October  2002

Sarah McLachlan - Touch
Classic Records DAD 1042
Released: 2002

by Roger Kanno

Musical Performance ***
Recording Quality ****1/2
Overall Enjoyment ****

[Reviewed on DVD]Classic Records has remastered Sarah McLachlan’s debut album, Touch, releasing it as a "Master Tape Sound" 24/96 Digital Audio Disc (DAD) playable on all DVD players. Casual fans of McLachlan may not be familiar with this earlier work, but her first album is a solid effort that holds up well even when compared to her more popular, more polished subsequent albums.

Touch may lack the profound melancholy and stark earnestness of Surfacing, but its richly orchestrated sound and more upbeat tempo make it thoroughly involving. The title track's soaring vocals and densely textured instrumentation give it an Enya-like quality, while "Ben’s Song" is a simple lyrical ballad that features a solo piano accompanying McLachlan’s breathtaking vocals. The two most recognizable tracks are the catchy "Vox" and "Steaming," although I preferred the more melodic and introspective "Strange World" with its complex mix of percussion and softly flowing, intertwined guitar and piano.

Touch is packed with elaborate, intelligent imagery, but it somehow remains distant and aloof. For instance, on "Vox" McLachlan sings, "And the crowds were standing staring faceless cutting off my view to you/They start to limply flail their bodies in a twisted mime." Nearly all of the songs contain similarly enigmatic imagery that may very well be inspired and lyrical, but more often comes across simply as difficult to connect with.

As soon as you hear this high-resolution DAD, you will know that this is a special recording. Vocals have an effortless naturalness that makes most regular CDs sound edgy in comparison. Instruments sparkle and shimmer with a realism that will give you goose bumps -- the guitar intro to "Strange World," for example. The overall sound is just a tad thin and slightly laid back, but I suspect that this was a characteristic of the original mix. The bass on "Vox" seems a bit lightweight, although what bass was present was very tight and articulate. Vocals also tend to get lost within the mix at times; I'd prefer them more up front and immediate. However, this DAD gives the impression that it is, in fact, capturing every nuance and subtlety of the original master tapes, as promised. When played back on a high-fidelity system, the vocals and various instruments should float effortlessly and beautifully between your speakers.

If you have an interest in these high-resolution discs (especially if you use a high-quality outboard DAC or high-end DVD player), you should definitely add Classic’s release of Touch to your list of reference recordings.