LUCAS * IMPROVE THE SHINING HOUR
rare lumière 1980-2000
usa 2000 ceedee
knitting factory kfw 265
INCLUDES THREE BEEFHEART RARITIES
the press message on gary lucas' website - one of the places where this album is available - yells:
*New Album Out Now in the U.S.!*
"Improve the Shining Hour" – rare lumière 1980-2000
A new Gary Lucas 20-year rarities retrospective album is out now in the USA and will be released on April 25th in Europe on Knitting Factory Records (catalog no. KFW-265).
Featuring performances with Captain Beefheart, David Johansen, Nick Cave, DJ Spooky, Eric Mingus, Richard Barone, Peter Stampfel, Mary Margaret O'Hara, Elli Medeiros, Gods and Monsters and more, and with liner notes by Rolling Stone Senior Editor David Fricke, this is a must-have! (yes, that's what the record company always says - teejo.)
and in the liner notes to the record the attention for beefheart goes on with:
"MAN CAN PLAY GUITAR!"
from the introduction by david fricke
"Four simple words about Gary Lucas and the overflowing worlds of color, technique and expressive possibility in his music - and you can hear them on this record, spoken with huge paternal awe by a man who knew what he was talking about: Don Van Vliet, a/k/a/ Captain Beefheart.
Two decades have passed since that night in December, 1980, a Magic Band show at Toad's Place in New Haven, Connecticut. Lucas has long since made another luminous life for himself on stage and record, as a solo artist and with a grand extended family of collaborators. But Beefheart was a pivotal figure in Lucas' birth and maturity as a guitarist - an inspiration, a mentor and, from 1980-82, a fiendishly demanding bandleader - and the previously unissued live version in this collection of "Flavor Bud Living", Lucas' showcase on Beefheart's 1980 release "Doc At The Radar Station", is a profound example of distinguished schooling and impending graduation, ferociously compressed into a minute's music.
The melody is Van Vliet's, but the attack, articulation and soul are all Lucas: an elegant cluster of agonized chording and plucked sunbursts, a dynamic knot of torture and euphoria, played as if every note was a religion unto itself. Which, as Lucas explained to me in 1988, was the whole idea. "It's like you play every note as if it has no relation to the note before or after it", he said. "So every note has the same amount of tension, like it's coming out of nowhere. And it's true - the music has that effect." The philosophy, again, was Beefheart's - his so-called "exploding note theory". But the emotion and animation, again, were all Lucas.
Recorded two days before I saw Lucas play for the first time, with the Magic Band at Irving Plaza in New York [also known as 'club 57', on 091280 - teejo], the New Haven "Flavor Bud Living" makes a fitting chronological introduction to this set (along with the rainy-day swing of "Her Eyes Are A Blue Million Miles", taped that same night). Lucas' three-year adventure with Beefheart remains a defining time in the guitarist's career (he also managed Van Vliet). Even now, few reviews of Lucas' own records and concerts go by without the phrase "ex-Beefheart". But Beefheart and those two last Magic Band albums, "Doc At The Radar Station" and "Ice Cream For Crow", were just a starting gate..."
while gary adds his own memories to the three 'beefheart rarities' appearing on this ceedee:
FLAVOR BUD LIVING
instrumental 1:36 minutes
live 071280 toad's place, new haven, connecticut, usa
"This is the solo piece that [put] me on the musical map. I suffered bloody fingers and sore muscles for months to master it, off a tape of John French playing it from the as yet unreleased "Bat Chain Puller" album. I went out to the Mojave Desert to audition it for Don, who told me French had played it "too religiously" and instead had me use his "exploding note theory" to navigate my way through it from that point on. Then I had to come out and play the damn thing, cold, in the middle of the Beefheart set throughout our last tour of 1980-81 (Wouldn't have missed it for the world). And that number would then lead into...:
HER EYES ARE A BLUE MILLION MILES
live 071280 toad's place, new haven, connecticut, usa
...one of Captain Beefheart's most beloved ballads - originally from the late 1972 album "Clear Spot". This was a real high point in the show as the Magic Band capered balletically around the growling ringmaster (My ambition in music had been to play with this guy ever since I had seen his debut concert in New York City in 1971). At this particular gig, I remember standing in the doorway of the club (the former Hungry Charlie's) watching the students of my alma mater scurry off to the Cross Campus Library in the gathering twilight and thinking: "How did I get from Here to Here???". Truly a transcendent moment. Don's still the coolest, in my book."
