Gary Lucas   reviews Website, 2001

Live Review

Since his early day as member and soloist with the legendary Captain Beefheart and the Magic volume has Gary Lucas proven that it must be counted as one the innovativsten Gittarristen of our days. In its innovative guitar work, he connects almost everything for ektrischer and acoustic guitar - armed by the erdigen style of a Howlin ' wolf ' up to passionate abstractions, with a zerschrammten Stratocaster and a Gibson Acoustic from the 40ern as well as an enormous border at effect devices Lucas craziest Songs and sound produces Albert Ayler. Its pieces of acoustic on the age-old national Steel Guitar inspire through exessiven, halsbrecherischen Fingerpicking style. Drawing Folk and classical period for Blues, with both hands from the korpus of skirt, jazz, again invents Gary Lucas the solo guitar as virtuose One one volume.

After the intellectual elektrofinizierten shower of VX, Gary Lucas inspired public, one man, two guitars and a proud number of effect devices, which were spread partially before him on the boards of the stage world and partially on a table beside Gary Lucas. How much does a guitar hero of the old school need effects? All and none! None, in order to be can present on the six lateral hero harp, because experiences of many years always contain quality, but it needs this pallet of the effects, in order its play joke and play-rubbed to under-paint and extend. And that is which Gary Lucas constitutes, with effects, while he gaunert in the Gefilden of Folk, Blues, jazz, skirt and classical period rum, one mine could the danger of a yawning accumulation would be paired with it prophesied a its being able in a erotischen fantasy, surprises it the present people with berauschenden variations, straight lines of these up to declines belonged style directions. Gary Lucas builds interesting stories, hear-worth, kurzweilig, to the abrocken over relaxen up to the upspacen. Feedback Orgien, Noize window blind and guitar sounds to Synthesizer carpets mutate, change with Bottleneck Blues, High speed Fingerpicking and classical guitar work. Into the Schmunzeln one, if Gary Lucas finger leave the guitar, comes over as wildly at the effect devices rumzuschrauben, if he acts enthusiastically as verkappter electronics engineers and keeps only thereby his musical history upright. In addition, if Gary Lucas, in its modest and symphatischen kind, does not seem which fills time of the guitar being correct with anecdotes from its life, the river of the happening to break off, it creates it the public to actually bind. Charisma, ability and a strong prize individualism united with love for creativity and fantasy, gave this evening very bekoemmliche and satisfying nuance, which naturally makes desire on more. Public favourite in this evening, the Chinese tuned Blues!

The Event Guide (Dublin), December, 2001

Live Review


The Guardian (UK), December, 2001

Peter Stampfel on Gary Lucas


The Guardian (UK), December 17, 2001

Gods, monsters and us
They fought with Beefheart, lost Jeff Buckley and grew used to obscurity.
But the Du-Tels just keep on going.

By John Aizlewood

The combination of Gary Lucas and Peter Stampfel, collectively known as the Du-Tels, is a peculiar marriage. Lucas is a prolific, peripatetic, 49-year-old guitarist whose varied solo career has run parallel to his collaborations with the semi-underground glitterati, from Captain Beefheart and Jeff Buckley to Nick Cave and Joan Osborne. Milwaukee-born Stampfel, now approaching 70, is the force behind the Holy Modal Rounders, a little-known but hugely influential and highly entertaining psychedelic folk band that celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2003.

The pair first met on March 22 1992, when Stampfel attended a gig by the Gods and Monsters. "Peter was a hero of mine from high school days," says Lucas. "I didn't admire Gary," shrugs Stampfel, "because I'd never heard of him. But when he played his Gibson guitar, my jaw hit the floor." That evening's Gods and Monsters' singer was Jeff Buckley, son of Tim. If anyone nurtured this short-lived talent, it was Lucas. The pair were introduced by producer Hal Willner at rehearsals for a 1991 Tim Buckley tribute. "I see this bundle of energy, a skinny waif with the most bugged-out eyes," says Lucas. "He was popping out of his skin with electricity. He knew every Tim Buckley song inside out and wanted to collaborate. He started to sing, I was gaping. We played the tribute, and the place erupted."

