Word from the Rolling Stone rag is that Neil Young is in the studio with Daniel Lanois producing. I don’t want to get too excited because more often than not, these “match made in heaven” pairings carry such heavy expectations for me that I get disappointed. But honestly this is an intriguing combination of artists.
I really dig what Lanois does both as solo artist/musician and what he brings to the table for an artist as producer. He seems almost mystically capable of creating an organic sonic landscape rooted in the soul of the past yet manages to transcend time. His records sound intimate yet have a hughe atmospheric quality to them as well. His production provides an environment for artists to achieve heights and reveal a depth to their art that possibly surprises even themselves and rarely attainable with him at the helm. U2 is not the same band without Lanois involved in their process and he, along with Brian Eno, have pushed that band to create some of their most interesting and noteworthy music. Achtung, Baby being the most notable example. They took chances and created something I think stands head and shoulders above everything that band has done. And they have yet to achieve anything half as interesting since, having lapsed into regurgitating their formula, and if rumors are true, even going as far as rejecting Lanois & Eno’s directions.
I have a love/hate relationship with Neil Young. I have the utmost respect for him as an artist who has remained true to his restless vision, fearless in his risk taking and a dedicated maverick – in the truest, pre-Palin co-opted sense of the word. Much of what he attempts falls short, isn’t all that interesting and often just plain bad. But you cannot fault him for taking the leap. “Greendale” & “Praire Wind” packed with instantly forgettable tunes, there’s a “Silver & Gold” and “Harvest Moon” packed with an string of absolute gems that demand to be listened to immediately and repeatedly.
His lead guitar playing drives me insane. It’s erratic, aimless, technically laughable and downright spastic at time but he plays with such passion and commitment, it works. And he is, unquestionably one of the great rock n roll rhythm guitar players. It is precise, in the pocket and powerful. And the tone is a true thing of beauty. Massively, gorgeously distorted, rich with harmonics yet remains clarion and distinct because the fundamental notes ring through.
One thing’s for sure, lead or rhythm, no one does what he does better.
Kind of like Woody Allen. No one plays Woody better than the Woodman himself.
This collaboration holds great promise and I really hope the result is one of those rare, wonderful achievements where artistic vision and execution surpass the expectation. A lot to place on their shoulders but if any two artists from this particular generation are capable of pulling it off, it’s Neil Young & Daniel Lanois.