Daniel Lanois — „Heavy Sun“ (March 19, 2021)
•• Tyto o trochu méně lo~fi skladby, než je obvyklé, jsou vhodnější pro jiný projekt, zaměřený na efekty. To, co místo toho dělá Heavy Sun nezapomenutelným, jsou Lanoisova zdrženlivá procvičování, hezké harmonie s jeho spoluhráči a prostor, postoupený Shepherdově varhannímu krédu. Tento bod má o to větší význam pro kohokoli, kdo zachytil Lanoisův “recent WTF podcast appearance” (viz tag). V něm řekl hostiteli Marku Maronovi o tom, jak byl vychován na varhanním gospelu a o svých raných studiových relacích s vokálními kvartety na turné po Ontariu. Bez ohledu na tento fakt toto album odhaluje, že Lanois je stejně nadaným spolupracovníkem a kurátorem talentů, jako tvůrcem atmosférických produkcí pro megastars. Doufejme, že pandemický lockdown brzy ukončí, protože Lanois a jeho spoluhráči si zaslouží potěšit diváky jejich praskavou chemií a old~schoolově gospelovým písničkářstvím, které je živě zachyceno na Heavy Sun.
•• „Naším cílem bylo přispět sílou těchto písní k dobru,“ vysvětluje Lanois. „Chtěli jsme lidem připomenout, aby si nenechali světem ukrást jejich radost, připomenout jim, že i během globální pandemie je naší odpovědností chránit naši náladu a nacházet způsoby, jak dál tančit, zpívat, pokračovat ve výuce, pokračovat v milující laskavosti.“
Exquisite, lush singer~songwriter whose famed production style mirrors his solo work.
•• “We want to lift people’s spirits with this music,” says Lanois. “It’s so easy to feel isolated right now, but we want everyone to feel included in what we’re doing.”
•• That communal spirit is on full display here, with Lanois and his bandmates — guitarist/vocalist Rocco DeLuca, organist/vocalist Johnny Shepherd, and bassist/vocalist Jim Wilson — showcasing an undeniable chemistry and boundless appetite for sonic discovery that far surpasses the influence of any individual member.
•• For Lanois, who sang and played guitar in addition to producing the album, that meant taking full advantage of modern recording techniques, slicing and dicing live, improvised performances into discrete songs that could be fleshed out with experimental effects and sci~fi flourishes. Some tracks began life with Shepherd alone on the organ, taking the rest of the group to church the way he did for years at Zion Baptist in Shreveport, LA...; ... others began with a melody or a simple groove played on a vintage beatbox. While Lanois dug deep into the production work, carving up raw material and extracting samples he could weave back into the arrangements, DeLuca (a revered solo artist in his own right) was often in the rear of the studio with the rest of the band, crafting lyrics around inspiring messages of community and resilience.
•• “Our goal was to be a force for good with these songs,” explains Lanois. “We wanted to remind people not to let the world steal their joy, to remind them that even during a global pandemic, it’s our responsibility to protect our spirits and find ways to keep on dancing, keep on singing, keep on teaching, keep on loving.”
Born: September 19, 1951, Hull, Quebec, Canada
Origin: Ancaster, Ontario, Canada
Location: Hull, Quebec, Canada
Album release: March 19, 2021
Recorded: in Los Angeles, USA and Toronto, Canada in March 2020 prior to the COVID~19 pandemic.
Record Label: Maker Series/eOne
01. Dance On 4:28
02. Power 3:18
03. Every Nation 4:01
04. Way Down 3:45
05. Please Don’t Try 4:11
06. Tree Of Tule 4:20
07. Tumbling Stone 3:32
08. Angels Watching 4:09
09. (Under The) Heavy Sun 3:27
10. Mother’s Eyes 2:55
11. Out Of Sight 3:46
♠ Heavy Sun Orchestra: Daniel Lanois, Johnny Shepherd, Rocco DeLuca & Jim Wilson
♠ Additional musicians: Brian Blade & Chris Thomas
By Larry Mullin ⌊Mar 16, 2021⌋ Score: 7
♠ Heavy Sun, Daniel Lanois’ new LP, will have you proclaiming “Hallelujah!” Chalk that up, in part, to Johnny Shepherd, who not so much sings as preaches and testifies most of the album’s vocals. All the while, Shepherd’s shrill organ riffs could galvanize any congregation to their feet. It’s certainly a different tone than the hazily haunting production Lanois famously offered U2, Bob Dylan, and fellow Canuck Neil Young.