The young buck joined Gods and Monsters and the pair co-wrote a dozen songs, including two that made Buckley's Grace album. When Buckley departed for solo glory on March 14 1992, Lucas was devastated. Buckley briefly re-established contact in July 1993. They had reunited on stage and were planning to collaborate again, but then Buckley drowned in May 1997.

Lucas had been hurt before. A fan of Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band, Lucas had joined in 1980, playing on Doc at the Radar Station and its subsequent world tour, before briefly becoming Beefheart's manager. "My mission in life was to tell people what a genius he was, but he's a mind-fucker par excellence. We all have demons, but his could get pretty pronounced. He'd use them as a crutch to be ultra-abusive. I still love him, but I'm aware of the monster side. I'm not really inclined to call him up. I gave enough blood in that area, but I've memories to last a lifetime."

Buoyed by Spider Web, his Grammy-nominated co-composition for Joan Osborne's Relish, Lucas picked up his solo career after Buckley's death. Meanwhile, the Du-Tels were New York fixtures. They recorded an album, No Knowledge of Music Required, in 1994. Everyone passed. Like Lucas, Stampfel was used to rejection and following his maverick muse. He had arrived in New York in 1959 with a purist's attitude to folk. Hearing the Harry Smith Folk Anthology and the nascent pop boom, the peyote-fuelled Stampfel mused upon the notion of Smith's discoveries in rock'n'roll and pop. In 1963 he met "evil speed freak" Steve Weber and found out for himself.

"Today we're the group that's been around for the longest time while remaining invisible to the largest percentage of the population. When we first met, I thought we were going to be huge, and that the Holy Modal Rounders' traditional folk music with a wildass bent would break through." But Weber's wildness and Stampfel's remarkable vocals put a stop to any thought of success. "I'm an optimistic guy, but was resentful for years," says Stampfel, "until 1974, when Bruce Springsteen in Central Park snapped me out of my depression."

There are plans for Stampfel, Weber and Lucas to make a record as the Wilderness Brothers. And the success of Lucas's 20-year retrospective, Improve the Shining Hour, enabled the belated release of the Du-Tels' No Knowledge of Music Required and their first UK tour. "We love to roam the fields of popular music," says Lucas. "We provide a time-travel history of the musical margins. Our gigs are getting tighter every time. We have telepathy."

The Du-Tels' No Knowledge of Music Required is out now on Shimmy Disc.

Copyright Guardian Newspapers Limited

Liberation (France), November 2, 2001

GARY LUCAS "THE EDGE OF HEAVEN" (Label Bleu/Indigo/Harmonia Mundi)
by Francois-Xavier Gomez

Un disque-ovni, une sucrerie decadente tombe du ciel. Apres trente ans d'une carriere invraisemblablement proteforeine (entre autres, guitariste du legendaire Magic Band de Captain Beefheart, accompagnateur de Jeff Buckley, collaborateur de Nick Cave, producteur du dernier disque des Francais Tanger, pilier a New York de la Knitting Factory, antre de l'experimentation tous azimuts, et de Tzadik, le label du John Zorn), Gary Lucas s'est souvenu de Bai Kwong et de Chow Hsuan, sublimes cantatrices chinoises des annees 40 et 50 dont il ecouta les cassettes lors d'un long sejour a Taiwan. Sur la soie des melodies, il brode des sons de guitares complexes et aeriens, travaillant la pate sonore avec une invention constante. En sept titres instrumentaux et six chantes en mandarin par deux voix de femmes au charme veneneux, The Edge of Heaven dispense le meme parfum, la meme tristesse resignee que In the Mood for Love et sa soupe de nouilles aux larmes. Un concentre de glamour que Gary Lucas presentera sur scene, le 11 novembre, au Reservoir a Paris.

The Guardian (UK), January, 2001

Concert Review, Gary Lucas live at the Borderline, London, 1/2001
by John Aizlewood

One man, several guitars and countless effects pedals could have been as grim a live proposition as a solo album from a minor member of Level 42. Gary Lucas, however, had other ideas.

