Sarah McLachlan's debut album, the 1989 release "Touch," confirms my working hypothesis that the best artists do not make a giant splash with a debut album who critical and popular success is never again equalled, but instead offer up a first album that showcases a distinctive sound and evidences musical talent. McLachlan was only 19 when the album was recorded, yet she was already showing a sense of maturity well beyond the current crop of singing Lolitas that are strutting themselves in music vidoes.
If you had to hang on label on McLachlan at this point in her career it would be a young Kate Bush (a reference that is hopefully not lost on everybody). In addition to writing and singing the songs, McLachlan plays several types of guitars, piano and keyboards, and also does teh cover design and photo tinting. However, her producer at this point is Greg Reely and not Pierre Marchand, which probably is why this album does not sound like the McLachlan from the rest of her albums, with Reely overlaying her vocals with lots of lush keyboards. This is why the piano ballad "Ben's Song" stands out so much on this album; its simplicitly is in stark contrast to the rest of the tracks.
McLachlan's music is ahead of her vocals at this point. "Vox" and "Steaming" offer up some beautiful melodies (and I like "Sad Clown") but the singing is more of an additional instrument; this is not the sultry vocalist that we know today. Here you are impressed by her vocal range, rather than what she is actually doing with her voice. Two years later McLachlan took a quantum leap forward with "Solace," which evinced much stronger songwriting and was the foundation for McLachlan's initial pre-Lilith Fair cult following. Her debut album is not the first album most of McLachlan’s fans are going to pick up, but when they get around to checking it out they are going to find it an interesting look backwards at the first efforts of a young singer, fumbling towards finding her sound.