Daniel Lanois Movie "Here is What Is" LA Premiere

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So many thoughts came to mind while watching the deep, sensitive and slow musical performances in the new Daniel Lanois movie which I saw last night at its L.A. Premiere at the respected art house the Vista Theatre. It has been 25 years that I have been listening to his music, and he is still one of my favorites for many reasons that did not appear in the long documentary of his working life!

Brady Blades, Sr. joined the band for a song:

First, the music. The event opened with Lanois and his bandmate Brian Blades on guitar and drums, with Daryl Johnson and another dude I can’t remember on vocals and keyboards. They opened with the great song “The Messenger” and played a few others including a great jamming version of “The Maker.” I smiled during that song thinking of Willie Nelson and Jerry Garcia’s versions and how the song has had a good run with a certain part of the public. As Lanois said in the film, their versions are validation.

At the end of the mini-set, Billy Bob Thornton came out and joined Lanois for an unbelievable rendition of the monologue from Sling Blade, with Lanois accompanying him on some of his most subtle, dynamic, simple, rhythmic, loose, amazing guitar playing. To see a movie star perform like that with live music is rare and it was awesome. Reminded me that I worked that great soundtrack and set up the first in-store at Hear Music in Santa Monica. You could argue the whole thing, tied in with a KCRW appearance helped launch the store in L.A. and gave all involved, which didn’t include Starbuck’s at the time, a sense of the possibilities.

Please see below for my Daniel Lanois’ greatest hits list!

And he seems to need it even with all the success. Why else make a movie that shows a lot of jamming on unknown compositions and very little about his actual process, the talent that went into making him successful. It can be seen indirectly for the most part — his guitar playing is clearly a big part of U2’s sound, just based on listening to him. We see him and U2 jamming for like a minute in the movie. It was shocking how little his three biggest acts — U2, Gabriel and Dylan — were in the movie. He must be pissed at Peter Gabriel, the dude was barely mentioned and his So was the album that broke Lanois as a producer (without Eno).

Eno is the whole movie, of course. His bathroom interview with Lanois, apparently while on the bowl, is fascinating and inspiring. He says it’s important to show that great works and results come from the smallest, nothing ideas and that it would give people confidence to know that they have that ability too, that there is no magic or secret to what they do. Eno points out that he has always gone out of his way to show his process. Lanois gives a glimpse of a childhood newspaper clipping about him playing guitar for 53 hours straight — the only reference to the long hours of trial and error with the studio and his instrument to get where he is today.

Two moments where he was being a genius producer: conducting the band behind Aaron Neville as he sang “With God on Our Side” and singing the melody by heart from one of the collaborations with Eno and Harold Budd by heart as they played the actual recording. He has an amazing ear, a great sense of melody, etc.

Lanois quotes Dylan as telling him “you can’t buy feel.” But if you have some major dough and a decent band, you can rent it out from Daniel Lanois!

Some of my favorite Lanois albums, and I’ve been listening for 25 years now include:

On Land – first appearance on an Eno album

Apollo – Atmospheres and Soundtracks

The Pearl – Second album w/Eno gets him shared billing (Eno/Lanois with Harold Budd)

U2’s breakthrough The Unforgettable Fire

Canadian pre-fame: The Parachute Club, Martha and the Muffins

Peter Gabriel So – one of the best albums by one of the best artists ever

Bob Dylan Oh Mercy – the comeback by one of the best artists ever

Neville Brothers – while not the best, most representative recording under their own name (Fiyo on the Bayou and even better, the album under the name “Wild Tchopitoulas”), they achieved mixed results w/stand out Yellow Moon and the aforementioned cricket-laden Dylan covers

U2 – All That You Can’t Leave Behind – again, the comeback is the hardest thing in showbiz and they came back all the way with this one.

Willie Nelson – Teatro – First Willie album I promoted and a great album too.

and Willie always gets the last word!

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