on May 6, 2014
I’m a hardcore Sarah fan from way back, and still consider Fumbling Towards Ecstasy and Surfacing her greatest works. After that to me it seemed her albums became a bit overproduced (Laws of Illusion especially), which basically condemned them to sound like soulless background music. Thankfully, this album is a lot less “polished”--the drums have a lot more kick to them and everything sounds simpler, which to me is a huge plus.
Song-wise, I’d say this is her best effort since Surfacing. The music doesn’t quite have the same soul as her greatest work, but they’re way closer than anything on her last album and most of Afterglow, and there are some really good tracks on this album. I must say, I’m really enjoying some of jazzy instruments and upbeat arrangements.
Also I'd like to suggest that, while driving alone in your car, you crank up the volume on “Turn the Lights Down Low” and just enjoy the deliciously different chord progressions.
All in all, I’d say this is a pretty great album. Surfacing may still be my favorite, but this is quite enjoyable to listen to on a sunny spring day.
on May 13, 2014
After listening to this album for the past week, I can gladly say "Welcome back Sarah!"To me, she's back in fine form and has never sounded better. Shine On depicts Sarah's journey through loss, getting over the loss, slowly finding herself and being whole again. Below is my song by song review:
In Your Shoes - What a vibrant energetic start to the album! Instantly likeable and fairly catchy, it's a great kick-off single for Shine On. It sounds so Sarah yet sound entirely new. I'm reminded of the energy of 'Into The Fire'. What started out as an empowerment anthem for the bullied, evolved into Sarah's own dedication to Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani children's education activist. One of the best empowerment lyrics in a song I've heard. Rating: 9.5/10
Flesh & Blood - The beginning melancholic strains reminds me of 'Wait'. Then it starts to talk about desire and then builds to a rocking climax. From lyrics like "insatiable like raging fire" and " ravage me from head to heart", only Sarah can make a song about sex sound supremely sensual. The kicker is the bridge "Logic escapes me. And I can't breathe. Cause you burn into my bones". The breathlessness when she sings "and I can't breathe" and the long drawn out "burrrnnn" makes you feel like you're really feeling her pleasure. Love love the 80s rock anthemic drums thrown in. Rating 9/10
Monsters - Instantly likeable and catchy song. The lyrics are unconventional; talking about thousand year old dragons, wolf in sheep's clothing, three-headed monsters and so on. Maybe it's Sarah's own forewarning to her daughters; that things and people are not as they seem in the entertainment business. The groovy rhythm immediately brought me back to the sounds of Lilith Fair. I can totally imagine this being sung by Aimee Mann or even Sheryl Crow, that's why it doesn't have that Sarah McLachlan feel & quality for me. I do appreciate that Sarah is trying new ways of songwriting but it's just ok for me. Rating 7.5/10
Broken Heart - Oh my! Sarah has never sounded as soulful as she does here. Her voice simply shines! She almost sounds Bonnie Raitt-ish. The songs tells of her broken heart at the loss of her father and ends with her trying to be positive,"Look to the future for all it can give. Not to us being apart." I like this song mainly because of Sarah's singing. Rating 7/10
Surrender & Certainty - First time I heard a jazzy-sounding Sarah was on her Christmas album and I really liked it. Basically she's talking about the "smooth stones in the water" how they "embrace" and "collide" and break apart like as if their destiny is already written out for them. Looking at the context from which this song is written, Sarah just lost three male anchors in her life , her husband, her dad and her longtime manager, Terry McBride...all one after another during the same period. This song sees her trying to make sense of the losses. She envies the stones for the surety of their purpose. Sarah ruefully sings "I want to know what it feels like to be THAT sure..of anything". The haunting horns simply amplify her sense of longing to be sure and be whole again. Rating 8.5/10
Song For My Father - The acoustic sound of this number evokes a Simon & Garfunkel vibe. Sarah has always been an excellent guitar player and this is the first time since Solace that Sarah recorded a song with pure acoustic guitar. A straightforward dedication to her father, the lyrics are simple yet imbued with pure heartfelt emotion The soft but driven drumming from the second chorus onwards uplifts the song from being just another acoustic number. The horns..you may like it or you may not. I personally like the horns as they adds a woeful tone to the song. Beautiful! Rating 9/10
