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19 août 2008

Sarah McLachlan, Fumbling Towards Ecstasy

Posted on: Friday, 1 August 2008 by Jeff Miers On RedOrbit

Sarah McLachlan

Fumbling Towards Ecstasy: Legacy Edition

The record that launched a thousand Liliths, and eventually became an oft-copied, never-duplicated representative of the feminine in modern pop-rock, has been gifted with a deluxe edition. Deservedly so.

Canadian singer Sarah McLachlan arrived just as grunge was rearing its greasy-haired head and loud guitars with post-punk/ metal vocals were becoming de rigeur. McLachlan was having none of that, of course -- not for her, the Courtney Loves or L7s of the world. The prize McLachlan's eyes were firmly set on insisted on an elevation of female elegance, a belief in serious melodic invention, a hierarchy placing beauty and sturdy craftsmanship far above attitude and volume.

"Fumbling Towards Ecstasy" was McLachlan's third album, and with it she solidified her vision. Taking a cue from Kate Bush, Sinead O'Connor and Peter Gabriel, McLachlan brought sultry ambience to bear on vaguely world music-inspired beats, guitars providing lush counterpoint to her stunning singing, poetic lyric imagery balancing billowy keyboard washes and the thick, hypnotic production afforded by collaborator Pierre Marchand. All of this combined to become the very definition of Romantic pop music.

In the 16 years that have passed since "Fumbling" fumbled into the mainstream consciousness, going gold in the process, the "McLachlan sound" became a bit of a cliche, as is often the case when an artist ably captures the zeitgeist. (How many "Nirvana- be's" have been born and died during that same period?) Proof of the album's continued validity can be found in its decidedly vanilla pudding, however. From the opening fan dance of "Possession" through the elegiac closing mantra of the title tune, "Fumbling" is a sure- footed, clear-eyed attempt to capture transcendental concepts on tape. It's aching to be even more than it is, and this sense of passionate desire is what makes the music pulsate.

"Fumbling Towards Ecstasy" is so well-conceived and stunningly produced that it didn't really need a remastering -- a comparison between the Legacy Edition and my original CD copy of the album displays no miraculous discoveries, no unearthing of previously unheard bits and pieces in the mix. As always, the record sounds crisp, round, classy, beautiful. However, the inclusion of bonus disc "The Freedom Sessions" -- featuring stripped-down, primal, acoustic versions of many "Fumbling" tunes -- and the complete concert film from the tour supporting "Fumbling" make the package a comprehensive one.

McLachlan never bettered "Fumbling Towards Ecstasy." It is indeed her masterpiece, still.

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