red lights


Sarah stumbles

Sarah McLachlan - Bloom (Remix Album)
(Arista Records)
1 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Oct. 6, 2005
Sarah McLachlan

Review by Andy Argyrakis

Troubadour Sarah McLachlan can captivate on piano and soothe the soul on guitar, though it's her angelic voice that truly serves as the ultimate chill out instrument. Her peaceful melodies, tenderhearted arrangements and introspective songwriting has been a staple of a career that first launched in 1988 and has steadily grown in popularity ever since. The last decade has been loaded with peaks, including the singer/songwriter's drive to get Lilith Fair up and running, plus the ground breaking record Fumbling Towards Ecstasy and its multi-platinum follow-up Surfacing. Though she took tons of time off and the edge from her lyrics was softened after becoming a mother, McLachlan returned to the road, raked in the ticket sales and continued to chart with 2003's Afterglow.
However calling Bloom the follow-up to that disc or even billing it as an official title in her catalogue is a bit deceptive and misleading. Perhaps that's why Arista Records is careful to tag the words "remix album" on the side of its spine to indicate these are merely old cuts re-tooled under the direction of various DJs, artists and producers. The project is actually her second record of this nature coming off of Sarah McLachlan Remixed, though this time out the set list leans heavily on the Afterglow sessions. But no matter what material these projects are pulling from, both fall under the same glaring problem. Not only is this singer/songwriter not a dance, techno or beat directed artist, but these songs don't translate with the same beauty or delicacy outside her normally sparse settings. Instead they come across like any generic club mix that could be thumping out of a party stereo, merely serving as background music rather than the center of attention. Cuts like the pulsating "World On Fire" (Junkie XL Club Mix/ GM Edit) and "Stupid" (Hyper Remix) are prime examples of this point, catering more to the dance directed crowd looking to get busy than those willing to take in the message behind the music.
Though less geared towards the bump and grind arena, the glazed over gentleness of "Ice" (Dusted Mix) and the lounge-like "Dirty Little Secret" (Thievery Corporation Mix) lack the natural organics aura of the originals. Even of the Black Eyed Peas can't save McLachlan and DMC's tag team throughout "Just Like Me," instead turning to lazy finger snap production techniques and pedestrian programming. As the record rounds out with "Fumbling Towards Ecstasy" (Junior Boys Mix) there's no taking away the subject's vocal talents, though they're by far best found on the original recordings and better left unexplored in this extremely artificial context.

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