While far from a household name, Lucas, from Syracuse, New York, has played with quite a few since his professional debut in 1973, as the guitarist for the European premiere of Leonard Bernstein's Mass. Lucas has played alongside such luminaries as Lou Ree, Nick Cave, Bryan Ferry and DJ Spooky, but his reputation rests on his tenure with Captain Beefheart's Magic Band circa 1982's Ice Cream for Crow, and writing and playing contributions to the opening two tracks of Grace, the only proper album by Jeff Buckley. Buckley was an alumnus of Lucas's Gods and Monsters ensemble, as are Mary Margaret O'Hara and Matthew Sweet.

Two parts Glenn Branca at his most inventive, one part Leo Kottke at his most complex, Lucas could have spent an evening mired in the bitterness of a perennial sideman, but instead he simply showed what the wider world has been missing. The opening demolition of Kraftwerk's Autobahn—"an old folk song"—gave way to a shredded, Hendrix-style Amazing Grace, a twisting of Albert Ayler's already corkscrew Ghosts, a supple instrumental trundle through Grace itself, and a slew of originals.

Crucially, there was little in the way of guitar histrionics and contorted facial expressions; trouper that he is, Lucas—big velvet jacket, big jaunty hat, big heavy eyelids—simply got on with it in good-tempered fashion. He sang occasionally, supplying an effective Delta voice on the cotton-picking Let's Go Swimming and more worldly tones when the initially ferocious Coming Clean quoted Dylan Thomas during its quiter sections. The cotton-picking Police Dog Blues transcended an unpromising title to soar into a feast of intriguing, subtle wizardry, underpinned with a core of accessibility: for all his dexterity, Lucas always stayed the right side of a guitar shop demonstration.

His finest moment was The Wall, a brief, beguiling instrumental, played, as ever, with intricate precision, but so full of quietly contrasting, whistleable melodies, there could have been a whole band up there with him. In truth, he doesn't need anybody else.

The Berkshire Eagle, April 23, 2001

Concert Review, Gary Lucas (Club Helsinki, 4/20/01)
by Seth Rogovoy

(GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass., April 21, 2001) - It was easy to get swept up in the extraordinary range of the music and styles that guitarist Gary Lucas performed in his dizzyingly intriguing performance at Club Helsinki on Friday night. On the surface, Lucas seemingly jumped from traditional country-blues to 1930s Chinese pop to Wagner to the Marx Brothers to Hendrixian distortion to his own patented brand of shimmering, psychedelic roots music in a celebration of post-modern juxtaposition or global villagism.

But what was even more impressive was how Lucas effortlessly tied it all together. He did so through sheer virtuosity, through his unique playing style, and through an unflinching curatorial curiosity and intelligence that finds the common connection, the voice of human yearning, between the Broadway kitsch of "Fiddler on the Roof" and a Robert Johnson blues. That Lucas achieves this musical humanitarianism - this ability to highlight the universal in the particular—without succumbing to naked sentimentality is all the more to his credit as an artist and conceptualist.

He avoided the obvious, finding beauty in the music of Wagner, whom he noted was a gross anti-Semite, and achy blues in Jerry Bock’s "Sunrise, Sunset."

Lucas juggled three guitars throughout the evening - acoustic, electric, and dobro—often using more than one instrument per song. He made skillful use of looping and effects, so that at various times his guitar sounded like a keyboard, particularly an organ, an orchestra, or a power tool. Come to think of it, in his hands a guitar is a power tool, but one he wields with deft authority and delicacy for the most part, and appropriate excess when such is called for.

Early in his set, Lucas played Blind Blake’s "Police Dog Blues" on dobro, which showcased what someone once aptly called his "exploding note" technique. Lucas’s notes don’t get played so much as they burst, like popcorn or fireworks, and his harmonics were rich and resonant. An early highlight of his 90-minute set was his composition, "Rise Up to Be." The piece was originally written for the late rock singer-songwriter Jeff Buckley, who collaborated with Lucas in his band Gods and Monsters, and formed the foundation of the title track of Buckley’s memorable album, "Grace."

