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Sarah McLachlan has to be one of my favourite singers. She is a Canadian singer/songwriter and this album is a mixture of her work between 1996 and 2007, the album was released in 2008.
The tracks on this album cover a whole array of songs varying from live arrangements of her songs, covers of other people's work and film releases. It is due to the film releases that there are songs on this album that many people have heard of without necessarily even realising who she is and therefore these provide a good introduction to her music if you are new to it. Being the second volume of this CD it follows a previous release in 1996 which again included some other artists work, film soundtracks and remixes of her songs.
Arranged by: Randy Newman; Randy Kerber.
Produced by: Pierre Marchand
Programmer: Ned Douglas
Vocals: Sarah McLachlan, Ashwin Sood, Cyndi Lauper, Emmylou Harris, Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Bryan Adams
Piano: Sarah McLachlan
Toy Piano: Ashwin Sood
Keyboard: Glen Ballard, Pierre Marchand
Organ: Rob Hyman
Guitar: Jamie West-Oram, Glen Ballard, Dave Stewart
Acoustic Guitar: Sean Ashby
Electric Bass: Mark Egan, Simon Smith, Brian Minato
Trumpet: Stewart Cole
Drums: Matt Chamberlain, Sammy Merendino
Bass Drum: Chris Potter
* Ordinary Miracle
* Time After Time
* When She Loved Me
* Don't Let Go
* Just Like Me
* The Rainbow Connection
* Prayer Of St. Francis
* Unchained Melody
~ Ordinary Miracle ~
Many of you will probably know this from Charlotte's Web.
It begins with just Sarah's vocals and the piano, after several seconds background singers and further instruments join in. The whole track is interspersed with sections that are just her vocal and the piano and areas with more going on. Although the instrumentals are nothing more then background music and the vocals are really what carries this song through.
A wonderfully calming and relaxing song, although a little calmer then I'd have expected for an opening track it works well and is a perfect choice to begin the album with.
~ Blackbird ~
Originally done by The Beatles.
Opening with just the guitars quickly followed by her vocal; it's just the vocal and guitar that carry this song through to completion. A simplistic and fairly repetitive arrangement but one that's well chosen to follow Ordinary miracle. At only 2:21 it's the second shortest song on this album but I feel it's timed correctly, any shorter and it really wouldn't be long enough, any longer and the simplicity and repetitiveness of the song would begin to drag on.
This isn't the strongest song and one I don't think would fit anywhere else on this album but none the less one I quite like, more for the lyrics then anything else.
~ Time After Time ~
A duet with Cyndi Lauper. Opening with two acoustic guitars that although mostly in harmony do have occasional clashes that catch your attention every now and then, just enough to ensure you're listening when the vocals come in.
The vocals start with Cyndi with Sarah taking over after several lines, their voices blend perfectly so that the switch between singers isn't really noticeable unless your paying attention. This also means that as they begin to harmonise together this also works as their voices are well matched.
Again, another song that the vocals carry through although there are areas between verses where the instruments (mainly guitar and drums) take over in order to carry the song through to the next verse.
This song is arranged as most of you will probably have previously heard it when performed by Cyndi Lauper if a little slower without dragging on. I do however feel this is a better arrangement with the two vocals and this sense is enhanced due to their voices blending so perfectly.
~ River ~
Opening with just the piano fairly quickly followed by Sarah's vocals. The lyrics to this song are actually quite hard to pick up despite having listened to it several times. This is unusual since Sarah's voice is so usually so clear and distinct and it's no different for this song. However the piano I feel is slightly too loud, whilst I do realize this is probably the point as there's more going on with the piano then there is with the vocals and it's really the piano that carries this song but it does seem to drown out the vocals at points.
This doesn't matter too much though as this is yet another calming and relaxing song that I can easily play at the end of a long stressful day, close my eyes and just unwind. A perfect 'me-time' song!
~ When She Loved Me ~
Another song many people will probably know from the Toy Story 2 soundtrack.
Not really my favourite song on this album, whilst I can see why she added it as it is a fairly well known song, she's capable of better then this and it comes across as nothing more then a filler.
Taken on it's own I would probably be complimenting it, it certainly worked in this film but in this album full of stronger and in my opinion better songs, it just doesn't work. A track I tend to skip I'm afraid.
~ Don't Let Go ~
A duet with Bryan Adams.
The first slightly more upbeat song on the album, I say slightly as the original beat on the keyboard seems quicker and when compared to the others it probably is quicker however overall it is still a slow song. Bryan Adams takes the lead here, it's him that opens the song and him that carries the main tune. Sarah just provides background and harmonising vocals throughout the whole of the song.
This seems an unusual choice for a CD that is after all hers but nonetheless she has a strong voice that blends well with his and the clarity of her voice contrasts well with his This track works well with the other songs on the album but doesn't really stand out in its own right. An ok song but nothing special.
~ Just Like Me ~
A duet with D.M.C.
A rap song that is nothing more then filler. Her voice and style really doesn't suit this type of music and right in the middle of the album seems a strange place to put a track like this. A song that would have been better left out.
~ Angel ~
A live version of what is probably her most famous song - Angel, sung with Emmylou Harris.
I surprised myself with this one. I usually prefer live music, somehow the energy and atmosphere seems to seep into the music itself but this just seems to fall flat. Not just in relation to the album but the music itself there's no energy, no life, nothing to bring it alive.
