McLachlan—vocals, acoustic guitar, piano
Deni Bonet—violin, viola, string arrangement
Peter "Harpy" Conway—harmonica
Bill Dillon—acoustic guitar, Billatron, electric guitar, pedal steel, 12 string, mandolin, background vocals, guitorgan
Ronald Jones—drums, tambourine
Pierre Marchand—keyboards, organ, electric guitar, bass, percussion, mandolin, accordion reeds, piano
Note: the Canadian (original) version of this disc does not have the "Wear Your Love Like Heaven" cover on it.
Much easier to listen to than Touch, still with superb music and lyrics. Wish the cover of Donovan's "Wear Your Love Like Heaven" hadn't been included at the end, it spoils the incredible beauty of "Mercy" (but, then, you can just program it out...). The quieter (sometimes rather dark) mood of this album does better justice to Sarah McLachlan's voice. I'd perhaps agree that she is a bit restrained on (some tracks of) Solace; however, even if she is holding back, this in turn makes for higher emotional intensity in my ears. Altogether, I'd say that the tracks from "The Path of Thorns" to "Mercy" are my favorite Sarah McLachlan songs and, symptomatically, "Black" is the best of all.... On Solace, unlike on Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, her voice is mostly allowed to stand on its own and thus display it strengths—true, on "Mercy", for instance, overdubs are certainly used, but only after the pure voice has been established.(email@example.com)
Though most of the songs would fit well on Touch, this album is marked by rampant experimentation of all sorts—lyrical, musical, and vocal. As expected, some of the experiments work, some fall dead flat. Unfortunately, the latter out-weigh the former. The music is very sparse with few decent melodies. Some of her lyrics are very metaphoric, almost to the point of self-absorption (i.e., having no reference outside themselves) or abstraction, though she definitely often moves outside the subject of love into life itself. Yet the album holds only a couple weak songs and one piece of filler, "Wear Your Love Like Heaven" (admittedly a wonderful unexpected cover of a song best known as a cosmetic commercial). One oddity about this album is the number of song titles and lyrics that remind me of other songs, at least one of which is definitely intentional. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Very melancholic album albeit rockier than Touch. (Dirk.Kastens@rz.Uni-Osnabrueck.DE)
This is a much stronger album than Touch. Again, something that really grows on you. This is my favourite of her album because to my ears it has the most passion. (Neile)
I love "Drawn To The Rhythm", "Into The Fire", and "I Will Not Forget You", which I think is one of Sarah's best ever. But as you said, from then on the album kind of fades into obscurity for me. I do have a different appreciation for "Home" since I saw her do it live, though—live, "Home" is a showcase for the sheer power and intensity of Sarah's voice (at the end she's just singing "home" over and over, stronger and stronger each time), and it's stunning. (email@example.com)
i've gone back and listened to the second side of solace. by gum, every one of those songs is wonderful...the only problem is that they don't stick out like the songs on fumbling towards ecstasy do (at least for me). fumbling towards ecstasy is a much more "produced" album. hmmm. maybe "developed" is a better term. the songs on solace are as developed from a lyrical standpoint but they are not as elaborate as the ones on fumbling towards ecstasy and suffer a bit of obscurity as a result. listening to them is intense and wonderful but they don't stick to the brain as much.... (firstname.lastname@example.org)
I picked up Solace when I realized who sang "Into the Fire". I'd heard that on the radio and really liked it. I loved Solace. (SANDOVAL@stsci.edu)
I bought Touch and Solace and will never regret it. Different than Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, but still well worth the purchase. (Matt.Bittner)
As for the sophomore slump, Sarah McLachlan is one who did not show this. A friend and I argued long and loud about whether Touch or Solace was better...I prefer Solace. However, after living with Fumbling Towards Ecstasy for a while, I am shocked at how hard it is to turn my attention back to Solace. (dgp@TheWorld.com)
Solace is (depending of course on moon phases and stuff like that) my favorite Sarah album—I think because the songwriting. The lyrics just move me a *lot*. When I first found out about Sarah, Fumbling Towards Ecstasy was my favorite, but Solace became favorite over a year or so of listenings. My first impression of Solace was that it was "ordinary" in comparison to Fumbling Towards Ecstasy; which by terms of orchestration it probably is—but "Black" is certainly a very cooly instrumented song.... "Into the Fire" is my favorite song on Solace. For me the song evokes happy, determined feelings—it is just so great to see someone singing about things that I have felt in my own life and determined to "feed the fire".... (email@example.com)
Love it. Totally. Well, almost totally. I've never been all that fond of "Black"—the live version from the Solace tour was much better. But I think it's basically unbelievably amazing. Solace features not just great songwriting, but also great singing. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Out of print
Only recommended for Sarah fans
Gary Stokes & Sarah McLachlan
This is a limited edition and no longer available, but was very easy to find to quite a long time. This collection was a major disappointment for me—I was very impressed with her in concert, in fact it turned me into a fan when before I had just casually liked her voice. This cd, for me, doesn't capture the power and particularly the energy of her live in concert during this time frame. It may not have been capturable. (Neile)
It's excellent. (email@example.com)
A nice album to have, but by no means essential. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
1993—Nettwerk (Canada), Arista (elsewhere)—W2-30081 (Nettwerk) 18725-2 (Arista)
Sarah McLachlan—vocals, guitar, piano
Pierre Marchand—keyboards, drum machine, percussion, bass, shaker, found sound, percussion machine, fake B3, 808, piano
David Kershaw—Hammond B-3 organ
Bill Dillon—guitars, guitorgan, piano, bass
Jerry Marotta—drums, percussion
Sarah tossed the overt experimentation on this album, finding a very consistent musical, lyrical, and vocal voice. The music is richer, more intricate, and more varied (in some senses) in the past, and is employed more effectively in underscoring the lyrics. Her voice sounds much fuller and assured, though her vocal quirks sound more out of place. Her lyrics are much more strongly rooted in reality, adding to their power (though at the cost of some memorable imagery), including her best songwriting. (email@example.com)
A desert island disc for me. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Wonderful vocal landscapes and stimulating lyrics. A Desert Island Disc for me. (email@example.com)
I've tried, and I just cannot get bored with it. Phenomenal. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
For me personally, this is Sarah's best album. (Matt.Bittner)
A couple of people expressed bewilderment at Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, and haven't been able to get into it. My first reaction to this is, "But HOW can you miss it?" But then I remember that all people are different, and nobody's perfect. ;)
There are hooks all over the place, starting in "Possession" and moving through the entire album. By this I mean lyrical hooks, since the lyrics and the way she sings them are about 75% of the reason why this album is complete goddess-hood in my mind.
The chorus from "Possession" went through my head for a solid week.
Then we move to "Wait", which was pretty much unremarkable until the line "there is a love that's inherently given" popped out and yelled HELLO. Who the hell uses a word like "inherently" anywhere, never mind a song?
"Mary": this song is just mmm-mmm good lyrically.
"Good Enough" jumped to the fore when it became apparent that she (or her character in the song) is singing to another woman, and then you delve deeper and see the woman she's singing to is in the midst of an abusive relationship that the narrator wants to help her get out of. Heavy stuff that sticks to your brain after it's done.
"Plenty" actually has a musical hook, the guitar doodad that appears at the beginning and pops up now and again as an extra bit of rhythm throughout.
"Elsewhere" has another verse that goes through my head over and over and over.
"Hold On" contains the most powerful moment on the record, both lyrically and in the intensity with which she sings—it's positively heart-wrenching. Gads.
"Ice" is another one to which I refer you to the liner notes, since the entire thing is genius.
