Sarah McLachlan - Elsewhere
I know this love is passing time
Passing through like liquid
I am drunk in my desire…
But I love the way you smile at me
I love the way your hands reach out and hold me near
Say what you will about me, this album is outstanding and I saw Sarah three times on this tour. Also, the spin-off album Freedom Sessions featured stripped down versions of many of the songs. And that’s why I saw her three times - every show and every song in each show was different but somehow sounded like it was supposed to sound like that. Some rocked a bit more, some were a bit mellower, some were acoustic and/or piano versions, and some became extended jams.
“Where Have All the Cowboys Gone [Sylkscreen Dream Mix]” by Paula Cole
(Words/Music: Paula Cole, Album: Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?, Warner Bros. 2006)
While I was writing last week’s post for Wednesday’s Women on Sarah McLachlan, I mentioned a duet she sang with Paula Cole and that got me to thinking about the songstress who seemed so promising 10 years ago. I hear “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone” occasionally on piped-in store music or adult contemporary radio, but I realized that I didn’t know anything from her beside this one song (which, coincidentally, I love). While I was searching for new music from her, I encountered about few albums since her breakthrough release, This Fire, which featured “Cowboys,” but none of them seemed to make a dent. However, I did happen to stumble upon an album of remixes of “Cowboy,” most of which were excellent re-envisionings of her big hit.
While no one can deny that Sylkscreen has done an amazing job with this song, a lot of the credit for the strength of this remix has to go to the composition and performance on the original song. I have always found the lyrics enticing and in this sparser remix, one can hear how intoxicating Paula Cole’s voice is. It is so rich and powerful that you have to wonder if it isn’t a bit buried in the original song, despite the fact that it is the most significant part of that song as well. Basically, what we have here is a remix that picks the single most important element of a song and enhances it even further. By stripping away much of the background (including all percussion) and adding a sad, muted trumpet, it makes Paula Cole’s lyrics and vocals sound even more desolate and isolated, enhancing the main theme of loneliness already so prominent in the original. The only question left to ask after hearing this remix is Where Has Paula Cole Gone?
More Paula Cole: AmazonMP3 – last.fm – AllMusic – eMusic
Previous Wednesday’s Women posts on shelterfromthenorm
“Ice Cream (live)” by Sarah McLachlan
(Words/Music: Sarah McLachlan, Album: Mirrorball, Arista Records 1993)
Over the last couple of weeks, I have noticed one of the sure signs that summer is imminent: festival lineups. And one of the most successful festivals of all time is renewing this year: Sarah McLachlan’s Lilith Fair. I know that when most people think of Sarah McLachlan they think of slow, melancholy, and poignant songs and fans who lean toward the ultra-feminist side, but I know from experience of having seen Sarah McLachlan live a few times that she is one of the most dynamic and versatile performers on the scene today. Yes, her studio releases tend to be more mellow and subdued, but live she is constantly mixing up her arrangements, offering acoustic guitar or piano versions of some songs while putting together heavier, rocking versions of others. (For a good example of this, see her album Freedom Sessions on which she gives nearly all of the songs on her breakout Fumbling Toward Ecstasy new treatments.)
One of my favorites Sarah McLachlan songs is the uncharacteristically light and bouncy “Ice Cream,” from Fumbling and performed here live on Mirrorball during her Surfacing tour. The lyrics are mainly positive and upbeat as is the acoustic guitar. McLachlan’s voice is playful and so is her demeanor as she encourages crowd participation via the ever-popular “sing along” which, having seen it performed live a few times, didn’t really take much encouragement. It is always one of the highlights of a Sarah McLachlan show and the only drawback is that this isn’t one of the extended versions that I’ve experienced. My favorite had to be when I saw her at Shea’s Theater in Buffalo and she performed this as an encore duet with her opening act Paula “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone” Cole, which my ever-increasingly faulty memory recalls as being about 10 minutes long (and I had to walk to the concert uphill both ways through 5 feet of snow). Regardless, this capturing of the live essence of one of the most fun Sarah McLachlan songs barely does it or her live performances justice, but I am a sucker for songs with audience participation and songs in which the performer goes against type.
More Sarah McLachlan: AmazonMP3 – last.fm – AllMusic - eMusic
Previous Wednesday’s Women posts on shelterfromthenorm
“Sister Awake” By The Tea Party
(Words/Music: The Tea Party, Album: The Edges of Twilight, EMI Music Canada 1996)
The Tea Party combines prog-rock musicianship and rhythms with Middle Eastern tonality and instrumentation behind Jim Morrison-like vocals complete with his poetic mysticism. Jeff Martin, singer, songwriter, and master of exotic instruments, fronted the band until creative differences caused them to split in 2005, but not until they became one of Canada’s premiere home-grown acts. Rising to prominence in the early 90s alongside other Canadian artists like Sarah McLachlan, Barenaked Ladies, Tragically Hip and Lowest of the Low, the warm reception of the multi-cultural sounds of The Tea Party reflects the open-mindedness of the city of Toronto.
