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Surfacing - Sarah McLachlan

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Genre: Rock - Pop Rock / Artist: Sarah McLachlan / Audio CD released 1998-10-05 at Arista

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      28.07.2010 15:55
      Very helpful



      Grea album.


      I have been listening to a lot of different music recently and one of the artists on my pc that I have kind of rediscovered is Sarah McLachlan. I have always been a fan of her voice but until a few years ago had not really sat down and listened to her music in much detail. The Canadian singer songwriter has released a total of seven studio albums. I have most of her albums on my computer but one album I have been listening to the most of hers is my subject for this review.


      This is the fourth studio release from Sarah McLachlan and was released in 1997. It's her biggest selling album and is arguably her most critically acclaimed work to date. The album was produced by Pierre Marchand and features the hit singles "Building a Mystery", "Sweet Surrender", "Adia" and the classic "Angel".

      1.) Building A Mystery

      This track gets things off to an impressive start with the first single from the album, the guitar and Sarah's vocals are a feature of the opening and this song develops well and once the drums and other instruments kick in it's complete. Her voice is fine and gives a hint at what's to come. A decent start but things get a lot better.

      2.) I Love You

      Up next is "I Love You". This is a beautifully laid back ballad which features a lovely drum machine sequence with McLachlan's beautiful vocals showing fine emotion. I really love the way that this song moves along with a simplicity and a superb emotive quality that is a feature of much of this album. Great stuff Sarah. I love the gentle guitar solo which really keeps the feeling of the song.

      3.) Sweet Surrender

      This is a flowing mid tempo track which sees Sarah's flowing vocals adopting a different feel than her slower ballads. This really shows off her vocal versatility. This is a very decent track but lacks that little spark that the best tracks on the album have. Still one you should listen to though.

      4.) Adia

      This emotive track is Sarah's apology to a former friend "Adia" after she had a relationship and then later married Adia's ex boyfriend. This is one of the best tracks on the album and shows that her intention wasn't to hurt her friend. An emotive subject that is not as common as some other relationship dilemmas.

      5.) Do what you have to do

      This was apparently referenced in a letter Monica Lewinsky wrote to Bill Clinton after their affair was outed. This is a beautifully performed track which sees Sarah's vocals with a gentle piano and a lovely string background which adds to the emotive feel of the song. Another fantastic track which shows the quality of the album.

      6.) Witness

      This is a really fantastic track which reminds me a little of Massive Attack from around the time of this album. A very dreamy backing is the key to this tracks worth. This is a wonderful track which shows McLachlan's ability for music as well as lyrics and vocals. The guitar solo reminds me of John Frusciante. Absolutely superb track.

      7.) Angel

      What a bloody great song this is!!!!!. It is said to have inspired DMC after his bout of depression and also became a song of comfort and healing after the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers. It was originally written after McLachlan read about musicians who turned to heroin to cope with the pressures of the music industry and subsequently overdosed. Angel is about avoiding the bad things like heroin and becoming better and getting over your problems without that.

      8.) Black & White

      This is a catchy track which has a good tempo and the mix of the music and the gentle vocals from Sarah really makes for a very good track. I like the percussion on this track as it adds a nice toe tapping element. This is the longest track on the album At 5 minutes 4 seconds and is one of the best mid to up tempo tracks.

      9.) Full of Grace

      This is a beautifully performed ballad with Piano and lovely orchestra. I love the way this song develops and once the drum beat comes in it's complete. This is a perfect balance between beautiful vocals and beautiful music and is another fantastic track with a lovely backing vocal harmony which tops off the song superbly. Wonderful stuff.

      10.) Last Dance

      This is an instrumental which won a Grammy for "Best Pop Instrumental Performance" in 1998. It is a really beautiful and relaxing piece of Music which features Sarah on Piano. A really lovely end to the album.


