At first listen I was completely underwhelmed by this record. I had heard of D. Lanois from his production credit on one of my favorite albums, "The Pearl," and also on Drone Zone Radio with a few ambient selections from "Acadie", so I was sorely disappointed at the first minute or so of "Here Is What Is": Some aging punkster attempting poppy country music? It seemed overexerted and lame--for about thirty seconds.
After about a minute of listening, all my negative emotions were catharsized and then summarily blown away by the elemental joy and love of music that permeates this album from beginning to end. It will do the same to you, 98% guaranteed. Every track is full to the brim with kind humanity and vibrant, resonating sound.
Every instrument Daniel Lanois uses is well loved, given its full volume, place and texture--Above all the steel guitar, which is powerfully spiritual, just as the man explains in track 16. In every song you can focus your ears on whatever instrument you want and think, "Wow, ___ is a wonderful instrument, what a rich sound." This is something very rare in music. The quality of sound here is unreal. I can easily see now the linkage with Harold Budd's "The Pearl".
The next wonderful thing about this record is the songwriting. The melodies rock majestically back and forth, in and out, then crash over you like ocean waves. "Harry" sets itself up like a richly textured country ballad, but before you know it you realize you're listening to a far wiser, more universal song, with every verse reaching an emotional conclusion. The setting of "Duoglide" is perfect: Several verses, which switch seamlessly into a bluesy jam for about three minutes, then switch back like clockwork into the catchy refrain. "Moondog" above all is one of those rare songs which somehow combines hope, despair and full love and joy and the sense of limitless imagination all at once (perhaps by clever use of vague lyrics). And, exactly as advertised, "Joy" is simply Joy.
Each of these pop-style songs is interspersed with beautiful instrumental jams by Daniel, most with his exquisite steel guitar and perfectly mixed drums. Throughout the entire album there is a rich reverb. As a nice touch of humility amid all the sound-mixing wizardry, Daniel's voice itself is surprisingly raw and unadorned, always reminding you that there is an ordinary guy behind every soul-lifting melody.
But this now...It's an album to keep for years.
P.S. Yes, Brian Eno waxing philosophical is kind of annoying, but you can always just delete him out of the MP3s.