Soul Mining – A Musical Life – Daniel Lanois

For a really fun introspective to a music producer’s mindset you really should read Daniel Lanois’ book “A Musical Life“. Lanois puts you in the studio in various situations and references many great insights as to what he admires, attempted to do or just heard.

As I read the book I enjoyed so many passages and was led to explore or revisit so many wonderful sounds. For example many detailed explanations of what made U2 sound so unique from the hammer on in intro to “One” which I suspect we all know to the pedal steel solo by Lanois at the 3:40 which I inserted below. This and the addition of how Bono came up with the lyrics.

This is just one of the insights and there are many for U2. Sometimes I could listen to the references on YouTube other times I had to actually go out and buy the CD so I could really appreciate the nuances.

A great nuance that I can honestly say I had not experienced in a long time was brought to my attention with comments about the the Bob Dylan Album “Time Out of Mind” . I love this album and while I thought this was mainly due to the acoustic instruments, which I do love, but as Lanois explained he was going for “depth of field. While its subtle this really does bring the album to life. Lanois mentions he was inspired by Dr. John recordings where instruments come from different places in the room. You can really hear this effect on Dr, John’s Right place wrong time. You can hear the effect on Dr. John’s Right Time Wrong Place on youtube but it’s just a hint of the sonic effect compared to a CD on a decent stereo.

These are trivial examples of the insights and almost every page has a description of an experience that had me picking up music because it was recorded in the same room as as another recording or had the same second drummer on it. Then there are the historical references like how reggae that we all love actually was born out of effects and not a traditional folk sound in Jamaica as we may believe. Sure its got a groove but check this video of Lee “Scratch” Perry, a producer in his own write and watch how busy the effects guy is to transform that groove and take it to a whole new level.

Another historical reference that emphisies Lanois treatment of drums is the inspiration drawn from Arthur Alexander and the high hat treatment in the song Anna. Lanois mentions this was long before The Beatles got hold of this sound and introduced it to all of us.

These are not the highlights of the book. Every page is filled with references that will have you searching the internet, music sites and even stores to find the treasures documented in this wonderful book. Do yourself a favor and enjoy a musical journey in your favorite listening spot and have your computer and stereo handy while reading Daniel Lanois’ book “A Musical Life“.