      This is a wonderful album which is one of my favourite albums. On "Surfacing" Sarah McLachlan shows that her beautiful voice is backed by a fantastic musical ability as a musician and as a composer too. If you are a fan of someone like Tori Amos or Thea Gilmore then give this album a go and you should be very pleased you did. A fantastic album that stands as Sarah's best.


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        20.08.2009 07:47
        Very helpful



        A very good - but not great - album that was more of a commercial than critical success


        Having at last emerged into the international spotlight with her previous album - Fumbling Toward Ecstasy (FTE) - Sarah McLachlan consolidated her growing reputation as a stand-out singer songwriter with her aptly named follow-up - "Surfacing". As a long standing fan starved of new material for four years, I had great expectations.

        It was time to find out whether the raw but sparkling gem of talent revealed in her debut "Touch" (1988), refined with "Solace" (1991), and polished with the excellent Fumbling Toward Ecstasy in 1993, had developed into the perfect diamond her fans hoped for - or whether the weight of expectation and newfound attention would prove too heavy a crown for her to wear.

        THE ALBUM

        Surfacing, her fourth studio effort, was to go on to become her best selling album, selling over 11 million copies worldwide and earning two Grammy Awards (she won for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for "Building A Mystery" and Best Pop Instrumental Performance for "Last Dance"). The album release coincided with the launch of her "Lilith Fair" project - a festival showcase for female artists and bands that ran at various North American locations for three consecutive summers between 1997 and 1999. The resulting publicity and promotion ensured that the album was a commercial success.

        However, the critical reaction was muted - and rightly so in my view. In interviews, she had confessed that an exhausting year-long international tour and the success of FTE had left her with something of a writer's block, resulting in a four year gap between albums. Surfacing took eight months to record, and at times it shows. It is full of introspection, deliberately paced, and thoughtful, but at times meandering along, floating somewhat aimlessly toward a vaguely defined destination. There are points when you are waiting for it to kick on, to wake up, grab you by the shoulders and give you a shake - but it never really happens.

        Four songs were released as singles from the album - "Building a Mystery", "Sweet Surrender", "Adia" and "Angel". As the most accessible, radio-friendly songs on Surfacing, they were well chosen.

        The booklet does not include song lyrics, but the CD does have enhanced content in CD-ROM format which includes a biography, samples of songs from previous albums, production notes for Surfacing and videos for Angel and Building a Mystery. It is currently available at Amazon for £4.98.


        There isn't a great deal of variety on the album and it can get a bit samey. There is little to find fault in vocally, it's just that the pace of the album does not change all that much, and as such, I find it easy to switch off for all but my best loved tracks. Instead of describing each one, I have opted for my four favourites.

        > Building A Mystery

        This catchy song is the most up tempo on the album and starts with soft acoustic and electric guitars backing McLachlan's vocals, before the drums and other instruments kick in, driving proceedings on to another level. It's a song about building an aura of mystery around yourself, to hide the part of you that you feel insecure about from other people.

        "Cause you're working building a mystery, holding on and holding it in. Yeah you're working, building a mystery, and choosing so carefully."

        > Sweet Surrender

        More subtle than the first single, "Building A Mystery", this is a multi-layered song with an understated energy and drive. McLachlan's voice takes on a wispy, whispering character, relaying a deep, meaningful song, full of emotional character, about learning to accept that someone can love you despite all of your faults.

        "You take me in no questions asked, you strip away the ugliness that surrounds me. Are you an angel? am I already that gone? I only hope that I won't disappoint you when I'm down here on my knees."

        > Do What You Have To Do

        A beautiful, simple composition with soft piano accompanying McLachlan's tender vocals which crack, catch and break in all the right places to convey the earnest emotion she expresses in her lyrics. This is one of my favourite songs - a song about realising that the intense emotional investment you have made in another person is all for nought, and you just have to do what you can to make do and get by.

        "And I have the sense to recognize that I don't know how to let you go... I'm ever swiftly moving, trying to escape this desire. The yearning to be near you, I do what I have to do."