Turn The Lights Down Low - The song starts with an electronic "Doo doo" sound similar to 'Plenty', then it continues on to a slow languishing sound not unlike a song in Afterglow. The song starts to pick up pace from the second chorus onwards with driving drums and deep bass lines. The song tells of Sarah's struggles with single parenthood; her lyrics "there's no guide to map the human heart" "words fall heavy out of tired mouths", her daughters having "tempests rising" in them, reveal a weary parent trying her best and resolute in being there for her daughters no matter what happens. As in the lyrics "When the world comes crashing down inside your head, i'll be right here, right here for you" Tip: Turn up the bass when you listen to this. Rating 9/10
Love Beside Me - Another number which displays an uncharacteristically rock-ish Sarah. What I love about this song are the sharp jolts of electric guitar in between verses that keep it interesting. I read that Sarah actually rocked the electric guitar in this one! The chorus is just lovely; echoes the self empowerment message of In Your Shoes. The song is about letting go of the past and the negative stuff..letting love in. Lyrics go "This is love beside me. Working on forgiveness. Laying the past down behind me. Letting go the ways that I've been hurt. Let the rivers rise & rage. I'll try to stand with grace" Powerful lyrics! The all-male chorus sounds odd at first, but my imagination comically conjures up her ex Ash Sood, her dad, Terry McBride and the males in her life singing in this chorus as if affirming that she should move on with her life. Rating 9.5/10
Brink of Destruction - This is like the ultimate slow dance song. Continuing with the theme of letting love in, the lyrics speaks of a stronger Sarah who's able to stand on her own feet. But even the strongest person needs comfort once in a while. Sarah found that comfort in her current beau, Geoff. The lyrics "Storms come, I learned to be strong. I don't lean on anyone else. But now I am so content here in your arms. I don't want to be anywhere else. With you, I'm home" . It's a beautiful slow song meant to be enjoyed with your other half in a quiet setting. Rating 8/10
Beautiful Girl - This is pure comforting Sarah. Clearly dedicated to her daughters, the song tells of Sarah trying to be strong for her daughters. For it is not only a loss of a father and a husband for Sarah, her daughters also feel the loss of their grandfather and a dad who would not be with them all the time. I love that Sarah used a bit of imagery in the lyrics "There could be winter change in my auburn hair, I'll tie it back for now". And when did you last hear the word "dissonant" used in a song lyric? Only tiny dislike is the semi-country sound at some parts. Rating 8/10
The Sound That Love Makes - I first heard this song through a YouTube video showing Sarah playing this song purely on ukelele. I totally loved that version; stripped down, simple and reminds me of a happy beach vacation. This version is nice too; Sarah still plays the uke but the additions, like the fingers snapping, the "wooo woos " take away from the beautiful simplicity of the song. Still a great tune, a worthy follow up to a Sarah classic, 'Ice Cream'. Rating 7.5/10
What's It Gonna Take (bonus track)- This was originally written for the musical King Kong by Sarah. It fits the character of Ann Darrow perfectly. Sarah's singing is top notch in this one. It doesn't fit in with the rest of the album but a nice bonus. Rating 8/10
Little B (bonus track) - Same thing, doesn't fit in this album. But definitely a sweet song would fit in any children's lullaby album Rating 7/10
So please, give it a go. To the reviewers who are dismissive of this album, I suggest that you take a listen again and give the songs a chance for their full beauty to be revealed. The slow songs especially need a quiet setting. Since when are good Sarah songs ever digestible on the first listen anyway ? It took me awhile to get into Fumbling even. If it doesn't sound easy, it's a good sign.
Sarah has taken a risk by opening up her musical repertoire and worked with producer Bob Rock (maestro to Metallica, Bon Jovi, Aerosmith..etc) for a harder rock sound on some tracks. She also opened up her songwriting processes by collaborating with ex-band mates Luke Doucet & Melissa NcClelland on Beautiful Girl. These are not monumental changes I know, but they are changes nevertheless. An artist don't change for the sake of change, but a change needs to evolve naturally.
Lastly, I'm sure most successful artists have been subjected to the whole "Your album did not live up to your [masterpiece album] I'm soooo disappointed" fans complaints. I've seen this with Surfacing, with Afterglow and with Laws of Illusion. I feel they are kind of missing the point. Why do they keep expecting Fumbling Towards Ecstacy version 2? I don't think Ms Sarah McLachlan ever needs to live up to her previous work. She just needs to keep pushing herself and grow on her own terms and not because it's to please anyone else.
Shine On Sarah..always a fan.
