Multimedia Diva: Nettwerk Record's Sarah McLaughlin

by Alan Zisman (c) 1995. First published in Our Computer Player, June 1995

Sarah McLachlin: The
Freedom Sessions

Box 330- 1755 Robson Street
Vancouver, BC V6G 3B7
tel (604) 654-2929
fax (604) 654-1993


A couple of issues ago, we took a look at "Far Out", by local (Vancouver) recording artists, Ginger. We noted that Nettwerk Records, Vancouver-based alternative music label, had pledged to
release all their future output simultaneously as standard audio CDs and as multimedia CD-ROMs.

We especially applauded their desire to try and distribute the multimedia efforts into record stores, and to price them as close to the standard audio CDs as possible, rather then at the $60+ of the multimedia releases of international superstars like Peter Gabriel or the former Prince.

The second multimedia release features perhaps Nettwerk's best-known performer, Halifax-born Vancouver resident Sarah McLachlin. Sarah, as she's known to her fans, has become internationally known-- with a huge audience largely made up of sensitive young women. (My 13 year old daughter and a friend, (who fit that description-- right, Kate?) went to see her last spring at Vancouver's Orpheum).

Like last fall's multimedia release by Ginger, 'The Freedom Sessions' combines all the music on the audio CD with lyrics, music videos, pictures, and random documentary clips, playable on both Macs and Windows PCs. While the earlier release sometimes worked only awkwardly on PCs, this one is much smoother... perhaps due to the upgrade to QuickTime ver 2, both for Mac and Windows. (Yes, the disk will install all required QuickTime player files onto your computer).

Sarah's fans will be pleased with the range of videos included... not just music videos from this release, but snippets of songs and videos from her other releases, along with a complete discography.

As in the Ginger production, this one features a 'click on anything' interface... virtually everything in the start-up is a live link to a multimedia object. Some clicks get you music and videos from Sarah's previous releases, some get photos with voice over-- talking about touring, producing this album, the band, one gets photos and video from a trip to Thailand and Cambodia on behalf of the charity, World Vision.

The videos are improved from the postage-stamp size you may have become accustomed to; while still not fullscreen (maybe 240 x 180 pixels), they played quite smoothly on my double-speed cd-rom.

But as in the former release, please read the fine print on the cover before playing it on your home stereo. For reasons beyond Nettwerk's control, the audio tracks begin on Track 2-- Track 1 holds the multimedia. Trying to play it on your stereo CD player will sound like connecting to a fax machine with your phone, but louder!

The powers-that-be are reportedly working on reworking the CD standards, to enable cd-audio and multimedia to be combined in a less awkward way, but in the mean time, it's a quirk we'll have to put up with.

How about the music? "The Freedom Sessions" are mostly alternate takes of songs released on Sarah's last CD-- " Falling Towards Ecstasy", in looser, more acoustic
versions... generally recorded prior to the more formal studio sound of the earlier release. It's nice to have this second take on songs that have become familiar to her fans (and to me through repeated listening with Kate in the car), but this is a bit of a minor release-- lacking the power of a fresh new collection.

Still, she has a great, self-confident voice, and the addition of multimedia at a bargain price should make this a must-have for any of Sarah McLachlin's fans who have access to a multimedia computer.

I hope that Nettwerk continues with its efforts to merge multimedia and pop music... if you're a fan of any of their groups, you can keep in touch via their BBS (604-731-7007) or
their World Wide Web page (

2003 note: This 1995 review is consistently one of the most-accessed of the 800+ articles on my website, a tribute to Sarah McLachlin's dedicated fan base. Despite having written this review, I'm not an expert on Sarah, or her recording career. Please don't email me hoping for answers to your questions about her. But you can purchase a copy of The Freedom Sessions by clicking on the link below: 

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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan