Most record producers don't own magic wands, but sometimes it seems that Daniel Lanois must have one hidden in his studio. He has been at the controls for some career-changing albums that still stand out among the most notable records in recent decades. Here are four that shouldn't be missed:
Joshua Tree, U2, 1987 (Island)
The Irish band was feeling a bit adrift after the experimental forays of its 1984 album, The Unforgettable Fire. For this America-themed outing, Lanois and frequent studio partner Brian Eno helped tighten up the band's sound while giving it a radiance that caught everyone's ear. The disc sold over 25 million copies, and made U2 a world power in rock music.
Wrecking Ball, Emmylou Harris, 1995 (Elektra)
Harris was slipping into a rather benign country vibe when she linked up with Lanois for this tough yet searching collection of songs (including the title track by Neil Young) that put a new flavour of mystery into her sound. Lanois contributed two of his own songs to a disc that earned Harris a wider audience and a more distinctive identity.
Time Out of Mind, Bob Dylan, 1997 (Columbia)
A huge array of players were booked for this album's sessions, which one sideman called "chaotic" and which Lanois likened (in a Globe interview) to "a big powerboat taking off." Somehow, Lanois calmed the waters, and steered Dylan toward a deep and resonant album that won three Grammys (including album of the year) and gave Dylan's fading career an enormous boost.
Acadie, Daniel Lanois, 1989 (Opal Records, reissued in 2005 by ANTI-)
Lanois was well-established as a studio wizard when he released his first solo disc (self-produced, of course). It was a deeply personal exploration of his dual linguistic identity, and remains a Canadian classic.