Upon reading the announcement for "Shine on"'s release, I wished this record to be a lot more adventurous and promising than its saccharine cover and bland title. Following the moderate success of 2003's rather overlooked "Afterglow" and, even more so, the mediocre sales of 2010's "Laws of illusion", as a long-time fan, I longed for an album that would put things in the right place. I am quite regretful for saying this, but "Shine on" is an album of a talented artist taking no risk, simply re-affirming her ability to write beautiful songs. That is no bad thing, but for those who have witnessed the outstanding quality of Sarah McLachlan's past records, good is simply not "Good enough". "Flesh and blood", "Monsters", "Song for my father", and "Love beside me" are bright reminders of her great talent, the artistic and commercial peak of which is the sublime 1994 "Fumbling towards ecstasy" album. It is records with such gut-wrenching songs that defined an era, propelled her into international success, and established her status as one of the greatest singers-songwriters of her generation. That, of course, remains undisputed, just like her voice that sounds as captivating as ever. However, 25 years into her career, Sarah McLachlan should be willing to make substantive changes to her sound, evolve as an artist, rather than embracing once again over-familiar material with no punch or edge. I love her dearly, so I am waiting for the sunshine, to me this is just some rays of light.
Well, at this point, after 26 years of Sarah McLachlan, you can tell she's content with just doing adult contemporary schmooze. McLachlan has always hinted at alternative rock greatness, but she's never delivered the goods. She's had a few albums that were really good, and some singles as well, but overall, she tends towards blandness. "Shine On" is no different. Especially from her past two albums. In fact, you could put "Shine On", "Laws Of Illusion" and "Afterglow" on shuffle and not be able to tell the difference.
As always, there are some good tracks here like "In Your Shoes", "Flesh And Blood", "Monsters" and "Love Beside Me". Had McLachlan gone this direction instead of bogging her album down with sappy ballads "Shine On" might have been more of a revelation. But no, McLachlan had to inundate her album with ballads once more. Of the ballads "Broken Heart", "Beautiful Girl" and "Little B" (bonus track I downloaded) are the standouts. Too many of her other ballads just blend together here.
And so, what is my recommendation here? Well, I am a long time fan who has pined for years for McLachlan to do something more alternative than adult contemporary, but she won't listen to my pleas. I want her to work with Nine Inch Nails, Foo Fighters, The Killers, Keane, Coldplay, Imogen Heap, Tori Amos--I mean come on, McLachlan, there's so much more you could be doing. How about writing some lyrics that aren't generic, too, while you're at it? Where's your opinion? Where's your angst? Where's the lady who did "Fumbling Towards Ecstasy", "Solace" or even "Surfacing"? On those albums you seemed to have something to say, and you said it in an emotionally satisfying way. Since "Afterglow" you have been coasting, making pleasant records, but nothing truly meaningful. Next time, let's experiment shall we? Let's shake things up, let's collaborate with others that can lend an unexpected edge to your music. That's all I'm saying.
Here's how "Shine On" compares to McLachlan's other works:
1988 Touch: Three Stars
1991 Solace: Five Stars
1993 Fumbling Towards Ecstasy: Four and a Half Stars
1997 Surfacing: Five Stars
2003 Afterglow: Three and a Half Stars
2010 Laws Of Illusion: Three and a Half Stars
2014 Shine On: Three and a Half Stars
on October 7, 2015
First off, let me state that I am not a Sarah McLachlan fan. I don't have anything against her personally, but that commercial with the dogs that uses her song annoys the heck out of me. FYI, I'm a dog owner, I have a handsome beagle named Pongo. I bought this album because I'm a vinyl guy, a child of the 70's. It was $7, 180 gram vinyl, so I said why not. I'm so happy that I did. It's an amazing album. Mastered wonderfully for vinyl. I lost my father in 2011 and "Song For My Father" tore me to pieces. It was as if she knew the pain in my heart and made it into a song. I wasn't a fan before, but I am now.
on June 3, 2014
Sarah McLachlan wants to help people.
Her many philanthropic endeavours aside, you can really tell this is her mission with Shine On. She knows the impact her music has had on her fans, and put an undeniable positive spin on this record. Though there are ballads, the music on Shine On is upbeat and even rocks out in some spots.
Lyrically, however, I find much of this album has a ‘Oprah gratitude journal’ quick-fix, self help feeling to it. There’s even an ‘it gets better’ song which feels about two years too late. That being said, the lyrics here aren’t as trite and cliche as a few tracks on Laws of Illusion were (After four years, I only go back to Laws of Illusion for Love Come and Bring on the Wonder).