"Ice Cream" is just Fun—how can you not pay attention to that? :)
And "Fear" is a transcendant work of utter genius that will never fail to bring me to new psychic heights. This song contains a Religious Experience, such as can only be found in two other places: Kate Bush's "Night of the Swallow" and Tori Amos' "Precious Things".
The best part about the song "Fumbling Towards Ecstasy" is the first line, coming as it does right after "Fear": "All the fear has left me now...".
I've gone on and on about this album, so let me just say that Sarah is a f*cking goddess, and leave it at that, okay? ;) (email@example.com)
Sarah's most accomplished and complete work to date, both lyrically and musically. Each listen brings new enchantment. Fumbling Towards Ecstasy is (no surprise here, considering how she keeps evolving as an artist) wonderful. It falls off a bit in the middle, but there's none of the filler that was so painfully evident on the second half of Solace. I'd go so far as to say that this feels like her first truly complete, unified work. So, after a lot of listens, here are my favorite songs:
"Possession"—a great way to lead off the album, upbeat and beautiful. Be sure not to miss the "hidden" acoustic reprise at the end of the album.
"Plenty"—this would be my pick for a first single. Nice backing vocals on the chorus, and just a bit of guitar crunch that reminds me of Sarah's Nettwerk colleagues Moev.
"Good Enough"—a very pretty ballad with a touch of gender ambiguity to keep things interesting.
"Hold On"—a moving tribute to a dying friend or lover, although I'm partial to the remixed version on the No Alternative compilation.
"Fear"—WOW! Never has Sarah used studio tricks so effectively and beautifully. Really neat stuff, and an amazing vocal performance.
"Fumbling Towards Ecstasy"—an optimistic personal anthem, the perfect album closer in the tradition of "Wear Your Love Like Heaven" from Solace (or "I Say" from Happy Rhodes' Equipoise, for that matter).
Finally, I wouldn't exactly call it a highlight, but "Circle" gives us Sarah as top-40 dance diva. Okay, so only a kinda twisted top-40 station would play it, but still.... (firstname.lastname@example.org)
I think the biggest difference between Solace and Fumbling Towards Ecstasy is in the production: Fumbling Towards Ecstasy is much slicker, and uses a lot of overdubbing to augment Sarah's voice (not to speak of the, perhaps, too loud instrumental parts)—it could just be a good dose of echo, but to me it sounds like overdubbing.
Oh, I do have another complaint about Fumbling Towards Ecstasy: The engineering is pretty bad; there's quite a bit of noise and the distortion of Sarah's voice is pretty terrible on a track like "Ice"—I checked with earphones to be sure that it wasn't distortion in my loudspeakers, it *is* the recording (this conclusion is also supported by the fact that both foreground and backing vocals are distorted, whereas the instruments are pretty clean).
Of course, all this is just my opinion, and I certainly wouldn't claim that Fumbling Towards Ecstasy is anything less than a great album—just that McLachlan can do even better.... And I'm a bit surprised at the technical quality, I'd thought Pierre Marchand could do a lot better than that....
One more thing: Listening to "Plenty" (from both Fumbling Towards Ecstasy and The Freedom Sessions), I imagined Sarah McLachlan doing an album with no overdubs, no instruments, etc., just the pure vocals—that might be really interesting! (email@example.com)
gorgeous...except for "Circle": ridiculous- shallow- already- been- recorded- a- million- times- trite- musically- and- lyrically- inferior- nobody- needs- this- song song. However, her MUSIC leaves me speechless; complicated layers, wonderful textures, interesting sounds. Her POETRY is so sensitive and thought provoking; not pretentious, flowery or self-indulgent. Her VOICE just gets better and better. Easily the best album I bought in 1993. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
What can I say. Justified its selection by spending more time in my CD player and Walkman than any other. Fumbling Towards Ecstasy was a triumph of an album. It had the lot—passion, emotion, good songwriting. (email@example.com)
Although individual songs don't grab the way her past songs have, as a unified album, this could be her best album yet! (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Ok, so it's taken me years from not liking Touch to be swayed into listening to something else by Sarah. Definitely my loss. (neal)
All right. This Fumbling Towards Ecstasy-bashing has gone on just about long enough. I feel compelled to step in now and assert that without any question, no holds barred, beyond a shadow of a doubt, Into the Pink [sic] (or whatever it's called) doesn't even begin to enter the realm of holding a flame, nay a *spark* to Fumbling Towards Ecstasy. The first time I heard Fumbling Towards Ecstasy I entered a detached orbital state of extended orgasm brought on before only by the 129th (that's how long it took me to stop hating "Leave It Open") listening of The Dreaming by Our Lady of the Touring Anonymous.
Fumbling Towards Ecstasy by anyone else might have sounded trite, perhaps even sophomoric, but because it is by Sarah (her last name is unutterable if I dare do any more work today) it enters into a very special class all its own untouchable even by unknown upstate new york artists. She pulls it off so brilliantly and completely, I think I'll just liquidate the remainder of my CD collection now.
It's so obviously leagues ahead of her last one (the name of which has effaced itself in my brain in the presence of the knowledge of the name of Fumbling Towards Ecstasy and Touch just barely *touch*es its grapeness. (email@example.com)
a monster album that has improved and improved with repeated listening and enhanced by seeing her astounding live show a couple of times. It's often said that the third album is a significant landmark in an artist's career. Sarah confirms that with by far her most accomplished album to date. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Although I always loved Touch and half of Solace, it wasn't until this one that I became a true Sarah convert. My favorite song alternates between "Elsewhere," "Wait," and "Plenty." (email@example.com)
This is great. I especially like "Possession" and "Circle". She is definitely fumbling her way into my heart. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Ecstasy itself. (email@example.com)
The second best album of the year. Not as inventive as Tori Amos' Under the Pink but I can't stop listening to it. (Dirk.Kastens@rz.Uni-Osnabrueck.DE)
I'm still getting used to it. After many listens, most of the songs still sound the same to me, I don't know the names of the songs, and I haven't even begun to delve into the lyrics. Still, I know in my heart that it belongs in this top tier. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
I was stunned by Fumbling Towards Ecstasy. It's an amazing album. This CD was in the CD player VERY often in '94. (SANDOVAL@stsci.edu)
The brilliance of this album amazes me every time I listen to it, which is fairly often. (email@example.com)
I'm one of those persons who likes Touch better than Solace. I liked Fumbling Towards Ecstasy on first listen, especially "Possession" (track 1) and the title track. The lyrics "piece in the struggle to find peace/comfort on the way to comfort" are so beautiful they make me cry. I guess I'm easily impressed by something recursive. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
I fell in love with her voice as soon as I heard her. This album is something really special. (email@example.com)
This made the biggest impression on me last year. I love the album—it lived in my CD players for quite a while, and it still makes a regular appearance in them. I love the acoustic version of "Possession" at the end, and I love the rhythms throughout. (firstname.lastname@example.org.OZ.AU)
I have Fumbling Towards Ecstasy but it failed to touch me. Maybe I'll give it a listen again these days. version by her one of those days that just really didn't seem to work at all. (email@example.com)
I don't know if I've ever heard an album more perfect than Fumbling Towards Ecstasy. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Contains two versions of "Possession" and "Fear (Jane's Mix)
Two good remixes and a killer live track. One of Sarah's best CD-singles. (email@example.com)
Two different versions of "Possession" neither the same as the two versions on the album and a different version "Fear". I think I have all her CD singles and usually I'm not so kooky for her versions; too trancy/dancy, too long. BUT these versions are really good. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
I also picked up a CD single for "Possession", and the last track on that blows me away. It was mainly instrumental, and absolutely stunning. (email@example.com.OZ.AU)
Recommended for Sarah fans
Sarah McLachlan—vocals, acoustic guitar, piano, keys, electric guitar
Luke Doucet—slide acoustic guitar
David Sinclair—acoustic guitar
Ashwin Sood-djembe', background vocals, pleasure palace kit, drums
David Kershaw—piano, bass, organ
Camille Henderson—background vocals
Pierre Marchand—additional percussion, drum programming, orchestra, bass, background vocals
The Freedom Sessions is available with or without a multi-media (MM) portion; I recommend getting the CD+MM one. There are eight listed audio tracks, plus a hidden track, which are all simpler/earlier/different/more relaxed versions of tracks on the full length album Fumbling Towards Ecstasy. It sounds like a loose late-night jam session, winding down near dawn, an intimate listen to the band. I recommend it even if you already have Fumbling Towards Ecstasy. It is best played at high volume, so you can feel the nice live bass waves with cross-coupling between voice, bass, guitar and the low unmasked earth harmonics of the wee hours. On first listen, at good enough volume, in the wee hours, a few tracks really cooked (warmed) me, like a good live show.
