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11 June 2009 @ 08:06 am
Song of the Week #52: Tara MacLean "Child"  
This one is going to be long, but I've never typed this whole story out so I figured what better way to spend part of a four-hour flight across the U.S.

Right click the image and open in new window for Tara MacLean's "Child" (live):


Since about 1985 there's been one band that has meant more to me than any other. As many of you know, that band is Rush. I've seen them live 26 times and have developed many close friendships with fans around the world as a result. In 1992, Marillion became the band that slid into the #2 position that had previously been occupied by Genesis, The Beatles, Heart, Triumph, Aldo Nova, Queensryche, and others. After 4 years of wearing the Program Director hat at my college radio station, my tastes had grown and widened, but those two constants remained.

In 1999 I started working in entertainment retail and my tastes expanded even further and I started to listen more female vocalists. In early 2000 I was leafing through a Billboard magazine and noticed an article about a Canadian singer/songwriter and I started to read as I've always liked Canadian artists (many people have thought I was from Canada because I listened to so much Canadian music even). As I read the article I became more and more interested as I recognized the name Bill Bell who was mentioned as guitarist, producer, and husband to this artist. I knew Bill's name from Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson's solo project, Victor, and knew Bill had worked with other Canadians I liked (Lawrence Gowan and Tom Cochrane).

The article was about was Tara MacLean. Tara became, and remains, my third favorite musical artist. And this week's song is one of my favorite songs of all time.

Soon after I read the article, I borrowed a sampler of Tara's from a co-worker (Thanks Lisa!) which featured snippets of five songs from her then current CD, Passenger. I almost instantly fell in love with her voice and I played that 4-minute sampler over and over until I bought the album. Then the collecting began, her first CD, EP, the promo singles, live EPs, the compilations and soundtracks, 40+ live audio CDs, etc. Sadly, I missed her only performance close to me as it was just at the onset of my discovery and something didn't pan out. I've never seen her live, although I came close to planning a 12-hour road trip to Canada to see her in 2001 (more about this later). She hasn't toured the U.S. since, and I haven't been able to travel to Canada to see her few solo shows or shows with Shaye (a group she formed with two other East Coast Canadians).

There were two live performances streaming online during 2000 that I listened to dozens of times and increased my love of her music. The CDs were brilliant, but to hear those songs come alive in a live setting with her amazing voice was just stunning. She has such a naturally beautiful tone and emotion. The two streams, one from the Double Door in Chicago and the other from her SXSW showcase in 2000 just amazed me. The latter was also shipped as a promo VHS from Capitol and if anyone has any idea where I can get my hands on the actual promo version, it is one of the holy grail Tara items that I would love to add to the collection (another being an April Wine cover from an awards show in the mid-2000's in Eastern Canada). Tara was sick that night, but the performance is special to me as it was the performance that made me fall in love her voice and music. I have a first-gen VHS off the master, but I'm looking for a better quality version to convert to digital.

On that tour, in addition to Bill on guitar, Blake Manning provided percussion and vocals. Blake was also part of Alex Lifeson's Victor project. (*see below for a direct Tara/Rush connection)

The song that captured and stole my heart was "Child." An unreleased track, to this day even, it was written after she broke up with someone who she thought was 'the one.' She was in England with her mom and Tara wrote down some things that her mom told her about relationships and love. The result became "Child." Thankfully on the 2000 tour she performed this a lot and although it is unreleased in studio form, there are about 20 or so live versions that exist. None come close to capturing the magic of the first version that I heard though, the SXSW version. It might have been the nausea and her internal fight to get through the performance while sick, but that version outweighs all others in my mind.

Having said that, the version here for this week's Song of the Week is from the show that I almost road-tripped to Canada for. It was her first performance in almost 12-months and Tara was 5-months pregnant with her first child. Luckily a couple of Tara fans combined their audio and video for this brilliant performance of "Child" from the Peterborough Festival of Lights in August 2001.

Musically the song is a repeated finger-picked melody on the guitar which is equally haunting and beautiful. Since it's the same instrumental melody throughout, it means that it's up to Tara's voice to deliver the emotional ups and downs of the vocal and she is not only up to the challenge, but she soars.

Lyrically it's a masterpiece and I could highlight a number of lines, but you can see them all if you keep scrolling, I'll just highlight the emotional climax of the song where Tara is at her best:

Cause there are no happy endings
For nothing ever ends
And I know you feel like you've lost it all
But you'll find yourself again
And there are no happy endings
For nothing ever ends
And I know, I know you feel like you're torn apart
But you'll fall in love again
I know


You feel the pain. The ache. It's raw and passionate. But there is a strong undercurrent of hope and strength. There's a musical hug of reassurance in those words "you'll fall in love again, I know." That's where she shines the brightest, no matter how dark her songs might be at times, there is always a glimmer of hope; that courage and determination to fight your way out. As she's said before in interviews, you need to go to those dark places to find your strength.

Tara would joke at shows on the 2000 tour that this song might make her kids think she was brilliant...I wonder what she thinks about this song now that she's a mom.

Lyrics for the song below, plus a bunch of other clips of hers below - check them out, she is an amazing songwriter and performer. Just in the past few weeks I've fallen for a new song off her latest release, "Things Outstanding," which was always a good song, but its revealed itself to me recently and I could make a list of about 30 different moments in the song that are just absolutely stunning. I wish it was online that I could link to it, but take my word for it and grab it from iTunes, pick up the whole album, Wake, it's magical.


Child
Tara MacLean

(this is my transcription - apologies if I'm incorrect)

Dry your eyes, child
What are you frightened of
You will miss the beauty here
If you've forgotten love
Look for truth in your heart, child
Though the light may blind
See with more than your eyes

Take a deep breath
For breathing can be a shallow thing
And hearts break easily
I know

'Cause there are no happy endings
For nothing ever ends
And I know you feel like you've fallen
But you'll find your feet again
I know

Dry your eyes, child
You'll need all your strength
I know it's been hard so far
but that's the path of some to overcome and find a star in every blackened sky
And I have seen you shine

Look for good in every soul
No matter what they do
To try to swallow you
Let your faith be your sword, child
And it will fight for you
In everything you do
I know

Cause there are no happy endings
For nothing ever ends
And I know you feel like you've lost it all
But you'll find yourself again
And there are no happy endings
For nothing ever ends
And I know, I know you feel like you're torn apart
But you'll fall in love again
I know

Dry your eyes
My child


More amazing Tara:
"Settling" (live) - piano and Tara's voice - magical
"Jordan" (live) - includes Blake & Bill extended jam - amazing
"Silence" (live) - a capella, haunting, and stunning
"Divided" (live) - wow, just a brilliant song and performance




*Tara & Rush connection: Not only did Alex Lifeson's son produce a track on her 1997 EP, while looking at the liner notes of the Taiwanese CD single for "If I Fall" I noticed Alex's name as guitarist on the song and all of the 'appears courtesy of Anthem Records...' info that goes along with a guest performance. A couple of years later through a Rush contact (Thanks Eric), SRO/Anthem Management confirmed that Alex appeared uncredited on the album. Apparently the uncredited bit didn't extend to Taiwanese version for some reason, and thus the direct Tara/Rush connection was discovered.