        > Angel

        The inspiration for Angel - one of the most loved of McLachlan songs - was the death of Jonathan Melvoin, keyboard player for the Smashing Pumpkins who died of a heroin overdose in 1996. It's enduring popularity is down to its simplicity and power. This is McLachlan at her most accomplished - nothing but her, her piano and a subtle bass. For me, easily the best song on the album. Simply beautiful.

        "In the arms of an angel, fly away from here, from this dark cold hotel room and the endlessness that you fear. You are pulled from the wreckage of your silent reverie, you're in the arms of the angel - may you find some comfort there..."


        Surfacing is an album full of excellent, emotionally intelligent and lyrically astute songs with two or three stand-out tracks - however, McLachlan spends so much time inward-looking and navel-gazing that it makes you wonder whether she realises she has an audience. However, it's an honest effort, and it's clear that a great deal of emotional investment went into it.

        Unfortunately, it falls a little short of the high standard she set herself with her previous album, and on this evidence, the crown weighed somewhat heavy on her head. Although Surfacing is a diamond with a few flaws rather than the perfect gem her fans had hoped for, it is still a beautiful album.


        Building a Mystery (4:07)
        I Love You (4:44)
        Sweet Surrender (4:00)
        Adia (4:05)
        Do What You Have to Do (3:47)
        Witness (4:45)
        Angel (4:30)
        Black & White (5:02)
        Full of Grace (3:41)
        Last Dance (2:33)

        © Hishyeness 2009


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          05.10.2008 16:32



          Beautiful songs, beautiful voice.

          I first discovered Sarah Mclachlan after hearing her music featured on several television shows: VR5, StrangeLuck and Dawson's Creek amongst others. Mclachlan's soulful voice and music style is very recognisable and not easily forgotten.
          This was the second album I bought - my first was 'Fumbling into Ecstasy', which I found to be a perfect album in every way possible. The songs on that album have more of a spiritual, hippy vibe. This collection is way more 'grown up' and the songs seem almost designed to be used as televsion drama backing tracks as a means to emote.
          'Building A Mystery' was recently featured prominantly on an episode of cult show 'Lost' and totally captured the sense of confusion and eerieness that surrounds the show's plotline. The lyrics are a little unconvinving to me however - Mclachlan has an angelic voice yet uses it here to try and convince us she has the persona of a vamp. Whilst the music conveys the mood suggested by the lyrics, the tender voice does not.
          Adia was a big UK hit for Mclachlan, who is not as well known in the UK as over the pond. It is a simple and memerising song - all piano and vocals. It is a little similar to what Delta Goodrem is currently producing.
          Angel is so well covered by boybands now and regularly featured on shows like X-factor and Pop idol. Some of it's original mysticism and power may have dissapeared. This version is a mature song with a serious message and was penned by Mclachlan as she considered the suicide of Nirvana's Kurt Cobain. Knowing this information as you listen to the song really makes it that much more powerful.
          Songs like Full of Grace or Do What You Have to Do are very gentle, soulful pieces that really lull you into a sense of spiritual wondering. These are songs that make you tear up.
          Sweet Surrender and Black and White provide the more up tempo pop moments.
          Last Dance is an eerie, antique song which sounds like it is the soundtrack to a haunted mansion!
          This is a great album overall. It is an easy listening album with the power to move and inspire.


