Daniel Lanois Goes Indie

If you were to ask who I was a “true fan” of, it would probably be Daniel Lanois. Lanois is better known — to most folks who know him at all — as a producer (of U2, Peter Gabriel, Robbie Robertson and Emmylou Harris) and as a musical collaborator, most notably with Brian Eno. But he’s also a musician in his own right and has been making albums since 1989, when Acadie came out and quickly became one of my all-time favorite albums. I’m enough of a fan that when this morning I found out he’d made another album without me knowing about it — the here is what is album you see pictured above — I actually got irritated with myself that I had somehow missed it coming out. My Lanois Fanboy sense wasn’t tingling! Well, I’ve since corrected the error: Not only did I immediately download the MP3 version of the album, but I also went to Lanois’ Web site and shelled out $60 for the special deluxe limited edition CD/DVD package that comes complete with an autographed picture. I feel better now, thanks.

While I was at the Web site, I learned that Lanois, who had previously been signed to Warner Bros records and then to Anti records, has gone the self-releasing route and has now made all his records available as downloads through his site, in most cases both as 192kbps mp3s (for $9) and as high-resolution WAVs (for $10), which can be paid for via PayPal. Naturally, I think this is good news, and I recommend that each of you go instantly to his site and pick up a couple of albums. My suggestion, if you are not familiar with his work, is to pick up one or both of his first two albums, Acadie and For the Beauty of Wynona, before heading off to the later albums, which are generally a bit trippier — i.e., the sort of stuff people who are already huge fans want (the albums are also available on Amazon, both as CDs and as mp3s, if you don’t want to deal with PayPallery).

To help you decide whether Daniel Lanois is for you, musically speaking, here’s probably his best-known song, “The Maker,” off Acadie. It’s been covered by folks like Emmylou Harris, Dave Matthews and Willie Nelson, but the original version is still my favorite. Enjoy.

29 Comments on “Daniel Lanois Goes Indie”

  1. Lanois also saved Bob Dylan’s career twice. Not that everyone will thank him for that, but hey.

  2. John, the more links you post to artists you like who may be somewhat lesser known, the more I’m convinced we were separated at birth. (You, of course, got all the writing talent.)

    I’ve been trying to find a copy of VH1’s documentary “Meet the Maker” for years. I’ve even used it as an example of the market opportunities for long-tail internet video, and most people’s eyes glaze over when I say “Daniel Lanois”.

  3. Hey, thanks for the links — I’d thought he’d dropped off the map, since his major ’80s and ’90s productions for, as you’d said, U2, Robertson, Gabriel. His was a magic touch that surpassed other super-producers such as Jeff Lynne and Brian Eno, whose bootprints tended to obscure the artists in favor of their string-heavy or electronica visions (respectively). Much as I respect Eno and admire a lot of his production and recording work, I still blame him for breaking up Talking Heads, and nearly destroying U2 (on the other hand, his recent work with Paul Simon is brilliant).

    But on Lanois — Robbie Robertson’s first album is still on my regular rotation: aside from the great guest stars (Gabriel, the BoDeans), there are haunting songs on there that provide strong emotional feelings hard to find in most recordings. “Somewhere Down the Crazy River” is going to be on my fave-list for a long, long time.

  4. He produced ‘Wrecking Ball’. He is, therefore, immortal. Okay, it vwas Emmylou – how come nobody else gets better looking and sexier and sings better as they get older? – but still . . .

  5. Wrecking Ball which I bought because he produced it, and after which I became an Emmylou acolyte. That album probably is my favorite album of all time. We had it playing in the background when Athena was born.

  6. This is like discovering God had added a book to the Bible without an announcement. ::clicky spendy::

  7. Wow. Acadie spent a long time in heavy rotation at my house. I still tend to sing “O Marie” to myself when I’m out in the canoe.

    Daniel was brilliant in the U2 documentary, sitting in the studio with Bono fiddling with the panel and talking about all the little details hidden in those tracks. It’s good to see he’s still making magic.