Unfortunately Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, and to a lesser extent Solace (though it’s my personal fave), remain her most complex and compelling works. Those albums, and her international breakout, Surfacing, connected with people on a significantly deep level. Whether you were a young person in your challenging formative years, as I was, or an adult going through something, Sarah’s older work spoke to you as if you were on a one-to-one basis. They were hyper-cathartic.
It’s hard to criticize Sarah for the more recent songs she written simply because they speak to me less, but I can’t imagine the positive reinforcement vibe that permeates this album having as much of an impact. It’s deeper, darker, introspective lyrics that shake you to your core, touch your soul, and change your life. That’s how you help people.
Lots of people will identify with these songs, Sarah’s songs usually have a way of doing that, but Shine On and Laws of Illusion just scrape the surface. I don’t think in 10 or 20 years time many people will look back on these albums and say they changed or saved their lives, the way THRONGS of people credit Fumbling Towards Ecstasy and Solace.
Though this may sound like a negative review, it’s more a lament over a Sarah McLachlan that is now absolutely gone. She’s a yoga mom now, not an awkward teenager. I give this album four stars, because it’s still a good album, with good intent, a good message, good music and good lyrics. Good. This isn’t deserving of a three star rating, and for the time being I like it more than Laws of Illusion (which I had rated a five, but I’d now rate a four). I do wish Sarah would do some envelope pushing on her next outing. I’ll be forever crossing my fingers.
on February 14, 2015
At last an album from Sarah McLachlan that sounds like her at her best, even if it's not. It's still very good and worth the price of admission, especially comparing it to what passes as pop music these days. If the music industry wants to know what killed the business, try listening to the crap that comes out of the over-produced studios these days. IMO pop music was poisoned by rap, hip-hop and the strange amalgam of both that came out of Detroit the past decade. Strangely the country music that I used to loathe has taken the reins to produce listenable and even good music, especially from the ladies like Miranda Lambert and Taylor Swift. Ms. Swift may not be a great songwriter or a great singer but she manages to produce music that does not hurt the ears or grate one's nerves, and it doesn't hurt that she is almost unbearably attractive. But I digress and this is supposed to be a review of Ms. McLachlan's album but in a way it is, because while not her best work it still shines like a beacon in the dark of today's abysmal music universe. Now if only Jann Arden could find her original soul and give us another "Living Under June" quality album there might be hope yet.
on May 26, 2014
Unlike many other artists, it takes Sarah MacLachlan a long time to put out a new CD. Three to four years between releases is typical. And when she puts something out we know what to expect: mid-tempo ballads or mid-tempo rockers, intelligent (but often anguished) lyrics, and Sarah's crystalline soprano, one of the purest instruments operating in the pop-rock idiom today. What we don't expect, and don't get, is evolution. Sarah's music in 2014 doesn't sound any different from Surfacing, which she put out seventeen years ago, or anything else that she has put out in between.
This isn't necessarily a bad thing. There's something to be said for consistency, and Sarah's work product has been consistently good. Her music is beautiful, and on this release she leans heavily on ballads in the 6:8 time signature. And, as some reviewers have noted, as stripped down the arrangements a little bit. Which is a welcome development. But the lack of evolution stands in stark contrast to, say, Joni Mitchell, whose sound has evolved tremendously over the years. The one thing I would love to see Sarah do, which Joni did years ago, is collaborate with some jazz musicians (and indeed, we do find Brian Blade on a couple of cuts.) The perfect partner for her would be Herbie Hancock, who would be able to unlock the harmonic sophistication implicit in much of her music, and also allow some of the tunes to breathe more.
on December 21, 2014
I have listened to and loved Sarah McLachlan's music for half my life. It's hard to think she can keep putting out the same quality of her classics after all this time, but this album has many great songs. I already had this on mp3, but after I saw her on this tour live, I knew I needed to add this to my Vinyl collection. If you are a fan, this album will not disappoint.
on January 2, 2015
I LOVE her music and personality!! Although I had lost track for her for a few years we saw Sarah in concert this summer and her writing and voice remains as good as it was 20 years ago when she was Fumbling Toward Ecstasy. Bought this "Shine On" for me and another for a friend. Especially like songs: In your shoes, The sound that love makes, Love beside me, Monsters, The Song for my Father .