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"Surfacing," Sarah McLachlan. Arista. 3 stars out of 4.

When she announced the plans for Lilith Fair, the summer's hottest concert ticket, tour founder Sarah McLachlan was about the only artist on the bill without a recent release to promote on tour.

Problem solved, though a little later than planned.

Originally planned as a spring release, "Surfacing" is McLachlan's first full-length release of originals since early 1994's "Fumbling Towards Ecstasy." While it lacks the edge of that breakthrough disc, it remains a strong, elegant collection of mostly acoustic songs.

The disc's first single, "Building a Mystery," is a solid effort but, as is often the case, what the label chooses to release often pales compared to other material on the CD. The haunting "I Love You" could melt all but the coldest hearts, while "Adia" mines the same mid-tempo territory where McLachlan has found success with songs like "I Will Remember You" and "Good Enough." "Full of Grace" is the best song on the disc, a sort of mid-winter, melancholy lyric that cools in mid-summer with the same effect of Joni Mitchell's classic "River."

.Unlike the techno remixes that have shown up on McLachlan's EP's, this effort remains true to the formula she and producer Pierre Marchand have worked with such success. The musicianship is impeccable, including the work of McLachlan's new husband, drummer Ash Sood, and guest turns on nearly half the songs by the wonderful stand-up bassist of Barenaked Ladies, Jim Creeggan.

One of the true believers in the enhanced CD formula, McLachlan includes more multimedia on this disc, including two full-length music videos, sound samples from previous discs, and a video clip of an interview about the new material. It's not enough to justify buying the disc on its own -- the music does that -- but it's a nice addition. It also includes links to McLachlan's Web site, which, unfortunately, is the only place you'll find lyrics for the songs, because they aren't included with the disc.

By Tracy Collins


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