Gary Lucas

Improve the Shining Hour

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A smorgasbord from the intrepid guitarist known for his work with Captain Beefheart, Jeff Buckley, Joan Osborne, and many others. Lucas' guitar work, especially on his old dobro, is always a joy to hear with a rich depth of musicality centered in the blues, but informed by styles as diverse as baroque, West African, and avant-garde jazz. This collection concentrates on song forms, and several of the selections wouldn't sound out of place in your standard college radio format. Elli Madeiros' silky, insinuating vocal on "Dulce" seems almost made for a hip video, and Nick Cave delivers the sort of bitter if calculated snarl that his fans have come to enjoy on "And the Ass Saw the Angel." Beefheart aficionados will require this disc for the live performances of the solo piece "Flavor Bud Living" and "Her Eyes Are a Blue Million Miles," the latter otherwise not too spectacular. There's also a composition called "Oat Hate" here, which was used as a portion of the Van Vliet song "Cardboard Cutout Sundown." On the other hand, it's tough not to be totally sucked in by his duo with Peter Stampfel on the theme from Astro Boy! The potluck aspect of the disc may put off some, but it's not a bad place to begin for Lucas newbies, as the range of his talents is well represented.

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