[edit, July 13, 2009: here’s the version of the song that I refer to below – why can’t she make a whole album of jagged guitar like this?!]
Sarah McLachlan lives in my town. Well in West Vancouver I think, so not quite my town. I’ve joked for years that I’d like to invite her over for dinner and talk about the business of her career. Hear me out, people (and you too Sarah, if you come across this). I think she’s a brilliant singer, and a gifted instrumentalist. But, her records are dull.
That sounds harsh, maybe. It’s not a tone I like to strike here at the ‘Bin. And I will mitigate that statement by saying that this song – “Ice” – is an incredible tune full of sex and darkness, and with that descending riff that I can’t resist. Yet, it suffers from how restrained it is, and I only realised it when I heard an alternate version of it on the EP The Freedom Sessions which followed Ecstasy, being as they were warm-up takes for that preceding album.
Maybe the title “Freedom sessions” is telling. The version of this song on that set is magnificent, and one of the reasons is that McLachlan lets loose on this song. She plays electric guitar on it, with the amp turned up to ten, and just, ever so slightly beyond her control. Her guitar is an angry voice against the plaintive tone of her singing, sending out chards of noise, only barely pulled back and reverberating around the song like a hail of bullets inside a metal container. It is magic. But can I find it anywhere outside of that little EP? Is that approach to be found on any of her other records? Can I find a clip of it to show you guys anywhere? Not a chance.
Once again, this is a great tune, showing off not only her singing voice, but also her ability to write dark love songs. I don’t want to give the impression that I don’t respect her as an artist. During that dinner invitation I mentioned, I might put forward the following advice:
- Record your next album with just your lead vocal, multi-tracks of your voice, and a Les Paul, plugged in and turned way up with lots of phasing. I forbid you to play any clean piano on this record.
- After that, Get Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor to produce a bluegrass album, on which they’d also sing. You sang great back-up vocals on their record, Five Days in May. Let them return the favour on one of yours.
- Talk to Mitchell Froom about producing you
- Stay away from all-female tours
I know I’m just a lowly music geek, and you’ve got plenty of fans that love your records. But, I thought I’d provide some feedback anyway.
For more music and tour information, check out the Sarah McLachlan official website.