At first, "Mary" and the hidden "Hold On" track stood out the most, the "Ol' 55" track is best listened to standing up, preferably with support. "Ice", "Ice Cream", and "Elsewhere" also were good: "Ice" made me laugh and cry and rocks like a good jam, "Ice Cream" has some liqueur and boogie, but the "Plenty" and first "Hold On" tracks didn't do as much for me, on first listen at least. (See below for later positive comments.)
This music is like the last CD for that party that goes to dawn, and you use "Ol' 55" for waltzing towards the bedroom after the last guests pass out (in either way). It might sound even better if you have some shared red wine in you and listen at 3 a.m., I haven't tested that yet.
Later Notes (after a few listens)
As I mentioned above, I love the audio portion, and at first listen all but a few of the tracks stood out. Since then, the remaining tracks have also conquered me, with the last to do so being "Plenty". Now here are some detailed notes on the tracks:
"Elsewhere". This is a jammed live version, with a funky rhythm section, sultry night vocals with that ache in the voice that warms you all over. I like it even better than the version on Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, especially late at night. There are waves of bass to warm a corpsicle, some tasty slide, occasional high twangy/jangly acoustic guitar notes to pull at the heartstrings, evoking thoughts of lingerie but not silence :-).
"Plenty". I still like the Fumbling Towards Ecstasy version slightly better, but this one is an interesting alternative. At first the running commentary of backing subdued "doo-doos" and faint catlike calls put me off, and I thought that her vocals, alone, would be preferable. It seems to be a tale of lost love, perhaps even of a fan, but there is a sense of a promise of regrowth from the stillness. On this version the vocals dominate, her voice is less masked by the rhythm section. The catlike calls convey a sense of a stray tomcat. Overall it is good, but I might change the opening. At the end there is a promise of new love at the end, the dye-ing day of yellow spring flowers, of swans necking in colours of their choice. :-)
"Mary". As I mentioned in my first impressions, this and the final hidden "Hold On" track were my initial favourites on this CD. I like this version even better than the Fumbling Towards Ecstasy version. There are beautiful achy-breaky vocals, acoustic guitar with vibrato-rich high notes, piano rhythm. There is some drum programming but it is tasteful and subdued, in fact her voice is dominant and conveys a sense of the earth renewing, as we pull together and reconnect with the newly awakened mother earth (metaphorically speaking). There is a promise of hope beyond the fire, the test, of being set on the right path once again. The piano comes out and gets stronger later in the piece, but the guitar remains in balance, and the voice soars with love, over all.
"Good Enough". I like the Fumbling Towards Ecstasy version slightly better, mainly because I don't like the organs on this version; the organs would be more suitable for a choral version though. I would almost prefer an arrangement with a cello or muted trombone, and even sparser foggy arrangement, with her voice soaring over the top. But it is still good, an interesting alternative version, and her voice is relaxed, and cuts through with a personal feeling, like words spoken at a wedding or funeral (so maybe organs are OK).
"Hold On". This is a sparse version, with voice and piano dominant, a bit jazzy, very slow and soothing, suitable for drifting to sleep holding on to a close friend/lover/pet/pillow/etc. At first I didn't like this as much as the Fumbling Towards Ecstasy version and the hidden track, but now I do, for a different mood, and from a different perspective. This really puts me to sleep, but in a good way, and a promise of a new whole dawn, or re-awakening; also with the same promise to those dying of a terminal illness, with the lover and/or voice to guide you through the fire. But (see later), the hidden track version moved me even more, especially on the first listen.
"Ice Cream". As the liner notes say, this is a lighter, more live feeling version. It has fudge sauce and funky chocolate sprinkles :-). I like the playful stand-up-like bass sound, which dances with her voice and grounds it. It is suitable for dancing in the kitchen with your favourite pet. But I think the ending is slightly contrived, would rather imagine a tasty breathless/muffled one with some mmmmmm sound or something, or the crunch of the last bit of cone, for coneheads.
"Ice". This is a rocked-up version, sounds from the edge, a cool but passionate voice cutting through, with electric guitar distortion showing a curious mixture of pain and pleasure, the sound of glass breaking as we laugh at the random guitar spurts. Her voice has to win a battle with the guitar for control of the river of sound, unlike the other tracks. The rhythm section is a good team providing stability, but the main players are voice and guitar here. There are some lyric additions/mods, for the addiction and devotion set.
"Ol' 55". This is a great Tom Waits song, interpreted by the band in a late night jam after what sounds like a good party with plenty of red lubricant and uncorkings. It is perfect for dancing lovers into bedrooms after the last non-lover guests leave, in a fast waltz, with a pronounced swing of the hips :-). But seriously, her voice is again the star, it reeks of emotion, does a few understated low key notes, then, once you are drawn in, washes over you in powerful waves, sets the heart beating true. It was recorded live, with good harmony vocals, rolling organ, and impressive rhythm punctuation to help set the vocal bird up high.
"Hold On" (hidden track, actually part of "Ol' 55" track). This sounds as though it was the original demo, since it has some qualities similar to the "Mary" track, which was the original demo. There is some beautiful jangly acoustic guitar, with occasional high notes that force you to sit up and pay attention, punctuated by powerful bass, itchy drums, and a growingly passionate smoky/sultry night bird voice, with tears turning to fire in the throat. The voice doesn't cut loose but the emotion does, spilling like the washing of tears, holding you to your seat, where you sit (singing along) watching your lover and sending waves of hope to him/her as the singer does in the song. So, from the earlier piano version, the listener's viewpoint is moved from the recipient of the song to a participant in the singing, feeling the pain of the singer. Still, there is a promise of a whole dawn, to hold one and all. The ending is abbreviated to "hold on for this is gonna hurt like" with no hell, so there is a promise of hope.
In conclusion, I highly recommend The Freedom Sessions. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
it's great! it might not be gold, but it is definitely a worthwhile add to anyone's collection. some nice versions of things. i really like the ice cream version with ash (drummer) "bear" (organist on bass) and sarah on acoustic. tasty version! has a bit more soul in it especially in the bass playing! in my opinion.
the rom part is pretty hip. not overly slick and corporate. personal enough and generally satisfyingly informative. and pretty well-designed. (HYAMS@alpha.nsula.edu)
Okay, so maybe it's mostly a rehashing of Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, but so what? The price of the disc is fully covered by the reworking of "Ice Cream"—everything else is a happy bonus. (email@example.com)
This would be on my best of the year list for the electrified version of "Ice" alone, but then there's everything else. Sarah continues to be my supreme goddess. :> (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Although not as good as Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, it still holds its own. And the CD-ROM part is good, too! :). (email@example.com)
Highly recommended for Sarah fans
A collection of rare songs, b-sides, and alternate versions of songs.