It's quite a slow listless song in the first place (in a good way) but the lack of emphasis with this track just makes what should be an excellent track a pretty poor one really.
That said the duet works fairly well, although maybe I'm biased as I've always thought of this as "Sarah's song" it is after all the reason I began to like her music in the first place but she lets Emmylou sing every other verse and this just doesn't work for me. Maybe if she'd provided background harmonies I'd have preferred it more.
~ Pills ~
A duet with The Perishers. Another live song however this one does have that 'something' I was trying to put my finger on with the previous song. Despite being another fairly slow song there's a kind of energy to it that although not there in the beat or the rhythm is there in the music.
A fairly depressing song if you listen to the lyrics "I'm losing hope with every passing day", however despite that rather depressing lyric(!) there's a hopefulness in the music itself that prevents this from coming across as a depressing song.
It's a fairly simple arrangement but has a strong instrumental that blends perfectly with their voices allowing the song to almost carry itself.
~ Homeless ~
A duet with Ladysmith Black Mambazo. An a capella song that sounds almost tribal Sarah's vocal is only distinguishable from the rest for a few seconds in the middle of the track but I actually prefer it like this. The tribal feel, lack of instruments and sections that aren't in English are what makes this song what it is.
The voices blend perfectly a choir that is what a choir should be - a collection of voices where no one voice is distinguishable from the others
~ The Rainbow Connection ~
Originally performed by Kermit the Frog in The Muppet Movie so not a song you would usually expect on an album like this! However, strangely, it works. I've never seen the muppet movie but can see how it would fit with that, however it transfers well.
There's a strange conflict almost with her vocals against the instrumentals, this catches my attention every so often but compliments the song rather then contrasts with it. This definitely isn't her usual kind of song there's a quality to her voice here that I haven't heard in any of her other songs.
There's an unease that comes across in the music here, this is transferred through not only the music itself but also in the occasional clash between the vocals and instrumental. None the less a reasonable song and well placed in the album.
~ Prayer Of St. Francis ~
A Christian prayer that I believe is also a psalm (although I'm not Christian so I could be wrong). I'm not quite sure why she included this in this album, although musically it should fit with the rest of the songs maybe because of what it is away from the music it doesn't seem to fit.
Anyway, the vocals and the instrumental blend well both of them carrying equal weight. At only 2:02 long I guess I could forgive it's inclusion but I do think it would have been better left out.
~ Unchained Melody ~
I'm actually not sure who wrote this originally but I'm sure most, if not all of you, have heard of it. It begins with a fairly strong beat but this only lasts seconds before settling down to a much softer one which is quickly followed by the vocals.
Although it is obviously a cover which is unusual for her, she's done a good job at making it hers. In fact, the first few times I heard this I didn't even realize what song it was!
It's hard to tell what has prominence here, the vocals or the instrumental. I think at times they both do, but they blend perfectly neither one overpowering the other however this is a very slow track to follow many other very slow tracks and so at 4:50 long it does seem to drag somewhat. This isn't really a criticism of the song itself as taken on its own or played as just background music it's pretty good, but given its positioning in the album and taken with all the other songs it doesn't work for me - maybe it would have been better placed earlier on?
~ Silence ~
A duet with Delirium. Quite a funny one to end the album on, at 11:37 long it's over double the length of all the other songs on the album. It's also the only remix on the album and the only dance track amongst 10 other much slower tracks! Quite why she had to include this as a remix against a lot of songs that aren't I'll probably never know!
The duet itself works well but unfortunately that's about the only positive thing I have to say here, I don't like dance tracks at the best of times but to end a collection of much slower more relaxing songs is just bizarre especially given the length. Minus this track this is a pretty good album but unfortunately, for me, its inclusion detracts from the whole album.
So Should You Buy It?
I've already waffled on for much longer then I planned to (so thank you to those of you still with me!) therefore I'll keep this bit short.
The album costs £6.69 from Amazon (with free delivery) and a little more from shops such as HMV. Overall I'd say it's a pretty good album but as I previously said that last track does ruin the effect of the rest of it for me. Up till then it's the perfect CD to relax and unwind to as all the songs have a slower beat and are much more relaxing without becoming boring or feeling like the album drags on but then that last track comes on and ruins the whole effect. There's also a couple of fillers and I prefer my CD's without any of these. However, for those of you that are already Sarah fans then I do recommend it. It's a good CD overall and I'm giving it 4 out of 5, losing a star due to that last track. If, however, you are new to her music then I'd stick with her older albums and give this a wide berth for now.
Just to end this and as a side note I do realize that dooyoo list Cat's in the cradle as the first track - this is because Amazon have this on the copy they're selling, my copy however doesn't have this and was bought from HMV, why there's a difference I don't know but if you want this extra track you'll need to get your CD from Amazon.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Cat's In The Cradle
2 Ordinary Miracle
4 Time After Time
6 When She Loved Me
7 Don't Let Go (with Bryan Adams)
8 Just Like Me (with D.M.C.)
9 Angel (Live) (with Emmylou Harris)
10 Pills (Live) (with The Perishers)
11 Homeless (with Ladysmith Black Mambazo)
12 The Rainbow Connection
13 Prayer Of St. Francis
14 Unchained Melody