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          27.07.2002 19:27
          Very helpful



          Well what can I say about this album? It is the best ever! But that would not make for the greatest of reviews. Sarah Mclachlan is without doubt for me one of the greatest singer/songwriters of this time, if not ever. The Canadian who has just turned 34, has offered so much to the music industry, with the brilliant Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, Touch, Solace to name just a few. Surfacing is an enhanced CD as many of Mclachlan's CD's are. Which is great because it offers a great insight into her background and history. Featured on this CD are pictures, info about other albums and also video footage of studio performances of songs like angel. Mclachlan I believe ahs always offered that little bit extra when releasing an album that goes to show that she really cares about her fans. This dedication has made every piece of work an absolute gem. Below are some details about surfacing. Total play time 41:35 Released: July 1997 Genre: Adult Contemporary/ singer songwriter To give the album the full respect that it deserves I feel that the best way to review is to describe and rate each song briefly, hope that you find this useful. 1: Building A Mystery 5/5 The opening song of the album will just blast you away; great vocals and great music make this one of the highlights of the album. The track just has so much energy that it sends chills down your spine. Lyrically it is also superb. To me it about someone trying to be someone they are not to impress or hang onto someone in a relationship. Overall a mid tempo song with a great hook for the chorus. Worth getting the album just for this song alone. 2: I Love You 5/5 This is just a classic slow love ballad; Mclachlan provides great vocals that are so emotional. The song is about being in love so much with someone that you cannot bear to be without them. It is also about not being able to tell them how much you love them and that you ca
          n never find the words or courage, a situation that I have been in, so I can relate to this song. A great song that would be a highlight on any album 3: Sweet Surrender 5/5 This song kicks the album into life with the first up tempo-ish song. Again the music is provided by some excellent guitars and drums. The vocals on this track are soaring and again unbelievable (think Ie said that before!). It is another love song as much of the album is. About not being able to fight against emotions/feelings about someone. This song has an addictive tone and again with all Mclachlan's works great lyrics and superb chorus that you just can't wait for. 4: Adia 5/5 Without doubt for me the signature song for Sarah Mclachlan. This song is so emotional and unbelievable sad, I believe it is about losing a dear friend to illness, although I am not certain of that. It for me brings back so many memories and feelings about some of the most important moments of my life so far. This is one of the most melodic and heartfelt songs ever to be written in my opinion. Again worth buying the album just for this song, it is the song that helped me discover the wonder that is Sarah Mclachlan. 5: Do What You Have To Do 5/5 The first time that the piano is really recognisable on this album, a great ballad about a relationship that to me might be going through a rough patch and that they just have to do what they feel best and that they still just want to be with each other because they don't know how to live with each other. Towards the end of the song they realise that they just have to say goodbye. A great song, with the piano adding so much to the atmosphere and feeling of the song, another master piece. 6: Witness 4/5 This song has a kind of bluesy influence that again shows the range of Mclachlan's musical ability. Also on this track are some rather chilling and deep lyrics and also some haunting voca
          ls. The song to me is about not knowing your future and that you will just be a 'witness'nd see what happens. There is also a great guitar solo on this track that accompanies that constant beat of the drums. 7: Angel 5/5 The most recognisable ballad on the album, I believe that it was on Dawson' Creek, or some other American type programme, not really got into them. The piano is again dominant on this track and is just purely amazing. Further atmosphere is added by slight guitar/violin presences. This song again has heartfelt lyrics that are forwarded so superbly by Mclachlan. To me the song is about someone either passing away from an accident and being taken by an angel. Or other times that I listen to it I think that they have been saved, from a low point in their life and can have a positive feel. A great ballad whatever. 8: Black & White4/5 Another song that has a great rhythm and a feel of the earlier witness. The music features a combination of the earlier pianos and guitars etc. It feels like as the album progresses the songs before come together to influence the next track, to me this just shows how the songs are individually brilliant and when they come to together to form the album, it is just a great experience to listen to the whole album. The song again has a haunting type of vocal that is just superb and is about people only liking you when you do what they want. 9: Full of Grace 5/5 Again another ballad with the piano offering the atmosphere and setting the pace of this slow affair. There is also a constant low drumming and occasional tambourine beat which, if you listen add to the experience of this song. Sarah' voice on this song is just so easy to listen to and offers a great range form extreme highs to lows. The story of the song is about being able to give so much more but again somehow not being able to show your true emotions similar to that of the earlier ' Love
          You' 10: Last Dance 4/5 The album closes with a gem of a song, the shortest track on the album at 2.36. The track is mainly instrumental with piano and violin setting the slow pace. There is also the occasional operatic vocal offered by Mclachlan. A great calming song that you can relax to and a great way to finish what is one of the best albums ever. Overall this album is one of the best albums I own, (and I own a few) I have the entire catalogue of Sarah Mclachlan CD's that is how much I love her music. Other fans believe that 'Fumbling Towards Ecstasy' is a better album, but for me they are both equal. Fumbling may have more consistency with great songs. But 'Surfacing' to me has the superb Adia and also Building A Mystery. Finally Mclachlan is working on her new album, she has recorded 9 songs so far. But she is currently taking time out as she has just given birth to her first bay girl in April. Congratulations! I can't wait for this new album and also for Sarah to start touring, as I will defiantly go and see her when she is in the UK. If you like Dido, Jewel or Natalie Merchant then you will like Sarah as well, and if you like Sarah you might like these artist as well! I hope that you have found this review useful; I am new to this and so would appreciate any comments on how I can improve my reviews. Thanks!


