Sarah McLachlan Laws of Illusion Review

Released 2010.  

BBC Review

McLachlan’s post-divorce album pleasingly isn’t weighed down by self-pity.

Adrian Edwards 2010

This is Sarah McLachlan’s first album for four years, seven if one discounts her Grammy-nominated Christmas covers collection of 2006, Wintersong, to focus on original material. The Canadian singer-songwriter’s crystal-clear mezzo-soprano voice has changed little, but a failed marriage in the interim has become the inspiration for an autobiographical collection of songs which express the breadth of emotions that follow such circumstances.

But the overall tone is not what one might think. There is no self-pity and little melancholy about these arrangements. We know from her previous work that McLachlan is a thoughtful lyricist who knows a thing or two about song construction. She has a flair for varying the pace of a melody or introducing an ironical upbeat accompaniment to a downbeat lyric, and can deliver variety over a span of a dozen and more songs.

On the first single to be taken from this album, Loving You Is Easy, she sings of heartbreak to a bouncy Gilbert O’Sullivan-style piano accompaniment. Don’t Give Up On Us and Out of Time are in a similar vein. Illusions of Bliss – “Take me up beyond the incline / make me pass the former fault line” – taps into raw emotion, but sometimes there’s the feeling that her producer/collaborator Pierre Marchand should allow her a greater freedom of expression that the words of these songs cry out for. Too often he nullifies their impact – the simplicity of the song line and the understated sentiment of the lyric – by the intrusive employment of space-age electronic keyboards or the wash of girly backing vocals.

McLachlan has much to offer as a singer-songwriter, and is blessed with a flexible vocal technique, but could this be the time for her to pursue a new direction? Her songs fall easily on the ear, her rhyming schemes are adroit and she writes intelligently on serious subjects. She could follow Carole Bayer Sager to Broadway.   

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