Last week I noted the oddity of Tanita Tikaram doing her best work before she was 20, despite having multiple opportunities afterward to grow and flourish. Today, it’s another artist who started quite young, with a significantly weaker initial effort, but who went on to fulfill her promise, and then some.
Sarah McLachlan’s first album, Touch, came out in her native Canada in October 88 and was released in the US a few months later, around the time she was turning 21. Somewhere over the course of the year, “Vox” got decent play on VH-1—it seems like that might have been late summer or early fall? (So even though it was already out as a single in early 89, yes, maybe I should be posting this in six months or so—them’s the breaks.) I remember the video because of the sheer piece of fabric McLachlan uses as a prop, and the song for its bouncy synth and the lines, “They start to limply flail their bodies in a twisted mime/And I’m lost inside this tangled web in which I’m lain entwined.” Not great poetry by any means, but it definitely succeeded in getting lodged in my brain.
I didn’t buy Touch, but did eventually check the CD out from the Urbana Free Library; my officemate Paul dubbed it onto a cassette for me, along with Julia Fordham’s Porcelain (speaking of songs I know because of late 80s VH-1, I hadn’t thought about “Happy Ever After,” a very fine track from Fordham’s self-titled 88 debut, in a long while until digging through my cassette stash). Can’t say I listened to that tape much, alas.
So, yeah, “Vox” is not super-special, but it got me to file McLachlan’s name away in my head. I was absolutely floored when I started hearing “Into the Fire” from Solace on the radio in the spring of 92. Such a huge leap of maturity and confidence—one of my favorites from that year. It wasn’t as big a commercial breakthrough as it was artistic, though; it took her third album, Funblling Toward Ecstasy, released two years later, to make people worldwide really notice.