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            13.06.2001 02:56
            Very helpful



            Sometimes you have to buy a Sarah McLachlan CD, run yourself a hot bubble bath, and just GO WITH IT. Hi folks. I've recently been listening to softer music than my gender permits, and with this opinion I'm now totally destroying my reputation as a big tough bloke. Ah, to hell with it. I have no reputation. So this is Sarah McLachlan, a name I would sometimes hear from female friends. She is hardly known over here but she's pretty well known in America. While we are all listening to Dido and proclaiming her to be a refreshing 'reinvention' of female-vocal folk/rock, Sarah McLachlan has been doing this kind of stuff for over 10 years. I never really heard anything by her, but by the way in which my American female friends talked, I assumed McLachlan must be a "run yourself a hot bubble bath and think of lovey-dovey things" kind of artist. And that's actually quite true. I don't want to spend half of this opinion giving you a full history and biography of McLachlan, just to make the op longer in hope of a crown. This is my first taste of her (so to speak), so I'll try to stick to the point. Canadian-born McLachlan released her first album 'Touch' in 1989, followed by 'Solace' in 1991 and 'Fumbling Towards Ecstasy' in 1993, with live albums and other miscellaneous releases in between. 'Surfacing' is her most recent full studio album, though 1997 seems like a long time ago. More recently she has released the live album 'Mirrorball', and soon there will be an album of remixes by DJs and other people who like to turn real music into dance music. Dance remixes aside, McLachlan's music is fairly soft pop/rock/folk that comes from the heart. A very soft female heart that mostly thinks of love and stuff. And maybe puppies. McLachlan plays the piano and guitars, and has a wonderful voice. Think of Tori Amos without the insane screeching or inaccessibility. T
            hink of The Corrs without brothers or sisters. Think of Dido without, um, Dido. If you've seen the excellent Toy Story 2 you will have heard her voice; she sings 'When She Loved Me' in that touching scene (the one that made you cry). The song isn't really representative of McLachlan's own music, but it gives you a good idea of her voice and vocal range. I personally first heard her in an episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. At the end of season 2, Buffy has just put a sword through her boyfriend and literally sent him to hell, and her mother has told her not to bother coming home again. As she catches a coach out of Sunnydale and runs away, Sarah McLachlan's depressing song 'Full of Grace' plays. It truly adds to the scene, and it had a million Buffy fans asking, "Who WAS that?" 'Full of Grace' is on her 1997 album Surfacing, so it's the one I bought, and the one I now review for you good folks. It isn't strictly necessary to relax in a hot bubble bath and dream of the person you're in love with whilst listening, but this soft music really is better suited to quiet times. Listen to it alone, or on a Sunday morning, or at any other calming quiet time. All of the tracks here are pretty soft and all of them deal with being in love, falling out of love, not being in love, wanting to be in love but not, and anything else related to love. So you Limp Bizkit fans might want to give this one a miss. The album opens with 'Building A Mystery', a fairly feisty track, one of the loudest on the album. McLachlan's acoustic and soft electric guitars gently carry the track. If the bridge doesn't win you over, the chorus'll grab your attention. There's also an f-word in this song, so ol' Sarah isn't quite as soft and cuddly as you might have thought :-) The second track, 'I Love You' is as sugary as the title suggests. A really simple sweet song carried b