Well, it's Sarah, so it's wonderful. I now have a new favorite Sarah song, "I Will Remember You". Who would have thought Sarah "funky", though? ;-) Matt.Bittner)
i *love* her rendition of "dear god" :). this CD is a nice mix. (damon)
the B-Sides disc, for those of you who haven't tracked it down, is far more interesting and listenable than Surfacing. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
1997—Nettwerk (Canada), Arista (U.S.)—07822-18970-2
Recommended if you like Sarah's soft pop side
Sarah McLachlan—vocals, electric and acoustic guitar, keyboards, piano
Michel Pepin—electric guitar
Brian Minato—bass, electric guitar
Ash Sood—drums, percussion, background vocals, additional piano
Pierre Marchand—background vocals, drums machine, bass, keyboards
Jim Creeggan—upright bass
Yves Desrosiers—guitars, lapsteel, slide bass, saw
This disc appeared in a limited edition format with a second 2-song cd ep packaged with it in both Canada and the U.S.
i am slowly absorbing this, methinks Sarah kinda squeezed it outta herself instead of taking her time and letting the songwriting happen. i have to say that i think if people were to compare it to Solace as opposed to Fumbling Towards Ecstasy it would make more sense. I think this is a bit of transitional album for Sarah, much as Solace is (in my thoughts anyway). this isn't to say that i think Fumbling Towards Ecstasy is her peak, or that Surfacing is the end of the line, i just think that Sarah should write songs when they come to her, and not write songs because she feels like it is her duty to write songs. Fumbling Towards Ecstasy came out a period of her life that was rather conducive to writing emotionally powerful songs. Now that she is happily married, she needs to make the transition to something equally different and powerful. Nevertheless i am enjoying it, just as i enjoyed Solace and Fumbling Towards Ecstasy (okay okay and Touch too, but less so thank you). (email@example.com)
I'm with the crowd whose impression of this is "yawn." (firstname.lastname@example.org)
well, after a few days of listening to Surfacing, it is slooooowly growing on me. "witness" is definitely the stand-out track for me (it's one of the only ones that really...I don't know...gets going, gets into my head and won't leave...). However, on the MuchMusic intimate & interactive a few weeks back, she did a much better version of it...I don't know, I'm not a huge fan of Sarah's slow, contemplative side. The wonderful thing about Fumbling Towards Ecstasy for me was, the songs had a dark side, you know? (email@example.com)
I bought Sarah's Surfacing the day it came out, and was pretty happy with it and didn't quite understand why it was getting such bad reviews here. But now I just realized that I haven't listened to it since that day. I guess that's my opinion of it—pretty forgettable. I'd personally put it in the same category as Touch, which I don't even own, since the only thing on there I liked was the extended remix of "Vox", which fortunately was on the B-Sides compilation. And after spending a few minutes playing around with the CD Rom portion of Surfacing, I decided that playing solitaire would be a much more entertaining use of the computer (which it was). (firstname.lastname@example.org)
"Building a Mystery" doesn't do that much for me either but the rest of the album is just fine. Like others before me have said it doesn't really break any new ground but there are a few tracks that are absolute gems. Of course it needs many more listens. (email@example.com)
I would have to agree with the majority on this. It's lackluster. Sure, it's Sarah, and it does have its moments, but overall...hmmm.... (Matt.Bittner)
This album is one of the disappointments of the year. I had been listening with growing trepidation to some of the comments about Surfacing, and unfortunately it seems my worries were justified. Not that it isn't a good album, it is good...it just doesn't come anywhere near being the achievement that Fumbling Towards Ecstasy was. None of the songs are bad, but most of them just don't reach out and grab you on the first listen. The guitars that played a fairly major role on Fumbling Towards Ecstasy are, for the most part, gone. Well, they are still around, but now they seems to be used mainly to provide the occasional bit of texture. On the songs which feature Sarah on the piano this works pretty well, but on the other songs her voice is supported mainly by some rather uninspired keyboard playing by Pierre Marchand. Yeah, Dave Kershaw seems to be gone too. Fortunately, Sarah's voice is still as great as ever, and in my opinion that's the saving grace of this album. With most other items of interest gone, her voice really shines.
So as I said, a good album but not a great one (and really short at just over 40 minutes including one instrumental filler track). Maybe it will grow on me more as time goes by, but right now I don't like it as well as I like any of her other albums (and I don't forsee that changing). If you're a Sarah fan, buy it now. Just don't expect to be blown away. If you're not a Sarah fan, but have been thinking of checking her out, start with Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, then buy Solace and Touch, then pick this one up. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Surfacing is on its 4th-ish listen right now. My friend Chris is going to be ecstatic when I finally admit that, at least with this album, Sarah deserves the nickname he gave her ages ago: Sarah "Paint Drying" McLachlan. Of course, Chris only did that because he doesn't Get the first three albums, which are of course brilliant.
But with this release, I'd have to agree. It's just plain *boring*. It's not awful—it's got too many good songs for that. It's just *boring*. I'm quite literally never inspired to listen to it. I don't see this as having "remarkably narrow tastes"—I see it as having a sense of what moves me, and the common sense to listen to the music that enhances my life and my sense of the world, rather than feeling obligated to listen to something I find boring simply because my appreciation of Sarah McLachlan's previous work suggests that I'm a bad fan if I don't. I have better things to do with my time.
"Building a Mystery" is probably my favorite song on it. I like the arrangement on "Full of Grace"—having heard it live a few times over the last few years, it's good to see it settle down, though I think I liked the original "Fall From Grace" better. "Sweet Surrender" and "Adia", I guess, aren't too bad.
But overall, the album just bores me. I'm sitting here listening to "I Love You" and actually debating skipping past it. Past a Sarah McLachlan song! Who'da thunk?!
Now, I *am* going to give the album time to grow on me. After all, I was the one who didn't care for Fumbling Towards Ecstasy for 3+ months before finally realizing that it is quite probably her best album. And of course, there's no telling what will happen to these songs once Sarah's been playing them on the road for a while. Can't wait for the solo tour.
Several weeks later—I haven't listened to it since the week I bought it.
Several weeks later yet—I can't stand Surfacing, and honestly can't even remember what any song sounds like (though I'd be happy to sing aloud virtually any song on the first 3 albums...).
10/99Surfacing sucks. It has wonderful moments. Truly amazing moments. They are few and far between.
Do I think Sarah sold out? No. Am I not willing to let her be who she wants to be? No, not that either. But I'm also not going to rush out and buy yet another with single yet another fucking version of "I Will Remember You" (which I mostly hated when it first came out on the Brothers McMullen soundtrack, and the only thing that saved its initial release as a single was that it was backed with a fabu live version of "Ice Cream.") just because it has Sarah McLachlan's name on it. When I realized that I didn't like the direction she was heading, I bitched and moaned on ecto, but I never accused of her selling out. Nor did I give up my love for her earlier work. (email@example.com)
Though not impressed at first, I've actually come to like this album quite a bit, and one of the songs I most like is the song that appears on the bonus second CD. That song is "The Prayer of St. Francis", which has always been one of my favorite prayers (not that I have a long list of favorite prayers, or even know of many prayers, but between this and say, The Lord's Prayer, St. Francis's is better!) The song is simple (the prayer is simple), but this short little piece really shines with Sarah's voice. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Overall, I have to say it is not that bad. Sure, it is not her best work, but I wouldn't say it is her worst, either. I think my favourite songs are "Building A Mystery", "Witness", and "Adia". I love slow depressing songs. :) I've listened to the disc(s) a lot. (email@example.com)
Contrary to what seems the general opinion, I like Surfacing. In fact of all her records I find it now to be the one I play most often. Why? Precisely because it is just a fairly straightforward pop record that doesn't attempt to be anything else. But I feel the songs are sound, and some arrangements and mannerisms that at times get in the way of my enjoyment of Fumbling Towards Ecstasy are mercifully absent this time. Still, I admit this record probably won't be considered a classic a few years down the track. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
("Quick Pierre, we've got to finish this album now!" "But Sarah, you've only half-written the songs, and I haven't even begun to do anything production-wise here." "But Lilith Fair starts in two months, and I have to have new product on the shelves by then. I don't have time to finish it!" :P) I've come to the conclusion that the album was released before it was finished, to get it out on the street in time for Lilith Fair. Pierre Marchand's influence is hardly recognizable, and Sarah obviously forced herself out of her writer's block before she was ready. I do look forward to seeing her perform the songs live, though—she has such a knack for molding her songs into all sorts of different shapes, that I'm sure she can only improve them as the tour goes on. My problems with Surfacing don't have to do with the commerciality (or not) of the sound. My problems with Surfacing stem from the boring songs not-complemented by uninteresting, "it's not done, but we have to have it out in time for Lilith Fair so we're going to just stop here anyway" production. :)
I bought Surfacing before it was officially released, therefore well before it became a huge seller and rocketed Sarah McLachlan to superstardom. I don't listen to it for one simple reason: it's a bad album. The number of units sold has absolutely nothing to do with it. Do I feel that Sarah was *trying* to get more popular, and that affected the quality of the album? Yes. (Her strategy obviously worked, so more power
to her.) Will I buy Sarah's next album? Probably, though I bet I'll check
it out at a listening station first. (email@example.com)
I must admit that I expected not to like this album—I didn't really like 'Full of grace' or 'Will you remember me', and this album is filled with songs like those two. Sarah herself describes it as 'midnight music'—for me it just doesn't capture my attention. It's good music to play in the background at work.... (Marion)
I was happy to see Sarah come out with a new album, one with a decisively new sound (although with her same signature flavors). I believe (and I believe so does she) that it is always going to be a challenge to top the excellent work in Fumbling Towards Ecstasy; yet, Surfacing grows on you in a similar manner. Come think of it, listening to Surfacing, and then going back and listening to, say, Touch, really allows one to see how good her early works were, and how good her latest stuff is, and the path of maturity in between. I love Sarah, and it has nothing to do with having eaten chocolate chip cookies baked by her. *grin* (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Despite mixed reviews and increased popularity, I think her music just keeps getting better. "Adia" just won't go away. (email@example.com)
To paraphrase: "From those who have given much, much is expected". It's not a bad album, it's just kind of like a witnessing a millionaire slip pocket change into the Salvation Army kettle, more to be rid of it than anything—it's not that it isn't appreciated, but you can't help but wonder about the sincerity of the act or help feeling a bit guilty for expecting more (and for questioning the sincerity). Make sense? (firstname.lastname@example.org)
it strikes me as being way too short and musically not very adventurous...overall it is very likable though. (email@example.com)
Well I must admit to feeling highly ripped off after this purchase.
First, I was on vacation on the release date and missed the "special issue" (I live in Canada, so supposedly had direct access). My usual CD retailer said they only got 7 copies. These were all gone by the time I hit the store Monday. Calls to other stores in town came up with the same answer.
Now this wouldn't bother me so much if the general release CD weren't so short on new material. The full CD clocks in at just over 41 minutes. But I've had "Full of Grace" for over a year with the Rarities, B-Sides & Other Stuff release. And "Last Dance" is purely filler—hardly valuable Sarah content. Thus I'm left with 30 odd minutes of new material, and Nettwerk couldn't see fit to give me the "2 bonus" tracks" on the general release. As compensation I get some multimedia CD ROM crap I'm bound to watch and listen to all of once (does anyone access these more than once???).
Add to this the fact that Surfacing contains some pretty lame new material in comparison to the quality we've come to expect from Sarah on Touch, Solace and Fumbling Towards Ecstasy. I now understand why people are saying that her Lilith show has little new content in it—most of Surfacing would come across pretty weak live.
I've been a Sarah fanatic since the pre-Touch material. But events since Fumbling Towards Ecstasy are wearing thin on me. First all of the mass re-packaging and re-recording post Fumbling Towards Ecstasy to compensate for Sarah's dry spell. Now this scam with Surfacing.
All in all, I'm one long-time fan that is extremely disappointed and will be a lot more careful next time around. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
compared to ectophilic reactions to fumbling towards ecstasy, the response that surfacing has gotten could be interpreted as dislike, but i think it's mostly a case of the blahs.
i have no feelings either way about the record. it's not bad, but it's not good. it's "nice", which is fairly damning praise. i wasn't really looking forward to its release, so i had no high expectations to be dashed. in fact, in a lot of ways, surfacing has lived up to the expectations i had which were more or less generated by the nettwerk mediamachine. (email@example.com)
Everyone on Ecto seems to really dislike Surfacing, which is weird, because Ectophiles usually have really good taste. I like Surfacing—a lot. As much as Sarah's other cds. Maybe why I seem to like it more than most other folks on Ecto—Fumbling Towards Ecstasy was never my favorite Sarah album anyway. :) I was always rather partial to Solace. In any case, regarding Surfacing, if nothing else, "Sweet Surrender" and "Witness" are excellent songs, and real classic Sarah. :) (firstname.lastname@example.org)
While I certainly don't think Surfacing is as good as Fumbling Towards Ecstasy (one of my all-time favorites), I still enjoy listening to it. (email@example.com)
listening to Surfacing is almost as exciting as watching moss grow.... Actually, instead of Surf^h^h^h^hSinking I'd be happy with any of Sarah's other cds, which aren't pulse-pounding but at least aren't coma-inducing. (I guess that's the difference between Surfacing and her other cds...Surfacing is sleep-inducing while the others are just sleep-conducive.) (firstname.lastname@example.org)
I have to agree with what's perceived as Sarah-light. I've listened to her stuff since '89 and it's been a clear progression to the middle of the road for her. She's lost much of her edge musically and lyrically. I'm not saying this just to bash her, because I think she has the potential to be an interesting artist if she really wanted to move in that direction. However, it's doubtful to me that this is possible, given her success with Surfacing and the continued industry acceptance of her pop style. Just compare singles like "Into the Fire" or "Path of Thorns" with "Building A Mystery" to see what I mean. (email@example.com)
Sarah's latest, well, i think "Building a Mystery" sounds eerily like a parody of her own music—like the rest of the album, it repeats a lot of ideas that were brilliant on Fumbling Towards Ecstasy and makes them obvious and mundane. the lurking anger and ugly-odd little noises that made the early albums compelling for me seem gone, leaving what sure sounds like mainstream pap to me. on the flip side, i bet those songs live will just knock me out (and you better believe i'll see her if i get the chance... ;). (firstname.lastname@example.org)
