[the sea of waking dreams]

Geezer Covers Sarah Song

McLachlan song gets thorough analysis in court

By IAN BAILEY -- Canadian Press

VANCOUVER -- In a gruff, gravelly voice, an expert witness sang bits of a Sarah McLachlan song in court Thursday to show how the piece was improved by a musician suing the superstar.

The song was 90 per cent changed over three different recordings, Gerald Eskelin, 64, said in B.C. Supreme Court.

Toronto musician Darryl Neudorf was sent the first version in 1987 when he was invited to help McLachlan develop her debut album.

Neudorf, 34, who now lives in Vancouver, is suing McLachlan for credit and cash for his work on four songs -- including Steaming -- on the album Touch which launched McLachlan down a career path that has seen her become one of North America's top female vocalists.

"The (final) version of Steaming is 90 per cent different than the Sarah version," said Eskelin, a music professor and Grammy-award nominee with the L.A. Jazz Choir.

"I am not only talking about the amount of material carried over, but modification and improvement of the material," Eskelin told Justice Bruce Cohen, who is hearing the case without a jury.

"The piece is immensely improved in overall composition."

Eskelin was even more blunt in an interview outside court.

"The music itself is what really speaks loudly in this case," Eskelin said. "It says there was a tremendous transformation in the material in the time that Darryl Neudorf was involved."

Neudorf, a former drummer with the band 54-40, spent several months working on Touch, considered important by McLachlan's label Nettwerk Productions because it was seen as the launch of a promising Halifax-born performer.

Neudorf, 34, has focused his suit on four songs including Steaming.

Eskelin has previously testified in cases involving artists ranging from Michael Bolton to Stevie Wonder, but said the McLachlan matter is unique because most of his cases involve plagiarism -- whether or not one composer borrowed ideas from other composers.

"This is unique in that it has to do with authorship, who wrote the song, whether the song was original and whether the material that's similar is in fact original," he said.

On Thursday, the court heard three versions of Steaming. Neudorf was sent the first version in 1987 when invited to help McLachlan. The third was the cut from the album.

At times, Thursday's testimony and the exchanges between Eskelin and McLachlan's lawyer, Jennifer Conkie, sounded more like a jam session than a sober discussion of evidence.

While talking about melody and chords, Conkie strolled over to a keyboard planted beside McLachlan's table and played a nuanced version of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.

"Very impressive," Eskelin told Conkie as she returned to the lecturn to continue questioning the witness. "Far better than I could do."

He rejected suggestions from Conkie that various letters from Neudorf's lawyer, Jonathan Simpkin, may have swayed his opinion about the case.

In one letter, Simpkin suggested McLachlan "conveniently forgets" the details of certain incidents.  The letter was referring to incidents McLachlan outlined in her pre-trial discovery evidence.

Eskelin agreed, but refused to take the bait of Conkie's suggestion that McLachlan was a liar.

"She may be answering in ways that avoid conclusions she does not want to reach," he said.

Yeah, that's the headline, apparently.

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