Along with fellow session guitarists Waddy Wachtel, Steve Lukather and Dann Huff, he played on many major label releases recorded in LA during the 1980s-1990s. He has reportedly appeared on over 600 albums and soundtrack recordings.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, as a teenager he quickly became very interested in jazz and electric jazz music. In the mid-1970s he toured the west coast as part of The Robben Ford Band, at 19 joined Boz Scaggs for a world tour and by the age of 20 he started to do session work. Notable sessions over the coming years would include Pink Floyd, Miles Davis, Joni Mitchell, B. B. King, James Taylor, Seal, Ray Charles and Rod Stewart.
In 1984, he toured and recorded with Joni Mitchell, and appears on the Mitchell DVD Refuge of the Roads. In 1989 he released his first solo studio album Tales from the Bulge, an instrumental record released in Japan and on Creatchy Records in the US. In 1990 he formed the blues rock band "Burning Water" with his brother Teddy Landau, David Frazee and Carlos Vega; this band put out four discs of original material and played in Japan and the USA.
In 1993 he won the readers' poll for "Best Studio Guitarist" in "Guitar Player Magazine" and in 1994 formed "The Raging Honkies" with Teddy Landau and Abe Laboriel Jr. They released 2 discs and toured Europe and the US. In 2001 he released a double live album of original material and a studio album The Star Spangled Banner on his own label 'Unconscious Records'.
He currently tours and performs with his own group, The Wreckers, Robben Ford, The Jazz Ministry, Stolen Fish, Hazey Jane and James Taylor. His most recent project, a double live album was released in October 2006 in the USA, Europe and Japan.
In the early 1980s, he was also in the band Maxus that featured future Los Angeles session musician stalwarts Robbie Buchanan, Jay Gruska, and Doane Perry. Landau was also in competition with high school bandmate Lukather to become the guitarist for Toto in the late 1970s.
Michael Landau is married to singer/songwiter/guitarist Karen Martin Landau, with whom he performs in the bands Stolen Fish and Hazey Jane. His brother Teddy Landau is married to singer-songwriter Michelle Branch.
His current band, The Michael Landau Group, undertook a 16-date European tour in April 2007,