Review of Surfacing from Houston Chronicle 7/20/97

by Bruce Westbrook

While Sarah Mclachlan's all-woman Lilith Fair is a commendable idea, the Canadian singer-songwriter deserves even more praise before the event hits the Woodlands Pavilion Aug. 3.

She deserves kudos for the best album of her career.

As her first all-new effort since her 1994 breakthrough, the 5-million selling Fumbling Towards Esctasy, Surfacing had a hard act to follow. But McLachlan has delivered her most exquisite collection of songs and performances yet.

Handsomely packaged and ably produced by longtime ally Pierre Marchand, the disc is a deft mix of traditional McLachlan sounds -- her soaring, soulful singing enshrined with minimal, recital-style accompaniment -- and new ones, with a tasteful rock edge bolstering songs such as Sweet Surrender.

The infectious first single, Building A Mystery, has a similar fervency that belies its smooth balladry. If pop-rock can be both delicate and intense, this is it -- and you won't hear much better vocals anywhere. McLachlan also plays piano and guitars, with new husband Ash Sood on drums, and Marchand backing on keyboards, bass, drum machine and vocals.

She wrote or co-wrote the 10 songs, most of which are contemplative and stirring without sliding into melancholy. (There's also an interactive track, as with hre live acoustic EP, The Freedom Sessions.) Mixing lovely melodies with eloquent lyrics about relationships and confrontational self-examination, Surfacing has an elegance and simplicity rare in any form of music. But though a highly emotional disc, it's not a case of a woman wearing her heart on her sleeve.

Rather, McLachlan shows a new maturity and command for her fourth album. Having "surfaced" from creative hiatus, she seems empowered by convictions, not driven by demons. (4 out of 4 stars)

Thanks to [email protected] of alt.music.sarah-mclachlan for entering this, and to Jeff Rose of the FTE list for posting it.

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