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Four questions: Sarah McLachlan, Touch

[Sarah McLachlan - Touch]

Artist

Sarah McLachlan

Title

Touch

Original Release Date

Oct. 11, 1988

Purchase Date

Approx. 1989

What is the memory you most associate with this title?

I read about Sarah McLachlan in a Pulse! magazine article that linked her with Sinéad O’Connor and Tracy Chapman. I didn’t actually make the leap till I heard Touch playing in Jelly’s Books and Music, and I asked the woman behind the counter who it was.

The woman turned out to be Claudette Bond. In 1992, I recognized her onstage at Pink’s Garage with a band called Spiny Norman. They were opening for another new band called Smashing Pumpkins.

What was happening in your life when it was released?

1988 was my junior year in high school. Before I got into McLachlan, O’Connor and Chapman, I had gotten into … musical theater.

The high school band director floated the idea of programming Jesus Christ Superstar for the football game half-time shows. A rather unconventional priest at my family’s parish had a habit of showing movie excerpts to demonstrate ideas in his homilies, one of which was Jesus Christ Superstar.

I borrowed the soundtrack from the public library and got smitten with Andrew Lloyd Webber. He could clearly write a tune, but in those moments between showstoppers, he had rock bands playing dissonant music straight out of Prokofiev. That was the gateway drug to stronger, weirder stuff.

What was happening in your life when you bought it?

I probably didn’t pick up the cassette till 1989. At the start of high school, I had tried to ingratiate myself with the so-called cool kids by listening to the same music they did. By the end of high school, my tastes had diverted further than some faculty members.

My musical theater phase subsided to make way for more post-punk music. And all the things adults were telling me about how I would eventually feel for girls … wasn’t happening for me.

What do you think of it now?

History has not been much kind to Sarah McLachlan.

Her albums litter the dollar bins and thrift stores, and in the same way I used Carole King as shorthand for milquetoast music of the 1970s, McLachlan has become the same kind of cudgel for music of the 1990s.

But I also followed McLachlan’s albums throughout the ’90s, and I don’t feel the promise of Touch was realized.

Her operatic training set her apart from Chapman and O’Connor, but that smoothness let labels steer her in a safer direction. The last single I liked from McLachlan was “Building a Mystery”, but it was no “Vox”.

Touch is the album you must own if you had to pick up a Sarah McLachlan album.

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