[the sea of waking dreams]

Report on McLachlan branded as biased

Chad Skelton - Vancouver Sun November 6 1998

A report by an expert witness attacks the intelligence and credibility of singer-songwriter Sarah McLachlan and should be thrown out of court, her lawyer argued Thursday.

Jennifer Conkie, who represents McLachlan and other defendants in the case, quoted several sections from the report produced for Darryl Neudorf by the American musicologist Gerald Eskelin that she said went beyond the scope of his expertise.

That included statements that McLachlan "possesses quite a narrow and inadequate view of what constitutes songwriting," that "she may not be fully aware of the nature of melodic composition,"  and that her opinion of Neudorf's songwriting contribution was "simply mistaken and naive."

Conkie also criticized Eskelin's report for implying that McLachlan's writing abilities were weak because she took a long time to write songs.

"She's always been slow to write songs and is slow to this day," Conkie told the court. "Mr.  Eskelin is giving no credit to Ms. McLachlan as a developing songwriter."

In asking B.C. Supreme Court Justice Bruce Cohen to bar the report, Conkie said it showed "unfairness and bias against Ms. McLachlan" and read "more like a closing argument than an objective report."

Eskelin was slated to testify about his report next week. Conkie is asking that he be barred as a witness as well.

Neudorf, a Vancouver record producer and former drummer with the band 54-40, is seeking a share of royalties for co-producing and allegedly co-writing songs on McLachlan's debut album Touch, including Vox.

Conkie said Eskelin's report went beyond the usual restrictions on court experts, including opinions that were "in essence jabs at Ms. McLachlan's intelligence and credibility."

Neudorf's lawyer, Jonathan Simkin, is scheduled to defend the report Monday. He also plans to challenge the admissibility of the defence's expert witness,Vancouver singer and producer Bill Henderson, and Henderson's report.

The trial also heard Thursday from two band members who received a five-per-cent songwriting credit for their contribution on the song Trust that appeared only on the U.S. release of Touch.  Their testimony highlighted the complexities of the case.

Asked by Simkin to define the exact contribution band members made to the song, guitarist Stephen Nikleva said: "We rehearsed a few times a week. Sarah would often [play] this chord progression and the band would just jam on it."

Drummer Sherri Iwaschuk agreed it was difficult to say exactly who did what. "It was very much a community event. Very much a melting pot of ideas."

Outside the courtroom, McLachlan was mobbed by autograph-seeking fans. A steady stream of young spectators -- many on school trips to the courthouse -- took turns sitting in the gallery.

"Meeting Sarah was my dream," said April Kamensek, a 19-year-old fan who received an autograph and a hug from the music star. Kamensek spent the entire day in court and vowed she would be back. A longtime fan, she said she enjoyed hearing about the creative process behind McLachlan's music -- even if that process is at the centre of this bitter dispute.

"Hearing about it in court is kind of neat, because you get more into the music. I'm finding that really interesting."

The trial resumes Monday.

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