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29 February 2012 @ 08:43 pm
Bp's Song of the Week #145: Tara MacLean "Divided" (live)  
On Feb. 28, 2008 I sent around an email that started like this:

I really miss my days back in college as Program Director when I could help turn on folks to great music and now that I have the great opportunity to be exposed to so many cool tunes, I figured that I'd be Program Director of my own station that plays one song a week and you're all invited to tune in :-) You never know what you might hear - a blistering European prog metal track, a singer/songwriter tearing his/her heart out, Celtic influenced Eastern Canadian jig, classic forgotten '80s gem, etc. Whatever it is, I guarantee that it won't suck! :-)

It's hard to believe that I started this little exercise 4-years ago with Keri Noble's song "Watch Me Walk" and what started as a quick couple of brief lines about a great song has turned into a much more lengthy discussion and history of my love for the song and artist. It's fun to periodically run back through some of them and listen to the songs while cringing over the diatribe that went along with it.

But here we are 4-years later and still going strong. Hopefully I've turned you on to a few (if not dozens) of amazing songs that you'd forgotten, never heard, or hadn't yet connected with. And here's to many more songs to share together! Thanks so much for reading, supplying, and feeding back.

Tara MacLean
"Divided" (live)

(song begins at 3:20 in the clip)

On February 29, 2000 an album was released that has connected with me and changed my musical world more than any other since Rush's Moving Pictures and Def Leppard's Pyromania had in my youth.

In February of 2000, having been at Trans World for just a few months, I avidly devoured copies of HITS magazine and Billboard, anything I could do to immerse myself into the music and culture of the industry. It had been years since I'd had my fix of CMJ's weekly rag, and these two magazines were like old friends to catch up with. Strangely enough I can remember the moment I was flipping through the February 19th issue of Billboard at my desk and stumbled upon an article about Tara's upcoming album. I believe it was under a heading of Canada which caught my eye and I soon recognized Bill Bell's name who I knew had worked with Rush's Alex Lifeson, Tom Cochrane, and Lawrence Gowan. I also recognized producer Malcolm Burn's name because of his work with The Tragically Hip and Boys Brigade. Later in the same magazine there was a review in the Singles section of the first single from Tara's album, "If I Fall."

It wasn't until weeks later when I borrowed a promo sampler from a co-worker that I heard her music (not having the convenience of you tube at the time and not being a napster user). That 4-minute sampler, a medley of 5-songs, was enough for me to fall in love with her voice. [A link to the sampler is in the 'more' links below] Soon thereafter there was a stream available of her SXSW showcase and then I found another stream of her recent performance at the Double Door in Chicago. I bought Passenger in the summer of 2000, her debut 1996-97 Silence soon after, and then the hunt for promos Taiwanese singles, and live recordings began. On stage is where the songs jumped to life even more and the arrangements became slightly more organic with Bill Bell on guitar, Blake Manning handling percussion, and both joining with Tara to provide backing vocal harmony.

I listened to the SXSW showcase countless times and the unreleased song, "Child," quickly became one of my favorite songs not only of hers, but by anyone. The resounding hope and light among the darkness was beautiful. Her tone and natural vibrato, amazing. She was in many ways my introduction to the singer-songwriter genre and her honestly and openness were inviting and refreshing. I was transfixed by the simultaneous ache and hope in her voice.

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
To find a star in every blackened sky, and I have seen you shine

She so easily conveyed pain and longing, but hope and positivity as well.

Listening back to Passenger now, I'm amazed at how different it was from my typical listening at the time. There are a myriad of loops and soundscapes that were miles away from what I was into. Then again, it was always Tara's voice that was the focal point for me.

The entire album is a masterpiece and features some of my favorite songs of that decade including "Settling," "La Tempete," "Jordan," and the title track. This week I'm focusing on another song though, and a brilliant performance that was captured by a Vancouver TV station in the summer on 2000. The clip is from an hour-long TV special recorded in Vancouver which includes live performance as well as interview segments. I thankfully obtained it from a gentlemen in the U.K. as it has never surfaced elsewhere on the Tara trading circuit. It's a wonderful special with insights from Tara on her career at that point and some breathtaking performances including this one of the song, "Divided."

While I could write paragraphs about the entire song, I'm going to focus on the latter part of this performance which is a perfect example of why I think she is so amazing. Enjoy the song and bask in the organic groove that's set up between Bill Bell on guitar and Blake Manning on drums as Tara delivers a fantastic performance Then at 6:53 it shifts into overdrive. A quick break in the growing build of the song brings her back to a soft vocal line from the first verse, "Check your weapons at the door, you don't live here anymore," and stitching it to the latter part of the second verse, "Well they say I've lost my will, But I'm just standing still, In a world that swallows cowards, For the crime of [dramatic pause] killing time." As the band comes back in from the dramatic pause and Blake Manning rolls that wonderful fill at 7:21, Tara turns the lyric now on to us at 7:23 questioning, "are you still breathing?" with her flowing extension of "breathing" into a gorgeous vocal run of "whoa-oh's" (it looks dumb when it's typed out, it's meant to be felt, not written). Then you're done for as the siren has you under complete control. She starts to bring a series of vocal rise and falls at 7:56 leading into the crest at 8:05 with a band drop out to heighten and highlight the strength and power - but note that as powerful as it is, it's not a Whitney or Celine power that's crystal cut, there's a sensitivity, a fragility that's beautiful. By 8:11 when she starts breathing you're trapped under her spell forever. But what an amazing place to be!

More Tara MacLean:
Passenger Medley
Passenger (live)
La Tempete (live)
Beauty (with Shaye)
Shakota (edit - does not include the amazing climax - check Spotify for that)
Things Outstanding
Jan. 30, 2012 Live from Salt Spring Island