Daniel Lanois: Acadie

It must be bizarre to have countless platinum records -- critically acclaimed platinum records, nonetheless -- under your belt, yet be unknown to all but the most die-hard rock fans.

As a producer, Daniel Lanois is at least partially responsible for seminal albums by U2, Peter Gabriel, Bob Dylan, The Neville Brothers, and Dashboard Confessional. (Not often that you see Dashboard Confessional and Dylan on a list together.) But how about on his own? Can he make the same kind of magic when he's in control of every aspect of the music?

Music: 3 EPFL library cards out of a possible 5
The answer is, "not really." There are a few songs on Acadie that flirt with greatness, there are a few that are almost embarrassingly bad, and there are a bunch that sound like they came from a guy who spent a whole lot of time listening to The Joshua Tree.

Now, in Lanois' defense, he did spend a whole lot of time listening to The Joshua Tree. As the album's co-producer, that was his job. It's hard to say whether his influence had a dramatic impact on U2, or vice versa, but a lot of the songs on Acadie sound like Joshua Tree throwaways.

As for the good songs, I've had the bassline from "The Maker" stuck in my head since 1991 (the year I last heard Acadie), and for nearly 20 years I've been trying to figure out from what song it comes. If that doesn't qualify as a hook, I don't know what does. "White Mustang II" is a simple instrumental track that is solemn yet spooky. "Amazing Grace" is easily the strongest song on the record, and Aaron Neville's vocals make it one of the most interesting and impassioned versions of the gospel standard that I've ever heard.

Packaging: 0.5 EPFL library cards out of a possible 5
This is one of the worst packages I've ever seen. The cover sports a cheesy '80s photo of Lanois standing in the snow with hair that looks like a cockatoo with a bad dye job. And the rest of the package is... well, it's nothing. No credits. No lyrics. No photos. No stories. Nothing. Just a note that you can read the credits at Lanois' web site, which is a lie as far as I can tell, because I couldn't find a single thing about who played on this record. If I'd spent $10 or $15 on this CD, I'd be pissed. There is no compelling reason to buy this. If you're interested in the music, just download the songs. (And that's coming from a guy who hates downloading songs.)

Listen if you like: U2 from the mid '80s, Peter Gabriel from the late '80s, Lanois' production style. There's a strong New Orleans sound on several of the songs, so if you like The Neville Brothers, you might enjoy this.

If it were food, it'd be: Gumbo and Guinness

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