Although Daniel Lanois' production and engineering wizardry have secured his place in the musical hall of fame, his own debut album Acadie
(Warner Bros., 1989) revealed another talentsongwriting. The album is about as perfect a debut as an artist could hope for, containing every single aspect of what makes Lanois so special, presenting him as both a fertile author and a gifted musician.
In the late 1980s, Lanois moved to New Orleans, where he bought a house that he eventually turned into Kingsway Studios. Acadie
was recorded there in between sessions for the Neville Brothers' Yellow Moon
(A&M, 1989) and Bob Dylan's Oh Mercy
(Columbia, 1989), and with those albums became part of a trilogy. The disc developed into a cult treasure in many people's record collections.
It's a different world that exists in Acadie
. Lanois delivers a collection of tales, parables and stories informed by his obsessions with human failings, fear, spirituality, passion, love and the passage of timewhat is lost and what endures. He retreats to a world of gentle folk melodies, soft grooves, treated guitars, strange ambiances. His songs build slowly, emerging out of a flattened landscape to attain a quietly triumphal beauty. Given his extensive work as a music producer and session artist, it makes sense that much of the album has a cinematic quality. In general, as the title suggests, Acadie
is dedicated to displaced French Canadians who settled in New Orleans in the 18th century.
That blend of simple, honest beautyconveyed by Lanois' acoustic guitar and his entrancing, velvety voiceis perfectly exemplified on the album's opener, "Still Water." Inspired by night walks across Dublin's Liffey river, it features one of the best rhythm sections of the day, U2's bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen Jr. These two musicians are just some of the stellar cast, which also includes the Neville Brothers, Brian Eno and Roger Eno.
"The Maker" is one of the stand-out tracks on this record. The genesis of this song can be heard on some of the bonus tracks. Inspired by Lanois' work with the Neville Brothers, it has shuffling beats and beautiful bass lines that mesh perfectly with Lanois' and Aaron Neville's mellifluous vocals. Lanois revised this track for the Willie Nelson album Teatro
On "Jolie Louise" Lanois employs zydeco style accordion and rhythms with bittersweet lyrics. "Fisherman's Daughter," "Where the Hawkwind Kills" and "Ice" by contrast cast a wierd, spooky darkness. "Ice" is a darkish ballad with a waltz-like melody and ambiance that is reflective of a track from Roger Eno's album Voices
(Editions Eg, 1985), produced by Lanois and Brian Eno, titled "The Old Dance." The story was informed by a movie about a guy who loves his girlfriend so much he kills her by the riverside.
The melody of "Amazing Grace" is virtually unrecognizable and only Aaron Neville's singing gives you a hint of its identity. Whatever the context, Lanois pushes his three-dimensional production towards hallucinatory vividness. As a good producer he gives emphasis to both atmospherics and memorable tunes, qualities that will endure and be enjoyed.
After its original 1989 release, Acadie
was reissued by Anti Records in 2005. This Acadie Goldtop Edition
anniversary issue is released by Lanois' newly founded label Red Floor and features bonus tracks, including demos and alternate takes, of "The Maker," "Still Water," "Jolie Louise," "Early Dourado Sketch" and "The Source of Fisherman's Daughter." In addition, the booklet includes beautiful photographs (by Karen Kuehn) of the scenery inside the house in New Orleans and commentaries by Lanois about each song and photography.
There is a feeling of reminiscence and nostalgia about this album that is powerfully haunting. It's a flawless classic without a single wasted moment, and flows from start to finish with passion and beauty.
Still Water; The Maker; O Marie; Jolie Louise; Fisherman's Daughter; White Mustang II; Under A Stormy Sky; Where The Hawkwind Kills; Silium's Hill; Ice; St. Ann's Gold; Amazing Grace; The Maker (early bass and lyrics); The Maker (calypso demo); Still Water (from Eno's house); Jolie Louise (before Dublin); Early Dourado Sketch; The Source Of Fisherman's Daughter.
Daniel Lanois: guitar, bass, omni chord & vocals; Malcolm Burn: keyboards, guitars, treatments & background vocals; Brian Eno: keyboards and vocals; Tony Hall: bass; Willie Green: drums; Adam Clayton: bass; Larry Mullen Jr.: drums; Pierre Marchand: keyboards; Mason Ruffner: guitar; Roger Eno: piano; Ed Roth: accordion; James May: trumpet; Cyril Neville: percussion; Art Neville: piano; Aaron Neville: vocals; Bill Dillon: guitar.