Sarah McLachlan: Rarities, B-Sides, and Other Stuff 2

I’ve been a fan of Canadian singer-songwriter Sarah McLachlan since long before her Lilith Fair days, stumbling upon her second album Solace in the early 1990s and shortly after devouring 1993’s Fumbling Towards Ecstasy. Though her recent releases haven’t captivated me so intensely, my fondness for her elegant voice hasn’t diminished over the years. Sarah released the first volume of Rarities, B-Sides & Other Stuff in 1996, and now gives us this second collection of soundtrack work, previously unreleased as well as live tracks, and collaborations with guests Cyndi Lauper, Bryan Adams, DMC, Emmylou Harris, The Perishers, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, DJ Tiësto, and Delerium.

The album opens with “Ordinary Miracle”, culled from the Charlotte’s Web soundtrack. Though I prefer Fisher‘s cover, McLachlan’s version is also lovely. Cyndi Lauper then joins McLachlan on the pretty acoustic duet of “Time After Time” that they recorded for Lauper’s The Body Acoustic.

Though I personally think that Holly Cole recorded the definitive cover of Joni Mitchell’s “River” on her 1997 album Dear Dark Heart, McLachlan successfully captures the soft melancholy of the original. Allison Crowe‘s interpretation is good, too.

Bryan Adams guests on the Gretchen Peters tune “Don’t Let Go”, Emmylou Harris sings on the Lilith Fair edition of “Angel”, and The Perishers appear on the live recording “Pills”. The disc also includes McLachlan’s plucky rendition of The Beatles’ “Blackbird” from the I Am Sam soundtrack, the sweet “When She Loved Me” from Toy Story 2, and “The Rainbow Connection” from For The Kids.

I favor the original version of Delerium’s “Silence” from the Brokedown Palace soundtrack over this “In Search Of Sunrise” remix by DJ Tiësto. But I rarely like remixes. Also present are Sarah’s covers of the traditional “Prayer of St. Francis” and “Unchained Melody”.

Far more interesting than any of the above are Sarah’s a cappella cover of Paul Simon’s “Homeless” with Ladysmith Black Mambazo and the marvelously bizarre transformation of Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s In The Cradle” into the rap-rock song “Just Like Me” with rapper DMC.

I was not granted permission to share an mp3, but you can hear samples at the links below.

Sarah McLachlan Official Site

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Sarah McLachlan

Ladysmith Black Mambazo: Ilembe: Honoring Shaka Zulu

Ladysmith Black Mambazo will release Ilembe: Honoring Shaka Zulu on January 15th. The South African vocal group continues their signature Gospel laced African sound on their tribute to Shaka Zulu.

I love that the LBM collective have such disciplined voices they can sing a capella in perfect harmony and also engage in hypnotically syncopated humming, such as heard on the opening track “O Mmu Beno Mmu”.

On “Kuyafundw’ Osizini (Ilembe)” and “Prince Of Peace”, the band seems to be incorporating a touch of Mavis Staples’ bluesy vocal style (LBM contributed backing vocals tp We’ll Never Turn Back) into their traditional African rhythm.

And “Vela Nsizwa” is a standout example of Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s heart-rhythmic harmoniousness. Unfortunately, I was not granted permission to share an mp3. But if you are at all familiar with the group’s previous work, you will probably enjoy this new collection.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo Official Site

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Mavis Staples: We’ll Never Turn Back

We’ll Never Turn Back is what music should be. Gut-wrenching blues, earth shaking beats, hip swaying rhythms, deeply moving lyrics, and a rich voice that defies description. Produced by Ry Cooder and featuring guest vocals by original members of The Freedom Singers and Ladysmith Black Mambazo, the April 27th release from the legendary Mavis Staples is a collection of modernized Delta-blues and spirituals both old and new. Inspired by the civil rights movement of the 1960s as well as the Hurricane Katrina disaster, police shootings, and celebrity racial slurs of this decade, Staples effortlessly blends the emotional, inspirational, and intelligent lyrics of past revolutions with contemporary dance beats to create a intoxicatingly powerful force. And her voice has not lost one ounce of its incomparable potency.

“Down In Mississippi” and “In The Mississippi River” set the album on fire with deep Southern Gospel thumps, bluesy guitar riffs, and funky dance grooves beneath Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s melodic choir and the bottomless growl of Mavis Staples.

“Eyes On The Prize”, “We Shall Not Be Moved”, “On My Way”, “Turn Me Around”, and “Jesus Is On The Main Line” are traditional songs given a modern spin by Staples and Cooder. “This Little Light Of Mine” and “99 And 1/2” are also traditional songs that the pair augmented with new lyrical rants and pumped up musical arrangements.

“My Own Eyes” is a Staples original inspired by the singer’s own life experiences – such as being unjustly jailed by “Southern racist cops” in the Civil Rights era – and the world around her today, particularly in New Orleans.

Producer Ry Cooder hit the mark when he called these songs “physical music”. The music on We’ll Never Turn Back is so alive and full of passion it’s almost tangible enough to grasp in a clenched fist. These are not background songs for other activities. This is music to give your full attention to, to immerse yourself in, to get lost in, to get high on. This is not only what music should be, it’s what all music lovers should be talking about.

Mavis Staples Official Site

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