Throughout “Sister Awake” the main melody is played on both standard rock instruments and traditional Indian instruments, providing an Eastern feel to the composition. It builds from an acoustic guitar backed by a sarod and harmonium to a more driving guitar and drum based rock song while still managing to incorporate the Indian instruments like the sitar. Finally, the conclusion features a full driving rock trio (guitar, bass, and drums) before climaxing and returning to the initial instruments. The increasing and developing layers, similar to a choral fugue of the Middle Ages in which a simple theme is stated and restated as successive voices join, parallel the lyrics which find the speaker at once imploring his sister to complete a sort of reawakening but exercising caution in doing so. The exotic instruments and song structure perfectly compliment this tale of mysticism and discovery, and Jeff Martin, whatever his future musical decisions be, will no doubt continue to awaken the inhabitants of Toronto to numerous sonic combinations. One can only hope that he can gain enough recognition to bring his unique musical vision to the worldwide audience from which he derives his influence.
More Tea Party – AmazonMP3 – lala – last.fm
“Life-Sized Marilyn Monroe” by Wild Strawberries
(Words/Music: Ken Harrison, Album: I Bet You Think I’m Lonely, Strawberry Records 1994)
Wild Strawberries are a husband/wife duo on vocals and keyboards respectively, with husband Ken Harrison doing the bulk of the songwriting, mastering simple songs filled with nostalgic lyrics which are perfectly suited for his wife Roberta Carter Harrison’s sweet and sultry vocals. “Life-Sized Marilyn Monroe” put them on the map in Canada and gained them enough notoriety to have Sarah McLachlan lend a hand on guitar on their next album. While the band’s heyday seems to have been in the early 90s, this is an album I still reach for on occasion when I need something “poppy” but not completely mindless.
“Life-Sized Marilyn Monroe” hit the radio about the same time as Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know” and tells a more subdued story of a spurned lover. Because it is softer and more understated than Morissette’s tirade-laden song, it comes off as a stronger and more mature response. Filled with lyrics which allude to Romantic icons of the past (Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, Rudolph Valentino, Jimmy Dean) who died tragic, early deaths, the singer seems to have escaped into a fantasy world and one is left to wonder whether she has unrealistic expectations for her romantic partners. Are they supposed to live up to these icons or does the relationship parallel their doomed and tragic lives? Either way, the song provides interesting fodder for the listener (as does the rest of the album) and when it finds itself in my CD player, it often stays around for awhile.
More Wild Strawberries: AmazonMP3 – lala – last.fm
“Drinking With the Poet” by Scott B Sympathy
(Words/ Music: Scott B Sympathy, from Drinking With the Poet, Smokeshow Records 1992)
Some songs just speak for themselves. Is that a copout? Yes, it is. So here goes…
Ok, basically, it’s a great one-off song for a Saturday night while I try to figure out which artist to discuss next.
Released and known mainly in Canada in the early 90s alongside legendary Canadian albums such as Lowest of the Low’s Shakespeare…My Butt, Barenaked Ladies’ Gordon, Moxy Fruvous’ Bargainville, Sarah McLachlan’s Fumblng Towards Ecstasy, and The Tragically Hip’s Fully Completely, this album (or at least the song) still managed to garner airplay. I know that as an English Major in Buffalo, the title of the song was near and dear to my heart and the opening strums of the mandolin encouraged me to crank it. (Yes, you read that correctly: mandolin = volume). And besides, the message of the song is clear: it is better to do what you want to do today than to live with the idea that you missed out on things. Um, carpe diem anyone? And if the something to do involves drinking and poets, so much the better! When you wake up hungover, you can write a semi-cohesive, ambiguous song about it that just plain rocks. And then you too can be guaranteed your own Wikipedia entry (sign number 3 that you’ve made it big – please don’t ask for #s 1 and 2).
Just as many poets loved to drink (rumor has it there is a mandatory minimum blood-alcohol level for Irish poets in particular) and eventually sing (much to the chagrin of the fellow bar patrons), this song seems a perfect marriage. Try it sometime. And as all members of the white collar button-down world stare at you in disgust (or, more than likely, jealousy), this song will provide for you some Shelter From the Norm.