Image © 1999 Sarah Slean
Sarah Slean's first full length album, Blue Parade (Sarah Slean SSCD-002, 1999), follows her highly successful independently released EP, entitled
Universe (Sarah Slean SSCD-1998, 1998), available since the latter
half of 1998 on CD and on cassette for a year longer. The new album, also
independently released, is self-written and sung with piano, wurlitzer, toy piano
and rhodes also played by Sarah herself. It contains eleven tracks including heartfelt
alternative rock tracks intermingled with sensitive ballads accompanied by light instrumentation. Compared by some to Tori Amos, Joni Mitchell and Sarah McLachlan, Slean's voice is sweeter and more emotional and her songs are musically more complex.
Further light instrumentation is provided by Mark Mariash (drums, percussion and
horn arrangements), Drew Birston (bass), Maury Lafoy (bass), Kurt Swinghammer
(guitars), Kevin Fox (cello), Todd Lumley (Hammond B3) and Erin Donovon (vibraphone). Strings are also arranged and conducted by by Sarah and as with the
horns are played by various session artists.
Reviews of Sarah Slean's live performances suggest tremendous stage presence
and she is continuing to venture outside of her native Canada to larger venues
in the United States, including New York for example.
Her chatty on-stage style has warmed many audiences and live performances, mail
and internet sales have resulted in significant demand for her independently
Styles on the new album vary from upbeat songs ("Playing Cards with Judas" and "High")
through instrumentally exploratory songs ("My Invitation," "Narcolepsy Weed," "Eliot" and "Habit") to the tremendous ballads ("Blue Parade" and "Twin Moon"). The lovely
multi-tracked a capella "Awake Soon" is a true testament to Sarah's vocal talent.
With excellent songwriting and inventive classically derived instrumentation, the
album is a significant development over and (positive) departure from her earlier
Sarah Slean is certainly a very promising up-and-coming independent female singer-songwriter. Clearly outside traditional pop culture, she is destined
to become widely appreciated in AOR circles. This debut full length album
is worth further exploration and with complexity better understood with
repeated listenings is a wonderful listen!