I was also disappointed initially, like many of you...I mean, a 40-minute album, 10 tracks...one of which was on B-sides, another rather bland instrumental. However, there are a number of gems on the album that make it worth listening to. But after waiting three years I expected something more...more growth, perhaps. Considering how much she grew between albums previously, Surfacing is very safe, and although it challenges the listener some, it's no Fumbling Towards Ecstasy. (Eric_Starker)
She's always great but I've always liked her more in a mix than in one sitting. Surfacing has its typically Sarah slow moments. One track has a surprisingly cheesy keyboard sound. I'm in love with "Building a Mystery", as well as track 8. There are a couple others that I think are pretty cool too. At first listen I consider it average Sarah—it doesn't blow me away, but as with all of her music, it demonstrates obvious talent and is quite pleasant overall. I can't believe how familiar "Full Of Grace" is, I must have heard this song dozens of times and I can't really pinpoint where. (email@example.com)
We certainly don't all dislike Sarah's disc. But certainly a lot of us fall under the category of being a bit disappointed by it, but only because one of her other CDs is near-perfection to us and almost anything else will fall short, even another Sarah disc! (firstname.lastname@example.org)
"Witness" is the one of the few songs on Surfacing that stand out in my memory, mainly because it seems to be one of the few that actually has any "edge" (not sure what word I'm looking for, but the words that come to mind about the rest of the album are dull, fluffy, blunt, grey). I don't want to get involved in a "Let's knock Sarah" session because I still rate her very highly as an artist. I remember being very excited about being able to buy it the day it came out. Then I remember playing it frequently over the next few days before it fell off my CD rotation and didn't get back on. I still really like the groove to "Building a Mystery" and the odd bit of some of the songs, but on the whole it's very forgettable. (email@example.com)
She digs herself out from under the more soporific material (including DWYHTD, I Love You, and "Adia") and gets better (on material including "Sweet Surrender" and "Angel"). This does not mean in any sense that the entirety of Surfacing is soporific. I was disappointed in it when it first came out. I remain disappointed in it. If she's "grown" past it, it's rather in the way that you might say the David Bowie's Never Let Me Down showed how much he had grown since Heroes. I don't dislike it because of the radio airplay—I disliked it equally before the airplay, the amount of which continues to convince me that commercial radio must hear music in a different frequency than the rest of us. Or something. I also don't think she sold out. She just didn't write particularly strong songs this time out. Perhaps they worked live. They don't on video, which is, of course, a different medium. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
I do still find Surfacing lacking. What does it lack? Poetry. It lacks the poetic imagery which drew me to her when I first picked up Solace, when I saw my first Sarah concert in '94, when I bought Touch and Fumbling Towards Ecstasy. Without that poetry, with Surfacing, Sarah's lyrics aren't really much more than pop lyrics. All of this, as you understand, is my opinion. I know that when I say that Surfacing was not a good album, I mean that it is not good when compared to what we've come to expect of her, what she's capable of—i.e., when compared to her other material. I'd still rather listen to Surfacing 20 times before listening to a Mariah Carey album once. (email@example.com)
I didn't like Surfacing much either. There are a few songs I like quite a bit, but some I can't stand. But it was still in my top 10 of the year because there weren't ten or more albums that I liked better. *shrug*. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
I think Surfacing is mainly less surprising and less intense than Fumbling Towards Ecstasy. I like Fumbling Towards Ecstasy better, personally, too, but it seems to me that you have to have remarkably narrow tastes to think that one is great and the other is awful. (email@example.com)
i think surfacing is pretty dreadful. it didn't bug me as much when it was released...i see i gave it a very generous 'B'...but it's hard for me now to listen to songs like "angel" or "i love you" without hearing them as either very calculated, if pretty, attempts to sell a lot of records, or vapid regurgitation of other people's calculated, if pretty, attempts to sell a lot of records, neither of which are very interesting to me. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
I have tried to pin point why, but I just don't really care for Surfacing. It had absolutely nothing to do with radio airplay or subject since I tend to be attracted to the blending of sound in music and voice. She changed her sound from what inspires me. Something was lost in the music's spirit and perhaps that it is a characteristic more in the listener than the artist. It just all feels so mundane to me, no spark, no magic. (email@example.com)
From what I've read, Sarah was more or less pushed to release a new album while she only had a few songs ready to record. The eight new tracks on Surfacing were all she had to offer at the time, hence the inclusion of the older song "Full of grace". Most of the songs are ballads, reflecting, I guess, what she wanted to "say" at the time. Claiming that she was consciously trying to get more popular is, in my opinion, untrue. Her popularity must stem from the Lilith Fairs in the U.S., which also explains why she is still virtually unknown here in Europe.
As for the album itself: I've heard there are a lot of people here on ecto complaing that it isn't as diverse as Fumbling Towards Ecstacy, and it doesn't have the silent magic Touch and Solace had. Still it was in my top 10 of that year's best albums and I can't imagine I was alone in that.
I can see the flaws in Surfacing (40 minutes is a bit short, the songs don't stand out at first listen, it's notably different from her previous efforts) but pronouncing "it's a bad album" is just a kind of snobbery. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
It's a kind of snobbery unless smooth pop albums equal "bad" to your ears, as it does to mine. I find Surfacing totally unlistenable, and no longer own the limited-edition copy I was determined to buy the instant it came out based on how I enjoyed her previous albums. Sarah has totally lost me here. I simply can't stand to play this. (Neile)
I used to be a huge Sarah McLachlan fan, but Surfacing really caused me to lose interest in her. (email@example.com)
Recommended only for fans of Sarah's current work
Sarah McLachlan—vocals, piano, guitars
Sean Ashby—guitars, vocals
Brian Minato—bass guitar
David Sinclair—guitars, vocals
Vince Jones—keyboards, vocals
Ashwin Sood—drums, percussion, vocals
Ashwin Sood, associate producer
If you get a chance to try Mirrorball, skip forward to "Fear" and give it a shot. While it's mighty...er...polite for the first half of the show, it kicks in there and works. Even some of the newer material is pretty good from "Fear" on, when she digs herself out from under the more soporific Surfacing material and rocks out some. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
eh...it's ok...one listen...some pretty bad editing though...crowd noise is brought in and out kinda conspicuously sometimes and you can actually hear the start of the next live song before a fadeout is complete on some tracks. (email@example.com)
like it so far, sarah always puts on a great show, but all she plays from solace is "path of thorns" which i'm sick of. "hold on", my favorite sarah song lacks its usual edge and urgency, it's just pretty like everything else, but this is indicative of her latest album. i still like it but i can't help but missing the "sad, long haired, black dress-wearing" Sarah, as my friend calls her. still, "fumbling towards ecstasy" and "ice cream" are great on mirrorball.
Regarding the Mirrorball video: I didn't have high hopes for this since the live cd is so-so, but I'm actually pleasantly surprised. Lots of good old songs that aren't on the CD ("I will not forget you", "Vox", "Elsewhere") and all of the songs are well performed. the video is almost as good as the stellar fumbling towards ecstasy live tape from a few years back. one con: "hold on", my hands-down-favorite sarah song, has been slowed down significantly recently. this song has so much drive and urgency usually but on mirrorball and her recent live performances it's been prettied up and slowed down, although i do like the harmony with camille henderson. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
most of my massive disappointment with mirrorball is based on how lacking it seems to me in comparison with the experience on the one hand, and the recording on the other. (the official live e.p. also struck me as comparatively free of the gripes i have with mirrorball.)
the fumbling towards ecstasy band was certainly well-rehearsed, tightly choreographed, and not, i think very spontaneous. but it struck me as much more emotionally intense than the performances on mirrorball. i think singling out "ice cream" as a centerpiece track is a fine example of what bugs me about the surfacing tour material: "ice cream" worked fine for me in the context of fumbling towards ecstasy; it has a single lyrical conceit which is fairly clever, and it's short. it almost serves as a "palate cleanser" between "hold on" and "fear," the more serious tracks that bookend it. in the live version, it's vastly stretched out, expanded by vocal gymnastics that, while i sure couldn't sing 'em, sound rather passionless.