instrumental 2:30 minutes
live 03.82 gary's living room, new york city, usa
"This is a work tape of a composition Don played through once on piano, then sent to me on cassette with the simple instructions: "Learn this". It took me about six weeks, negotiating five seconds or so of music a day, transcribing by ear and literally feeling out the notes on my guitar as I worked my way through it, like stepping gingerly through a mine field. When I got out to Amigo Studios in Los Angeles in the spring of 1982 to begin recording what became the last Beefheart album, Ice Cream for Crow, what I was told was to be utilized as a solo piece had become one-half of the rickety equation later know as "Cardboard Cutout Sundown". Don had independently of me taught the rest of the band a discrete three minutes or so of music, and setting me off in semi-isolation from the rest of the band behind a wall of baffles, refereed the recording of the piece like a whistle-happy umpire, gleefully bellowing "STAART!" and "STOPPP!" when he wanted me to play my part (at double the speed of this work tape workout) against the band's own full-on fury. Amazingly, you can hear the band and myself synch up for a miraculous near unison section near the end of the album track. How the fuck did he do that?!? Don would just nod all-knowingly, smile sardonically and draw deeply on his Dunhill pipe.... Meanwhile, enjoy the Mexican jumping bean beauty of "Oat Hate" (Beefheart slang for sexual jealousy)."
okay, okay, that are a lot of compliments for captain beefheart - but how about the music? well, that is a different story. despite the importance of don van vliet to his career gary doesn't really honour him by coming up with some quite shabby recordings.
the two live tracks in fact even are an absolute mockery. besides the dubious quality of the recording, the show must have been a crime: gary's playing sounds nervous, and it just wasn't don's day that night. the captain struggles with his words, not only in the spoken notes to gary's solo piece, but even more in the following song: don doesn't seem to be sharp - not to say he's 'on routine' - in 'her eyes are a blue million miles'. his bungling with the text simply turns his favourite ballad into a complete failure!
no, the concert must have been such a one you immediately wanted to forget, so the question is: why did gary pick out this specific recordings - couldn't he really find a tape with better sound and artistic quality? no, captain beefheart fans who buy this ceedee because of the NEW WORK it offers, will be disappointed.
unless they appreciate the third track with a connection to don van vliet of course: the guitar piece 'oat hate' which eventually became a part of the 'cardboard cutout sundown' song. but this 'ice cream for crow' outtake - simply recorded at home - just sounds too familiar to be shocking (although this is talk afterwards)...
altogether, this small collection of three captain beefheart rarities, CAN'T BE CALLED A THUNDERBOLT. so, mind that it's only in this website chapter for the record!
and the rest of the album? well, in general it is better than the beefheart bits. not only sound technically, but also musically - that is: in the meaning of surprises. in recent years gary has learned to sing in an acceptable way (but that activity still is an exception in his oeuvre), there's the cosy duet 'astro boy', and he weirdly accompanies dark poet nick cave, while 'she was showing me' - with mary margaret o'hara on vocals - is a real hit.
on the other hand, the original 'spider web' with joan osborne can't be beaten, 'ted's theme' is a 'residents' sound alike, and some tracks wring (like 'dulce' and 'golgotha') - there could have been skipped a few.... and mainly, all those different tries with different singers and musicians - except for the incidents that clicked - show that gary is not a 'band man': he's at his best when he is alone wrestling his way through odd guitar sounds and effects (like in 'indian war whoop').
so, overall: it's nice, but nothing to put out the flag for (compared to some other items of his discography).
to complete the story
however, when you think about obtaining it, you also get the beefheart related pictures in the liner notes, like this shot taken of gary lucas on the stage of 'club 57' at irving plaza in new york on 091280:
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captain beefheart electricity
as felt by teejo