I bought this book second hand on a whim as Lanois had produced a few albums I really liked. Part way in I was ready to ditch it. He came across as a nerdy rebel, chronicling his life in a fairly perfunctory way. However, my opinion changed as I read on.
As you’d expect, there is a lot of techno talk about different types of gadgetry, the importance of the feel and establishing the groove ahead of everything else. Surprisingly, there is very little on the making of his own records or writing his own songs – you’d think The Maker at least would get a few paras. Personal life gets short shrift too. He acknowledges he is an eccentric, that like his father he is always moving on, and life with him can be difficult. But, when he suddenly shut down his massive New Orleans set up and sold all his motorbikes and moved to Mexico, he simply describes the motivation as “for personal reasons”. Personal reasons- this is an autobiography isn’t it? A motorbike accident that nearly killled him gets no mention. Partners, wives, children, if he has them, go unmentioned.
Some albums such as Emmylou’s classic Wrecking Ball get just a few pages, there’s a bit on The Neille Brothers’ Yellow Moon ,but not enough for my liking. Peter Gabriel comes across as undisciplined, as an artist, having only half-baked ideas when they come to record. Amusingly, Lanois recounts bolting a door shut to stop PG going outside for one of his many interrupting phone calls.As you’d expect there is a lot on working with U2 and his friend and mentor Brian Eno. He has a very high regard for The Edge noting approvingly of his forensic approach to note-taking on composition and arrangements.
A motivation on buying this book was his work with Dylan and I wasn’t disappointed. Oh Mercy is covered in some detail, creating the ambience, getting Dylan to play all his guitar acoustic (through a Fender clip on pickup) and electric through the same Fender concert amp. Interstingly, he agrees with Dylan’s account of the recoding sessions in Chronicles but makes no mention of his rage, including smashing a dobro, that Dylan err chronicles.
The Time Out Of mind sessions are covered in the most detail of the book. Dylan refers him to Charley Patton, Arthur Alexander etc. So he and one of his muso mates spend time playing along to these records then stripping the originals out of the mix toy listen to what they’ve got left. They then take them back to New Orleans as the basis for some grooves for the sessions. Dylan arrives down in New Orleans and according to DL things are going swimmingly, until Dylan says he wants to play with a band AND he wants to record in Miami. Dylan has said that with Lanois things end up sounding like Lanois records not the artist. I expect this is why he shook things up a bit. In the Emmylou chapter he notes he has decided the sound and the musos he wants to have on her record within 5 minutes of being in her house, so you can see him easily dominating proceedings. I didn’t realise he had Brian Blade AND Jim Keltner playing together on TOOM. In fact two-teaming drummers appears to be a stock in trade for DL. Nor did I realise Dylan went onto add verses and guitar licks etc after the recordings which had to be massaged, or that Make You Feel My Love was written in the studio.
There is also a nice chapter on recording Willie Nelson’s Teatro album.
There is a lot of technical talk and when he is talking equipment he names names ,though not all of the time… “got to keep some of my secrets” and there are some practical tips for recording sessions like having synched clocks visible to everyone so that, if anything is picked up, they have the exact common time reference.
Some things made me laugh. In a remote area he marvels at the clean sound sans any magnetic fields interfering…” “The Lawrence magnetic pick-up sounded great plugged into my tiny battery- Peavey street busker’s amp”.
The anecdote of he and Eno with mini disc recorders walking through a Moroccan souk for 20 minutes and then excitedly playing back their synced recordings to hear true depth of field. Nerd central.
This was a hard back, nice big print. Only one howler Jimmy Herndrix. Oh dear.
Length of Read:Short
Might appeal to people who enjoyed…
One thing you’ve learned
Lanois worked with Jimmy Cliff