...and that's what bugs me most about mirrorball—it's true that it has a lot of what i think of as the weakest material of mclachlan's career—"i will remember you," "i love you," "ice cream"—but the bigger sin is that is sounds less like the band *means* the songs they're playing. they were on the road for what, three years with more-or-less the same set; i think perhaps they bled all the energy from some of the fumbling towards ecstasy songs, or moved too far from the mental space they'd been written in. (email@example.com)
Glad to read that others feel the same about mirrorball. I was disappointed in the complete lack of live feel in the album, and it bored me. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Recommended for fans of soft pop
Sarah McLachlan—vocals, piano, guitar, keyboards, Rhodes
Pierre Marchand—keyboards, bass, guitar, synth bass, piano
Sean Ashby, Michael Chaves, Michael Pepin, Mark Jowett, Ethan Johns, Yves Desrosiers—guitars
Tony Levin, Daryl Johnson—bass
Jorane—cello, vocal treatments, background vocals
Ashwin Sood—drums, percussion, loops
Bill Dillon—guitars, guitorgan, church organ
Jim Creeggan—acoustic bass
David Kershaw—hammond organ
The Sarah website has a full version of "Fallen" but only 1-minute clips of everything else. However, after listening to said single and clips about a hundred times—it sounds pretty darn great to me.
Now, I am one of the people that actually thinks surfacing is great stuff. In fact, I like all her stuff, but in the last couple of years, I have pulled out surfacing more often than anything else of hers. That being said, I have been frustrated by Sarah's tendency in the recent past to re-release mixed or live or recycled versions of things to the exclusion of anything new. Bleh! Why do artists do this? So it is nice to *finally* see there is something new out there. The fact that it seems good is icing on the cake...and actually pretty amazing to me, since it is rare in my jaded experience that artists who wallow in their success (!) can actually come thru with good new stuff after a big hiatus. (email@example.com)
Okay, I should admit it flat-out: as I write this, I've only listened to Sarah McLachlan's latest twice, but I can already tell that the quality of the music, plus the five-year wait, plus the paltry 40:07 length are likely to compound the disappointment that began for me with Surfacing.
I mean, let's compare. Sarah is not a punk artist who can do in forty minutes what, say, Sleater-Kinney can. Peter Gabriel may be able churn out eight minutes of material per year and get away with it—but Peter is a genius, while Sarah hasn't done anything truly brilliant since "Fear." Meanwhile, Tori has proven that she can deliver twice as much music in half as much time, and it will be superior to most if not all of Afterglow.
All of this is in my opinion, obviously. I intend no disrespect to Sarah fans, especially because I'd still like to be one of them. She's just making it increasingly hard, is all, and I felt the need to vent.
And on the other hand, "Stupid" is a pretty good song. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
If a breeze were to sneak into this album, it'd blow over half the delicate songs. Choruses and verses that appear to form songs at a distance but really only share proximity would be flung up, and happily drift down again next to pieces of other songs without complaint (hell, they could land in the previous album and I'd not notice). Lyrics poetic in form and empty of content could likewise be randomly reassigned.
That doesn't mean that Afterglow isn't very pretty and calming to listen to. There are only 3-4 songs (1,3,7,8?) that are solid enough to exist in my head when I'm not listening, but loveliness often relies on insubstantiality.
And I've got to praise Sarah and co's acknowledgement that they've found something they do well, and patience to continue doing it. The ability to stay still is a strength in pop culture. (email@example.com)
I had some big fears about this album before it came out...but now that it is out, I LOVE IT. The reason I love it? Because it sounds like Sarah McLachlan. Yes I know that is kind of an odd statement, but after such a long layoff, and having a baby, and with the whole "lilith thing" considered passé, I was afraid she might try to reinvent herself, but if anything she reverted a little in her sound, which in my book is a good thing. This album compares the most to Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, which I would say was the pinnacle of he r albums, up to this point.(firstname.lastname@example.org)
Sarah McLachlan—vocals, guitar, piano
Sean Ashby—guitar, vocals
Luke Doucet—guitar, vocals
Vincent Jones—keyboards, vocals
David Kershaw—keyboards, bass
Brian Minato—bass, vocals
Ashwin Sood—drums, percussion, vocals
Ian Stewart, Executive Producer
I never bought Afterglow, but I highly recommend Afterglow Live. It is a far better live album than Mirrorball was. The cd alone is worth the price; it made me fall in love with Sarah again. Naturally the album is weighted to Afterglow (8 of the 15 tracks). I only knew "Fallen" before, and even though I still prefer her older material, I enjoy the new stuff. The songs I knew already are just different enough from their studio versions to make them new to me. Sadly there's nothing from her pre-Fumbling Towards Ecstasy days.
I haven't gone through the whole DVD yet, but what I've seen is good. The live concert is excellent (in terms of musical content; the video footage is good but nothing special). The concert includes 8 more songs than the cd. All 7 Fumbling Towards Ecstasy tracks are good; in particular the versions of "Ice," "Wait," and "Fear" are really interesting. Among the extras are 3 Afterglow videos, including the "World on Fire" video. All in all it's a wonderful package and a must for any fan. (JoAnn Whetsell)
Sarah McLachlan—vocals, piano, harp, dobro
Bill Dillon—acoustic guitar, electric guitar, mandolin, bass
Jim Creegan—double bass
Ashwin Sood—drums, percussion
Colin Cripps—guitar, dobro
Pierre Marchand—keyboards, drum programming, synthesizer bass, strings
Vince Mai—trumpet, flugelhorn
Bob Doidge—sleigh bells (1)
The Sarah McLachlan Music Outreach Children's Choir and Youth Choir—choir (1)
Diana Krall—piano (12)
I picked up a copy of Sarah's CD, and I really like it. As you can guess from the titles listed, some are Christmas carols/songs, others are secular wintersongs. It's a good mix of both. It's exactly what you'd expect it to be, listening-wise. The songs are slow and have the usual Sarah melancholy, but it's not a downer. It will probably be on heavy rotation for me this season, but only because I prefer softer, quieter Christmas music. (JavaHo@aol.com)
Sarah seems like an ideal artist to record a holiday album, with her angelic voice and the kind of soft adult alternative music she's been making lately. "Song for a Winter's Night" (which first appeared ten years earlier on the Rarities, B-Sides & Other Stuff compilation) is an example of the kind of beautiful wintry music she can make. But alas, Wintersong is not filled with such gems, but rather with sickly sweet traditionals and standards. Some are too close to the original ("River" and "Happy Xmas" even down to the children's chorus) and some diverge more from the traditional melody ("O Little Town of Bethlehem"). The reviews I read weren't very good, so I was expecting a mediocre album, but I find this entirely unlistenable. (JoAnn Whetsell)
I really enjoyed her atypical song selection and the touch of bitterness. (Eric_Starker)
Sarah McLachlan—Wurlitzer piano, piano, harmonium, acoustic guitar, glockenspiel, vocals, background vocals
Matt Chamberlain—drums, percussion
Luke Doucet—acoustic and electric guitars, dobro, backing vocals
Colin Cripps—acoustic and electric guitars, backing vocals
Robbie Kuster—drums, percussion, backing vocals
Pierre Marchand—keyboards, harmonium, bass, tack piano, acoustic guitar, glockenspiel, backing vocals
J F Lemieux—bass, backing vocals
Bill Dillon—acoustic and electric guitars
Yves Desrosiers—acoustic and electric guitars, slide bass, lap steel
Maxime St. Pierre—trumpet, flugel horn
Michel Pepin—acoustic and electric guitars
Catherine Le Saunier—cello
Sarah's voice is still so beautiful, it can make up for a lot. This is a solid effort, but it doesn't call me to listen to it the way Solace and Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, and even Surfacing, do. (JoAnn Whetsell)
I like the new Sarah McLachlan way better than I expected. One of the best albums of the year. (email@example.com)
I totally agree generally speaking that her work post-Fumbling Towards Ecstasy has been sub-par—much more generic and bland—but Laws of Illusion actually has kept my interest. I think it's musically more adventurous, and feels a little more unsettled (in a good way). I wouldn't skip it outright—listen to "Awakenings," at least (my favorite track thus far). (Eric_Starker)
Quite enjoyed it....I love her music. But I prefer that soft acoustical guitar or piano with her beautiful voice." (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Sarah McLachlan—vocals, piano, guitar, keyboards, pump organ, ukulele
Pierre Marchand—drums (1); piano, keyboards, drum programming (1, 3); bass (1, 3, 4, 6, 9)
Emmanuel Ethier—guitar (1, 3, 9)
Philippe Melanson—drums (1, 3); percussion (1)
Ashwin Sood—drums (2, 7)
Chris Potter—bass (2)
Vincent Jones—guitar, keyboards (2)
Jamie Edwards—keyboards (2, 7)
Jamie Muhoberac—keyboards (2, 8); vocals (8)
Matt Chamberlain—percussion (3)
Brian Blade—drums (4-6, 9)
Bill Gossage—bass (5, 10)
Ingrid Jensen—trumpet (5)
Christine Jensen—alto saxophone, horn arrangement (5)
Joel Miller—tenor saxophone (5)
David Grott—trombone (5)
Kevin Dean—trumpet (6)
Luke Doucet—guitar (7, 10); vocals (10)
Lyle Workman—guitar (7, 8); vocals (8)
Abe Laboriel, Jr.—drums (8)
Paul Bushnell—bass, vocals (8)
Joel Shearer—guitar, vocals (8)
Vincent Jones—Hammond organ (9); drum programming, keyboards, bass (11)
Melissa McClelland—vocals (10)
Pierre Marchand (1, 3-6, 9, 10); Bob Rock (2, 7, 8); Vincent Jones and Sarah McLachlan (11)
Well, I made a nice 4-track EP out of this, which is more than I can say for her last album, Laws Of Illusion. Sarah's voice remains beautiful, and the album starts out strongly (I love the first two tracks), but the middle is pretty forgettable (except for the lovely "Song for My Father") and it doesn't pick up again until the final, ukulele-based track. I wish the piano were more prominent on this album. (JoAnn Whetsell)
I couldn't listen to the new Sarah McLachlan. I tried a couple times and my ears heard a bit of sweet MOR and then time passed and the pigeons and traffic stepped into the foreground and I didn't notice there was music playing until I thought "hey, what's that browser tab I have open?" Maybe my ears emit a Sarah McLachlan cancelling frequency. If there is anything on there that isn't soft as a soufflé and sweet as a sugar cube, someone tell me. I can easily miss good tracks when they're overwhelmed. (email@example.com)
Cheesier than classic Sarah McLachlan records but nevertheless a lot more appealing than I would have expected. Rating: 50/100. Best tracks: "What's It Gonna Take," "Monsters," "Flesh and Blood." (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Sarah McLachlan—vocals, piano, keyboards, acoustic guitar, ukulele
Jérôme Beaulieu—piano (1)
Philippe Leduc—upright bass (1)
William Coté—drums (1)
Ashwin Sood—additional percussion (1); Taos drums, percussion (2, 3, 7, 8)
Pierre Marchand—keyboards (2, 3, 7-9, 11); drum programming (6); piano (7)
Michel Pepin—guitar (3)
Vince May—trumpet (4)
Yves Desrosiers—electric guitar (4, 7); ukulele (8)
Devon Portielje—guitar, vocals (5); lead vocal, stomps/claps (6); acoustic guitar (11)
Dylan Phillips—drums (5, 11); vocals (5, 6); stomps/claps (6)
Isaac Symonds—bass (5); vocals (5, 6); stomps/claps (6); drums (9)
Conner Molander—guitar (5); vocals (5, 6); harmonium, stomps/claps (6); bass (11)
Emmylou Harris—lead vocal (6); vocals (7)
Martha Wainwright—lead vocal (6)
The Bulgarian Symphony Orchestra—orchestra (3, 5, 9, 10)
I like Wonderland, Sarah's second album of seasonal songs, much better than Wintersong, her first. It's a mix of secular and spiritual songs, all holiday staples, so not the most inspired selection. But I find it has more energy than Wintersong did. The slight changes to the melodies, the beautiful but open arrangements, and Sarah's angelic voice make it a charming collection. It's not jumping to the top of my favorite holiday albums, but it's a lovely addition. (JoAnn.Whetsell)
There is an email list dedicated to Sarah McLachlan called fumbling-towards-ecstasy. To subscribe send mail to email@example.com with "SUB fumbling-towards-ecstasy" in the body of the message.
An iTunes Originals album featuring songs and conversation was released in 2005.
Sarah McLachlan has several video releases:
She appears on the Live 8: The Long Walk to Justice DVD. Her "World on Fire" video appears on the Into the West DVD (2005).
- Fallen/Stupid (2004)
- Mirrorball (1999)
- Video Compilation 1989–1998 (1998)
- Video Compilation: 1989–1994 (1995)
- Fumbling Towards Ecstasy: Live (1994)
Sarah McLachlan's songs appear on numerous compilations and soundtracks. Recordings only available on compilations include:
- a live recording of "Ordinary Miracle & Fantasy Ballet" on the Sounds of Vancouver 2010: Opening Ceremony Commemorative Album (2010)
- a live version of "Wintersong" on Nettwerk's What I Want for Christmas compilation (2008)
- "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" on Nettwerk's Do You Hear What I Hear? compilation (2006)
- live versions of "Elsewhere" and "Ice Cream" on The Bridge School Collection, Vol. 1 (2006)
- "World on Fire (Marius De Vries Mix) [Radio edit]" on the Will & Grace: Let the Music Out! soundtrack (2004)
- a live version of "Building a Mystery on Lilith Fair: A Celebration of Women in Music, Vol. 1 (1998)
COVERS OF HER WORK
Covers of Sarah McLachlan's songs include:
- "Wintersong" by The Canadian Tenors on their album The Perfect Gift (2010)
- "Angel" by Katherine Jenkins on her album Believe (2010)
- "Angel" by Aoi Teshima on her album La vie en rose—I Love Cinemas (2009)
- "Answer" by Eirin Spilde on her album By Heart & By Soul (2008)
- "Angel" by Cello Diva on her album Bed of Roses (2008)
- "Fallen" by The Bostonians of Boston College on their album Greetings from Brandy Station (2007)
- "Angel" by the Melbourne Gay & Lesbian Youth Chorus on the Choir of Hard Knocks soundtrack (2007)
- "Angel" by Lorrie Morgan on her album To Get to You: The Greatest Hits Collection (2000)
Dawn DeKrell and Jon Dittert have a song called "Sarah McLachlan" on their album Winter in Lexington (2004)
Sarah McLachlan has released songbooks for her albums Surfacing, Mirrorball, Afterglow, Closer: The Best of Sarah McLachlan, and Laws of Illusion, in addition to a retrospective collection, The Best of Sarah McLachlan. She co-authored the cookbook Plenty: A Collection of Sarah McLachlan's Favourite Recipes with Jaime Laurita and Kharen Hill.
She is featured in numerous other books, including:
- Women Singer-Songwriters in Rock: A Populist Rebellion in the 1990s by Ronald D. Lankford Jr. (2010)
- Women Icons of Popular Music: The Rebels, Rockers, and Renegades by Carrie Havranek (2009)
- Expression in Pop-Rock Music: Critical and Analytical Essays edited by Walter Everett (2008)
- In Their Own Words: Songwriters Talk About the Creative Process by Bill Demain (2004)
- She's a Rebel: The History of Women in Rock & Roll by Gillian G. Gaar (2002)
- From Lilith to Lilith Fair by Buffy Childerhose with a foreword by Sarah McLachlan (1998)
- The Story of Sarah McLachlan & Lilith Fair by Judith Fitzgerald (1997)
Thanks to Jens P. Tagore Brage, Doug Burks, Ulrich Grepel, Dirk Kastens, and JoAnn Whetsell for work on this entry.
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rjk1 @ cs.wustl.edu