Album: Daniel Lanois
Friday 18 April 2003
It has been 10 years since Daniel Lanois' For the Beauty of Wynona, and it's safe to say, after listening to this belated follow-up, that between all the production gigs with Bob Dylan, Peter Gabriel and U2, he's not spent the intervening years honing his songwriting. Four of the 13 tracks on Shine are instrumentals of minimal impact while few, if any, of the other songs could be said to burn themselves into one's consciousness. The closest he comes is "Power of One", a reggae-rock shuffle in "Jammin'" vein in which Lanois, aping Marley's delivery, pays tribute to "Echo Park, my Jamaica in LA". Other than that, the most memorable moments are those on which Lanois' weak vocals are bolstered by guests such as Emmylou Harris – bringing a calm passion to "I Love You" – or Bono, adding his vaunting spirit to "Falling at Your Feet". Lanois' genius lies elsewhere, in his acute sensitivity to matters of mood and atmosphere, which is fine if he's polishing another's song, but less useful as a starting-point for his own material. Accordingly, these songs either muse negligibly about vague qualities of personality like "Shine" or "Fire", or vault into obfuscating poetical verbosity – as in "Slow Giving". The best track is "As Tears Roll By", a reflection on mortality sung in Art Garfunkel register against a backdrop with the home-made texture of The Basement Tapes. Nice enough to hear, but not enough to listen to.
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