♠ That means casual fans familiar with the Hull, QC~born legend’s work behind the boards will be surprised by “Please Don’t Try.” A prime example of what sets this LP apart from the mainstream Lanois oeuvre, “Please Don’t Try” finds Shepherd’s organ purring in contentment as he belts out one devoted~love proclamation after the other. The song climaxes with gorgeous harmonies between Shepherd, Lanois, guitarist Rocco DeLuca, and bassist Jim Wilson. “Tumbling Stone” takes those qualities even further. Lanois and his other bandmates provide a simple vocal bedrock, from which Shepherd’s bellowing ad~libs lift off and soar. And on closing numbers “Mother’s Eyes” and “Out of Sight,” the entire band shares the vocal spotlight, harmonizing together like old friends, though occasional wails from Shepherd pepper the proceedings with aplomb.
♠ “(Under The) Heavy Sun” marks a stark departure from such sparse fare. Its opening synths and drum loops, along with samples of moaning vocals, all evoke the experimental classics Lanois made with mentor Brian Eno. However, the album’s hallmark harmonies take over before long, morphing the song from ambient and abstract to a sparser, church choir tone in keeping with much of the rest of Heavy Sun. “Every Nation” however, is laden with the enough studio trickery — from reverb to pre~programmed drums — to make it sound like an outtake from U2’s Lanois~produced All That You Can’t Leave Behind sessions.
♠ Beautiful as these less lo~fi tracks are, they’re better suited for a different, effects~driven project. What instead makes Heavy Sun memorable are Lanois’ exercises in restraint, like the pretty harmonies with his bandmates and the space ceded to Shepherd’s vocal~organ one~two~punch. That point is all the more meaningful for anyone who caught Lanois’ recent WTF podcast appearance. On it, he told host Marc Maron about both being raised on organ~rife gospel, and his early studio sessions with vocal quartets touring Ontario.
♠ Regardless, this album reveals that Lanois is as gifted a collaborator and curator of talent as he is a creator of atmospheric productions for megastars. Let’s hope the pandemic lockdowns lift soon, because Lanois and his bandmates deserve to delight audiences with their crackling chemistry and old~school gospel songcraft, all of which are vividly captured on Heavy Sun.
•• Nobody makes records like Daniel Lanois. The Quebec~born artist and producer started his sonic journey with a slide guitar and a makeshift home studio in Hamilton, Ontario back in the 1970s. Those first simple 4~track outings for local bands led to recognition and collaboration with the legendary Brian Eno (Roxy Music, David Bowie), and from there, Lanois became a singular force in the evolving careers of U2, Peter Gabriel, Emmylou Harris, the Neville Brothers, and Bob Dylan just to name an iconic few. Lanois’s reach has extended to film (1984’s Dune, Sling Blade) as well as the video game realm where he enlisted the help of D’Angelo, Willie Nelson, Rhiannon Giddens, and Josh Homme in the creation of the soundtrack for Red Dead Redemption II. But with every chameleonic project and grand challenge, Lanois has continued to explore his own musical worth in a series of personal efforts that range from heady, ethereal songsmithing to atmospheric, improvisational electronica. His latest artistic incarnation is Heavy Sun, an outfit Lanois describes as a vocal group featuring singer~songwriter Rocco DeLuca, organist/singer Johnny Shepherd, drummer Brian Blade, and longtime friend and bandmate Jim Wilson. Equal parts gospel and science fiction soul rally, Heavy Sun blends harmony with choir energy and positivity. It’s an album Lanois has conspired to make for years~ but don’t imagine that he’s reached his zenith just yet. The 69~year~old continues to seek out new innovations and inspirations with the same passion he’s cultivated across multiple decades worth of albums and awards. “It never stops for me,” said Lanois. “And I hope it never will!”
•• 1989 „Acadie“
•• 1993 „For the Beauty of Wynona“
•• 1993 „Waves of Air“
•• 1994 „Cool Water“
•• 1996 „Sweet Angel Mine“
•• 1996 „Lost in Mississippi“ (soundtrack)
•• 1996 „Sling Blade“ (soundtrack)
•• 2003 „Shine“
•• 2004 „Rockets“
•• 2005 „Belladonna“
•• 2007 „Here Is What Is“
•• 2008 „The Omni Series (Box Set)“
•• 2008 „Steel“
•• 2008 „Purple Vista“
•• 2008 „Santiago“
•• 2010 „Black Dub“
•• 2014 „Flesh and Machine“
•• 2016 „Goodbye To Language“
•• 2021 „Heavy Sun“
WTF podcast appearance:
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