Sarah McLachlan: Afterglow

4 stars (out of 5).

In my last CD review, of C'Mon, C'Mon, I said that have mixed feelings about Sheryl Crow. My feelings about Sarah McLachlan are anything but mixed: when she's at the top of her game -- as on Fumbling Towards Ecstasy -- the earth moves. The buzz is (or was) that Possession, the best song on that album, was based on the "fan mail" of a stalker who later committed suicide, after having sued her for appropriating the dark secrets of his heart in her song. True or false, right or wrong, the album is intense enough and great enough to wreak that kind of havoc. Afterglow, on the other hand, only aspires to that greatness, and in a few places, comes close.

Down the middle, Fallen and World On Fire are okay. Not her best, not her worst. On the down side, Drifting and Push -- especially Push -- bring to mind the verb (or is it an adjective?) "mewling", which I recall one critic using to describe some of the overwrought tracks on Surfacing, her last studio album. (You'll recall that this disc was on the CD player when Bill and Monica were... oh, never mind.)

Think I'm kidding?

You stay the course you hold the line you keep it all together
You're the one true thing I know I can believe in
You're all the things that I desire you save me you complete me
You're the one true thing I know I can believe

Yes, you read it right: "you complete me" in a song, and that's not Dr. Evil singing to Mini Me either. She's serious. And so am I: Mewling.

However, on the upside, Stupid, and the snappiest cut on the album, Trainwreck, are pretty good. Answer's even better. And the last three songs on the album, Time, Perfect Girl, and the sublime Dirty Little Secret, are worthy of Fumbling. The lush harmonies on this last track echo of Karen Carpenter, and I have no higher compliment to pay.

So I will relent, and up the 3 stars I had planned to give the album to 4, because it ends on such a high note, and leaves me wanting more. More than the ten cuts that seem more fitted to a record album than to a CD -- and more than a handful of songs that suggest how good she can be at her earth-moving best.

[GET IT]

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