Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
(b 19 Sept. '51, Hull [nr Ottawa] Canada) Producer; also guitarist and vocalist. At age 17 he operated a recording studio in his mother's basement with his older brother Bob in Hamilton, Ontario. Worked as a musician: played lead guitar for Sylvia Tyson etc; then was hired by Brian Eno late '70s to work on ambient music albums and began to learn how to produce the atmospheric moods for which he became famous '80s. Co-prod. U2's Unforgettable Fire '84 with Eno, then on his own: U2's Joshua Tree '87 was so atmospheric that some people fell asleep waiting for the music to start, but presumably that's the way the fans liked it; it was no. 1 in the USA for many weeks and won a Grammy. Lanois also did Peter Gabriel's So '86 (a no. 2), Robbie Robertson '87, Bob Dylan's Oh Mercy '89, the Neville Brothers' Yellow Moon '89. Lanois's own Acadie '90 on Opal/WB was a contemporary folk-rock album (Acadie was the original name of Nova Scotia), with guests Eno, the Nevilles, Larry Mullen Jr and Adam Clayton from U2 and guitarist Mason Ruffner; Lanois's singing voice was sweetly appealing, while 'Fisherman's Daughter' featured a poem read over atmospheric guitars. His second was For The Beauty Of Wynona '93. Not all of his productions have set the charts on fire, but each has its own integrity: Robertson's first solo album was disappointing, yet the critics seemed to find it hard to dislike; Oh Mercy was rated Dylan's best for some years; Yellow Moon was the album Neville fans had been waiting for, and Emmylou Harris's Wrecking Ball '96 was controversial because it was a change of direction for her, but entirely successful on its own terms. Lanois's productions are distinctive and recognizably his, yet seem to deliver whatever the individual project needs.