A kind of mini-rock suite, it built to a fierce power-rocker, with shades of Pete Townshend and Jimmy Page, before morphing into an ethereal, transcendent mood piece, in which Lucas didn’t so much play notes as he released them into the air, figuratively tossing them up and out from his guitar like white doves. It was a beautiful gesture, as much dance or performance art as it was music, and utterly deserving of the title that Buckley gave to it.

Lucas’s version of a 1938 Shanghai pop hit from the film "Angel on the Street" instantly established a relationship with American delta blues, which he underlined by following it with a bit of Captain Beefheart-style country blues. He followed with a ferocious display of English-style blues rock a la Jeff Beck on a version of Howlin’ Wolf’s "I’m Built to Hurt You Like the Police," in which he looped the rhythm guitar portion and accompanied himself on lead.

By the time he closed his set with his recent composition, "The Opener of the Way," from his marvelous new album, "Street of Lost Brothers" (Tzadik) he had come full circle on this musical journey from gut-bucket blues to transcendent, spiritual psychedelia, as had his appreciative audience, a little wearied from the exhaustive, exciting trip, but renewed and inspired by the suggestive potential implied by Lucas’s humanitarian muse.

[This review originally appeared in the Berkshire Eagle on April 23, 2001. Copyright Seth Rogovoy 2001. All rights reserved.]

Jazz Corner Web Site, Record Reviews, January 2001

Gary Lucas - Street of Lost Brothers, Tzadik, 2000 (with John Zorn and Walter Horn)
"Sh'ma"—based on the (central) Jewish prayer, Walter on synths, piano and sampler tracks and Lucas on electric guitar. Much of the piece has dense, shifting overlays of sound and it's not clear what kinds of instruments are producing the sounds. At 11 minutes, it's more than twice as long as any of the other pieces on the album.

The sound is of an organ/synth on a journey. Like Sun Ra's 'Atlantis'. Or 'Welcome to the Lonely Village', my favorite piece from Walter's last album. But Lonely Village had a resigned melancholy to it, while Sh'ma covers a much more physical, passionate, jagged and varied terrain. Walter gets a huge variety of sounds of his synth on this one, and each enters with its own unique voice. Yet there is an eerie evenness to the piece (probably the Sh'ma at its core) that keeps moving it along, folding the unique entrances into the churning whole. The previous melody is still visible, barely, just below the surface when a new voice enters, sings or shrieks, transmogrifies into something else, and folds into the roiling whole, adding another layer, just as another new, entirely unexpected voice enters. Each new voice seems to want to tear the momentum of the horizontal Sh'ma line free of its moorings, but then becomes absorbed by it.

Some highlights from the rest of the album:

Yigdal - John Zorn plays only on this first cut, with a brief (though very nice) alto solo. The cut is a hard-driving klezmer piece. I have to say, as a regular (if not frequent) listener to klezmer music, I found the klezmer pieces among the least interesting on the album.

It's Like A Wheel - This piece makes me notice Gary Lucas! Opens with a wonderfully bright spray of acoustic guitar melodies (reminded me a bit of Bert Jaensch), sunny and dancelike, which suddenly pivots full around and takes off into a feedback-filled, electrified, powerful, screeching Hendrix-like version of Amazing Grace; and then, just as suddenly (though strangely aptly) returns to the bright folk-like melody for a coda. A wonderful piece.

This piece and Walter's are both recorded live, no overdubs, which—given what they sound like—make them both even more remarkable!

I Kill For Nothing - for the Marx Brothers, amiable and engaging acoustic guitar frolics.

Ride of The Valkyries - on electric guitar, maybe more interesting as an idea than as a performance. Curious inclusion on a Radical Jewish Culture disc, but perhaps explained by the liner note: "To defeat thine enemy, sing his song."

Let My People Go - Very cool, gutsy version on steel guitar.

Mahzel Means Good Luck - Campy Klezmer, good fun, what Louis Jordan might have put out as a klezmer musician.

International Herald Tribune, January 26, 2001

Gary Lucas is a Guitarist with 1,000 Ideas
By Mike Zwerin

View an image of this article here

PARIS—Gary Lucas, dubbed "the guitarist with 1,000 ideas" by The New York Times, claims to have "learned more at Beefheart U, than at Yale."