            y McLachlan's amazing voice, with a tone of melancholy. Next on the album is the catchy radio-friendly single release 'Sweet Surrender', better than anything by Dido or similar artists. Sweet Surrender has a lot of punch, with a more vibrant and active mix than other tracks. You'll be humming this for weeks. 'Adia' is a definite highlight of the album; soft, touching, and tugs at the emotions. Here McLachlan sings to someone called Adia (surprisingly enough). It is hard to know exactly what the song is about, but that's kinda the beauty of these songs. You can apply whatever personal meanings you like. It seems to have something to do with the loss of innocence, and forgiveness: "We are born innocent, believe me Adia, we are still innocent/ it's easy, we all falter/ does it matter?". Next is 'Do What You Have to Do", a simple but emotionally powerful song with just McLachlan's voice and a piano. To some, this might seem like a boring filler track, but if you let yourself get into the music (without worrying that you're being too soft and girly, fellas) you could really appreciate it. "And I have the sense to recognise that I don't know how to let you go". 'Witness' on the other hand is pretty much a filler track. I didn't take to this song very much, though it fits the mood of the album just fine and sounds a bit like Dido, with some interesting production and guitar sounds. 'Angel' is another intimate piano ballad, but rather less memorable than 'Do What You Have to Do' and unfortunately a little bland. Next is 'Black and White', a simple pop song that is almost but not quite a dance track. This section of the album is rather bland and may not hold your attention. Then we come to the reason I (and many other British people) bought the album: the excellent 'Full of Grace'. This is one of the most bittersweet depressing songs
            I've heard for a long time. The song is about knowing a relationship has gone cold and having the courage to give up on it. "If all of the strength and all of the courage/ come and lift me from this place/ I know I could love you much better than this". The CD ends with a simple little instrumental track called 'Last Dance', an eccentric little piano piece that is funny and sad at the same time. And there we go. The biggest disappointment is that the album has just 10 tracks and lasts only 40 minutes. This doesn't seem like value for money, and the album ends long before you want it to. It's a good job the songs are all such gems, and quality over quantity prevails. The CD has an 'enhanced' CD-ROM section, but this is only fun for 10 minutes. It mainly shows track listings for each of McLachlan's albums, with minute-long samples of some songs. It is just a glorified advertisement for her back catalogue. There are two Quicktime videos, but they are not videos for the singles. They are rough videos showing the recording of 'Building A Mystery' and 'Angel'. I also had some trouble with Quicktime. My recent version of Quicktime wouldn't play the video, so I had to install the old 1997 version of the program from the CD. Not worth the hassle really. If there is a hole in your music collection that needs to be filled by soft female-vocal pop, Sarah McLachlan is at least as good as Dido or The Corrs. It is baffling how she is not better known over here. You should perhaps try to get hold of some mp3's before deciding to buy a Sarah McLachlan album, but if you really loved Dido's 'No Angel' you can snap up 'Surfacing' without hesitation. Yes, it's girly. But we all have that soft centre under our thick skins, don't we? Um... don't we?


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          • Product Details

            Disc #1 Tracklisting
            1 Building A Mystery
            2 I Love You
            3 Sweet Surrender
            4 Adia
            5 Do What You Have To
            6 Witness
            7 Angel
            8 Black And White
            9 Full Of Grace
            10 Last Dance

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