Daniel Lanois Here Is What Is
This guy quietly has been at the epicenter of some of the most sonically adventurous yet commercially and artistically successful albums released in the last several decades. He was instrumental in five epochal U2 albums (including the shockingly, gloriously resilient Joshua Tree). He pulled Bob Dylan from a drifting period (the resulting Time Out of Mind and Oh Mercy remain brilliant). He helped catapult Peter Gabriel from steady cult fave to arena star without loss of credibility (So and Us). Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson, Robbie Robertson and the Neville Brothers sing his praises whenever asked. Lucky Los Angelenos will recall Lanois touring on the back of Harris’ Wrecking Ball. The band took the stage at the Troubadour in timely fashion, but Lanois switched from guitar until the late drummer finally found the stage. Neither Harris nor Lanois nor the audience missed a beat.
I hope someone can introduce Lanois and Dave Alvin, their melding of texture and atmospherics would be fascinating.
Lanois has released his seventh in a string of solo albums. The title song references a Jamaican proverb, essentially meaning what you have in front of you is what you gotta use. And that adroitly sums up his philosophy.
For years Lanois and fellow traveler Brian Eno have collaborated and produced a mindset and canon that goes to the core of the creative process. The central catalyst they established with each other early on is “Whatever I say, you agree and whatever you say, I agree.” Eno points out that nothing then stands in the way of getting on with the creative process. Once underway, magic eventually unfolds.
Currently Lanois and Eno are now back in the studio with U2, cooking up (somewhat improbably, but ultimately inevitably) the Irish quartet’s next stunner.
In conjunction with his latest solo release, Lanois has produced a documentary. It sheds light on the magic of creating art. It portends a series of solo albums which Lanois will make available via his site www.redfloorrecords.com. He is most enamored of the steel guitar, what he repeatedly calls his “church in a suitcase.”
Lanois is a man of the world. He spent time in New Orleans but like Ray Davies, Lanois recently left there due to some bad circumstances he prefers to leave undiscussed. Lanois shifts his base of operations from LA to Toronto, and disembarks in Morocco or France when assembling with U2 and Eno.
Lanois has expressed a bifurcated view of technology. In some interviews he bemoans the advanced state of the recording process. Whereas in the analog days gone by, the studio represented a near-sacred place of “hopes and dreams” wherein everyone looked forward to the expensive and important time therein. Now the studio is everywhere given the accessibility and ubiquity of recording equipment. In another interview, however, he delights in a battery-driven box the size of a cigarette pack, four of which Lanois says could record a fine album.
But the seeming dichotomy of high tech and low tech is resolved, subtly yet effectively as a flying mallet, in the title of his new album and the music captured therein.