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Sarah McLachlan


Touch (1989)

Touch (1989)

Album Score: 12

This album was made in 1989, the same year such female singer-songwriters as Shawn Colvin, Sinead O'Connor, Enya, Tori Amos and Melissa Etheridge were arriving on the scene. (In Enya's case, she'd just started her highly successful solo career.) McLachlan proved to be a more enduring figure than most of these artists.

It's too often that fans lightly dismiss popular artists' first albums because they were released supposedly before they discovered their style. I can see where McLachlan fans are coming from, but the songs we hear on Touch is unmistakably Sarah McLachlan; it consists mainly of mostly folk-pop music with the possible exception of the title track, which is strongly reminiscent of New Age.

So, let's talk about this lovely album. It has more than its fair share of moments. McLachlan wisely starts it off with two of her most enticing works, "Out of the Shadows" and "Vox." They're engaging in two almost entirely different ways. "Out of the Shadows" is a song so elegant that it wants to transport me to an outdoors location --- perhaps in a green valley staring up at the mountains. "Vox" is more of a hook-centered pop song, and the melody is likely to linger in your brain long after the album stops playing.

The rest of the album isn't as notable, but they aren't exactly grating to the ears! "Steaming" is a nice, typical McLachlan song with a decent melody. "Ben's Song" is an utterly gorgeous showcase of McLachlan's haunting singing voice. My most major complaint about the album, however, is the drums. Sure, they're excellent at times (notably on "Touch" and "Vox") but other times they're busier than necessary. "Strange World" is the worst example of this. The busy drumming clutters the song and distracts almost entirely from the nice melody. Looking at wikipedia.com's entry of the album, it's reported that seven percussionists have contributed to the album. Well, maybe it was time for some lay-offs! (As some of you know McLachlan would eventually marry one of her drummers. He wasn't featured on this album, but maybe this over-attention to the drumming on some tracks is an early indication for her fascination of these types of instrumentalists.)

The worst song of the bunch is quite easily the choppy and unnecessary instrumental "Uphill Battle," although it's not a bad song either. The melody is good, but it doesn’t have a soul. I would have expected an instrumental to implant gorgeous images in my mind or at least sport an impressive instrumentalist. Unfortunately, "Uphill Battle" has neither. McLachlan would have improved it had she used it as another opportunity to strut her chops, but I guess it was destined to be a missed opportunity. Nonetheless, this is an excellent album from this then-emerging artist. It demanded attention then, and it demands attention from you now.

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All reviews are written by Michael Lawrence.