June 30, 1993
Daniel Lanois, For the Beauty of Wynona (Warner 1993) -- Awesome. Remarkable. Powerful. What superlatives shall we use? For the Love of Wynona is the second solo release from Daniel Lanois (pronounced Lan-wa), following his 1989 debut, Acadie (Warner), and easily has my vote for best album of the year (so far).
Lanois, a French Canadian (who draws on his roots for both themes and musical styles), first gained notoriety with Grant Avenue Canada, a studio he co-founded with his brother in Hamilton, Ontario. After later working with Brian Eno, he relocated to New Orleans and went on to produce some of the best albums of the last half decade, including Bob Dylan's Oh Mercy, the Neville Brother's Yellow Moon, Peter Gabriel's So, Robbie Robertson's Self-Titled, and, of course, U2's Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby.
In becoming the single best producer in the business today, Lanois has developed an uncanny ability to synthesize sounds and words to evoke a sentiment. Lanois' blend of patois and English lyrics is unique and thoughtful. Lanois has become more worldly, and so has his music. Whereas Acadie was a more acoustic, individualist album, Wynona is more group-oriented and electric.
Lanois reports in Rocky World (the fascinating hour-long video that accompanies this release) that some of the guitar tracks on Wynona were laid down in one take. The spontaneity lends an almost live feeling to the album. Bono says in Rocky World that he thought Lanois was going to lose his sanity during the production of Achtung Baby. U2's impact on Lanois is clear, as the swelling, industrial guitar sound on Achtung Baby is also found on Wynona. The result is brash, uncompromising, and forceful.
Gail and I saw Lanois in San Francisco last weekend. The performance was first rate. Lanois was accompanied by Ronald Jones on drums and Daryl Johnson on bass and vocals. Both are strong, versatile performers. Lanois performed songs from the first album such as "Under a Stormy Sky" (about the sale of his grandfather's farm) and "Jolie Louise" (about a French Canadian worker who loses his job, his pride, and ultimately, his family).
The band also performed songs from the new album, including the Neville Brother's "Indian Red" (a real crowd-pleaser), and "The Unbreakable Chain" (about a woman who gives up her child for adoption and then finds him after many years). The crowd's appreciation was real and heartfelt. The band was great.
Every so often an album is released that is so special that it must be shared with friends. Little Creatures by the Talking Heads was such an album. So was Joe Jackson's Blaze of Glory. Put For the Love of Wynona in the same category. Lanois, nearing age 40, knows what life is all about. He makes albums because he has something to say, not because it is a job. It shows. Buy this record.
-- Randy Krbechek
Copyright (c) Randy Krbechek
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