Canadian singer-songwriter Sarah McLachlan has been releasing records since 1988 when she debuted with Touch. Since then she has gone on to be one of the biggest female recording artists in the world with her 1997 album Surfacing, which sold over 8 million alone in the US, being her most successful album to date. It’s been four years since Sarah has released an album, Laws of Illusion, and things have changed considerably since then. She’s now on a new label (Verve) after parting ways with her long-time label Nettwerk/Arista. The first fruits of her new deal come with Shine On which is Sarah’s eighth studio album.
Shine On is an album that reflects love and loss marking a welcome return for the much-loved songstress. Ahead of the album’s release Sarah teased fans with album track Beautiful Girl and lead single In Your Shoes. The two tracks contrast nicely and give a good indication of the two sides to this record. The fuller band feel of In Your Shoes is present on a handful of tracks whilst songs like Beautiful Girl serve up the emotive piano ballads that have become Sarah’s trademark.
For this record McLachlan has once again teamed up with long-term producer Pierre Marchand. Inspiration from the album came from the many changes in Sarah’s life including the death of her father, leaving her long-time label and manager, and her determination to live each day to the fullest. Flesh and Blood, one of the album’s more uptempo moments, is about looking beyond what’s comfortable and really questioning your life whilst Monsters explores the idea of being surrounded by people that aren’t what they seem.
Song For My Father is one of the most emotive songs on the album as Sarah comes to terms with the loss of her father and thus a strong male anchor in her life. The pure honesty of the songs makes it one of the most affecting on the record.
Elsewhere Sarah has a potential radio hit on her hands with the rock-tinged Love Beside Me, Brink of Destruction tells the story of two people coming together after separately going through difficult times, and the hushed almost Jazz tones of Surrender and Certainty seduce your ears.
The strongest moment on the album comes on Turn The Lights Down Low. The song is classic Sarah with her trademark vocal harmonies paving the way for a song about allowing yourself to follow your heart albeit blindly and see where it leads you.
The Standard Edition of the album comes to a close with the ukulele-driven The Sound That Love Makes. The Deluxe Edition of Shine On features two additional track; What’s It Gonna Take and Little B. What’s It Gonna Take was originally written and recorded for the King Kong musical and is performed in the show by Ann Darrow. It’s actually one of the most beautiful moments on the record and is much more than a mere bonus track. Sarah is always at her strongest when she is paired with just her piano and What’s It Gonna Take pours with emotion. Little B on the other hand is a lullaby from a mother to her baby and rounds the album off perfectly.
We’re almost tempted to call Shine On a return to form but to say that would be inferring that Sarah had had a patchy period. That simply isn’t true and she’s one of the most consistent artists in the industry delivering on every album. Shine On is a work of sheer beauty and continues to showcase why Sarah is loved across the world. Music doesn’t come more emotional, raw and honest than this.