Super-producer Daniel Lanois, who helmed some 50 projects for the likes of U2, Peter Gabriel, Neil Young and Bob Dylan, will be working on a new album with former Guess Who lead singer and keyboardist Burton Cummings.
Lanois made the announcement during his induction into the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame on Thursday night, where Cummungs had earlier presented a pair of songs. “The cherry on the cake was sharing the stage with Burton Cummings,” Lanois said. “We’re going to do some work together.”
During a decade-long run with the Guess Who through 1975, Cummings helped define the band’s sound with hits like “American Woman,” “No Time,” “Share the Land,” “Hand Me Down World,” “Undun” and “These Eyes,” among others. Lanois has produced or co-produced such familiar rock favorites as U2’s The Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby, Peter Gabriel’s So, and Bob Dylan’s Oh Mercy and Time Out of Mind, among many others.
Cummings performed “Albert Flasher” and “Break It To Them Gently” on Thursday, both in honor of Lanois’ fellow Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame inductee Riley O’Connor, chairman of Live Nation Canada. Later also took the stage, playing “The Maker” and “The Messenger,” alongside drummer Brian Blade and bassist Jim Wilson.
Here are a few of our recent thoughts on Daniel Lanois-produced projects. Click through the titles for complete reviews …
BLACK DUB FEATURING DANIEL LANOIS – BLACK DUB (2010): Densely layered, with an elegant construction, Black Dub doesn’t start out all that much differently from your average recording by uber-hip producer Daniel Lanois. Then something welcomely dangerous, almost feral, happens with the arrival of 20-something singer Trixie Whitley. Equal parts Janis Joplin and Etta James, she brings a delightfully unmannered, country realism to Black Dub. Not a perfect recording, but one of the year’s more interesting.
NEIL YOUNG – LE NOISE (2010): Even after a damaging season of loss, Neil Young remains, as always, restless and relentless — imbuing the modernistic, reverb-soaked Le Noise with a kind of anti-melancholy. He hasn’t stopped searching for light in the darkness and, even now, somehow never sounds quite the same from album to album. This time, Young partners with producer Daniel Lanois, recording alone with his guitar in an atmosphere that sounds nothing like the typical unplugged session. There’s no Stills, no Crosby or Nash and no Crazy Horse. Instead, this textured, live-sounding project finds a place in between Young’s acoustic work and his more muscular full-band rock music.
ONE TRACK MIND: BOB DYLAN, “NOT DARK YET” (1997): For me, “Not Dark Yet” is the best thing Bob Dylan has done in ages, this perfect enigma from a guy who’s made a career of such sleights of hand. An edgy post-modern lament downshifted into quiet Civil War balladry, “Not Dark Yet,” remains a riddle — and maybe that’s the very definition of good art: It’s something that you never quite figure out. At first, when it appeared on 1997’s perhaps over-celebrated Time Out of Mind, I was thinking that this was Dylan looking back on his own life, on his many accomplishments, and seeing more to be done. Dylan, issuing his first original songs since 1990’s Under the Red Sky, had been slowed by a life-threatening illness. So, he realizes, now more than ever, that the clock is ticking. In a larger sense, he’s a guy, in keeping with the title of the Grammy award-winning album from which it came, who is out of time. Dylan is both misunderstood by a new generation, and also moving into the last third of his life.
DANIEL LANOIS, ACADIE (1989): You expected something similar in tone with his best stuff — that is to say, his most atmospheric stuff — from the previous decade. And Lanois nearly gets there during a couple of tunes that feature lightly ethereal shadings from Eno. More often, though, “Acadie” is a song cycle of smaller ambitions. Really, it’s just a folk-rock album — by way of the Cajun prairie, of course. Imagine my surprise, after reveling in the complexity of Gabriel and U2, at how moving Lanois’ solo debut was — in its simplicity.
PETER GABRIEL – SO (1986): Working within a sound palette that gives him some room to stretch, Gabriel actually gets within himself — avoiding the kitsch, bare-knuckle sax fills and sometimes too-jaunty pop stuff that had marred earlier efforts at updating the prog-rock framework. Radio-ready offerings like “Sledgehammer” haven’t aged as well, but this album’s enduring pleasures were always found as “Red Rain” erupts, “Don’t Give Up” tearfully overemotes, “In Your Eyes” descends from the heavens, and “That Voice Again” crashes down. Each mines a deep well of musicality, featuring far-off tablas, Youssou N’Dour strolling up and yelping with joy, cumulus synthesizers. Yet everything feels organic: Gabriel once said he picked the album title because he “liked the shape.” With a low-key assist from Lanois, his offbeat vision was finally fully realized.
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