  8. I concur about Wrecking Ball.
    But sadly YouTube pulled the video you embedded so we have to go elsewhere for some more Lanois goodness.

  9. Martyn44 and John, just thought I’d join you in a moment of unmitigated Emmylou crush-iness. Commence crushing . . . NOW.

  10. I think we’ve discussed this before but, Yeah Wrecking Ball is an awesome album.

    And Lanois’ work on Dylan’s Oh Mercy is notable but his work on Time Out of Mind is simply beyond compare.

    Both artists peaked there as far as I’m concerned.

  11. Homie Bear:

    The video still works for me.


    Agreed in both cases — I like Emmylou Harris’ post WB work but it’s not as consistently great in my opinion. And I’ve never been a huge fan of Dylan’s.

  12. Scalzi
    And I’ve never been a huge fan of Dylan’s.

    Funny you should say that. I am right now listening to Emmylou singing Dylan’s “Every Grain of Sand” from Wrecking Ball.

    It is a random event, of course, since my MP3 player is set to random.

    I have gone from rags to riches in the sorrow of the night
    In the violence of a summer’s dream, in the chill of a wintry light
    In the bitter dance of loneliness fading into space
    In the broken mirror of innocence on each forgotten face.

    I hear the ancient footsteps like the motion of the sea
    Sometimes I turn, there’s someone there, other time it’s only me
    I am hanging in the balance of the reality of man
    Like every sparrow falling, like every grain of sand.

  13. It’s true I like Dylan better when he’s sung by others.

    To a lesser degree I feel that way about Van Morrison as well. I like Van Morrison quite a bit, but I love versions of his songs as done by others. Particularly this one.

  14. So since you like the Waterboys’ version of Sweet Thing better than Dylan’s, when you put up the lyrics to Across The Universe the other day, were you thinking about the original, or the Fiona Apple cover?

  15. I knew you were good people, John, because good people like Daniel Lanois. I’m still envious of friends who saw him live in Somerville back in the early 90s.

    And now I have something to download, awesome!

    Excellent news.

  16. Scalzi

    It’s true I like Dylan better when he’s sung by others.

    To a lesser degree I feel that way about Van Morrison as well.

    These are the two people I have, by far, seen more in concert than anyone else. Dylan topping the list by far.

    Where Van is concerned, that’s not easy. He doesn’t play many dates in the US. I once traveled to Britain to see a show. That’s not quite what it seems; I was in Germany on business and managed to stop for the night in Britain on my way home. Still, it took some arrangin’

    With Dylan, it’s not so hard to see him. I think he has been playing something like 250 dates a year for the last, oh, 15 years or so.

    but I love versions of his songs as done by others. Particularly this one.

    Ah the Waterboys. Ah Fisherman’s Blues.

    There’s hope for you yet.

  17. I don’t understand how his solo albums slipped under my radar because I played those Robbie Robertson albums to death, not to mention U2 and Gabriel. I’ll definitely check these out. Thanks for the rec.

  18. Danoel Lanois’ sister played bass for Martha and the Muffins; known for their hit “Echo Beach”, but their albums had many good songs.

  19. Daniel Lanois produced that band too, way back when. Also, if memory serves: Raffi.

  20. You like Bob Dylan and Van Morrison covers? I hope you’ve listened to Solomon Burke’s Don’t Give Up on Me. It has covers of songs by the above artists, as well as songs from Tom Waits, Brian Wilson, and Elvis Costello, and the title track is in my lift of The Five Greatest Songs Ever.

  21. For “lift” I was obviously using an archaic typesetting. Also, I forgot to mention Daniel Lanois played guitar on Solomon Burke’s cover of Dylan’s Stepchild.

  22. Oh damn, that brings back a lot of memories. He used to be massively popular in Québec, where I’m from. Montréal used to have a folklore festival named after him right after the jazz festival. Man, he rocks. I love Marie Louise myself.

    I miss my home…*sigh*

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