He made his reputation with the "Magic Band," led by the oddball, Zappa-like rock hero Captain Beefheart, who used to say: "I don't make music, I make monsters." A perfect fit for Lucas, whose style has been called "haunting" and who "always did love the supernatural." At Yale he ran the midnight horror-movie club "Things That Go Bump in the Night." He formed a band called Gods and Monsters and one of his first recordings under his own name was Albert Ayler's "Ghosts."

Above all, though, Lucas, who is 48, emphasizes his overview: "The secret of success is just showing up." Be advised that by saying that he is ignoring the decade or so he spent showing up where it didn't really count—to perform a musician's worst possible scenario, that unmentionable last resort: a day gig. Never mind. The way it worked out, along the zig-zagging but sturdy line of his musical career, Lucas still managed to pull together a string of impressive credits, playing with, among others, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, Leonard Bernstein, Patti Smith, Graham Parker, Bryan Ferry, Nick Cave, Bob Neuwirth, DJ Spooky and Jeff Buckley. And anyway, Lucas had a talent for day-gig-like work. During his five years, 1979 to 1984, as their guitar-slinger, Lucas assumed the additional duties of manager with Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band.

Eventually the good Captain broke the band up because he was not being taken seriously enough as a professional painter, which he wanted to become. And which, under his given name, Don Van Vliet, he eventually became. Lucas later heard that some of Van Vliet's larger canvases were priced as high as $40,000. Van Vliet tried to persuade Lucas to manage his new career. "Man, we'll both have yachts," he said. While hooking him up with the Julian Schnabel gallery in New York, the guitarist replied: "I'm proud to have played music with you but I'm not going to be your art pimp." While the music lasted, Lucas felt he "was on a mission."

"I thought that Beefheart was making the coolest music on the planet. He was my mentor. I was a messianic type. I loved the music and I thought the guy was really important. Too bad he stopped. The New Wave and the Punks took so many of his ideas."

After Yale, he eventually decided to run off to Taiwan to work in his father's import-export business. He formed his first band in Taiwan. After "a horrible brawl" during a gig in a "seedy" bar called The Scarecrow in which a youngster in th audience had some fingers cut off, Lucas ran off again. He was`"more or less run out of Taipei on a rail."

The day gig followed his return home. It was in a building known as, appropriately enough, "Black Rock"—a sinister dark-glass high rise on Sixth Avenue that served as Columbia Records' headquarters in New York. As copywriter and promotion man, he "masterminded the Beefheart phenomenon out of my little office in Black Rock." His superiors were happy to let him moonlight on guitar with Beefheart at night and on weekends and even on work-days because it lent the record company "credibility on the street." Lucas, from his reverse angle, remembers being the "counter-cultural mole in Black Rock."

Beefheart folded The Magic Band and Lucas went out on his own. His solo acoustic album "Evangeline" was named one of the best albums of 1997 by Rolling Stone. The Wall Street Journal called the album "Gods and Monsters" one of the best of the following year. "Spider Web", a song he co-wrote with multi-platinum singer Joan Osborne, was nominated for a Grammy award: "It supported me for quite a few years."

Lucas would rather use commercial success as an opportunity to "woodshed," he said, i.e., to practice, than go out and waste physical and psychic capital desperately looking for another hit. It took him six weeks to memorize and execute the fiendishly difficult Beefheart composition "Evening Bell"—for which a journalist proposed "some sort of an award for finger contortion."

In 1989 he wrote music for the classic German expressionist silent film "The Golem." He still tours extensively with the film playing his score live (there's a lot of improvisation). In the summer of 1991, Jeff Buckley, son of the folksinger Tim—this unknown "kid with the voice of an angel"—became his singer. It was a "big break." They cut demos and performed together. Buckley wrote lyrics to Lucas's guitar song "Grace". The song became the title of an early solo album by the young singer, who soon left Lucas to become a big star on his own.

Lucas spent the remainder of the 90's touring from Japan to Slovenia and Corsica by way of Israel, including a package called JAM, "Jewish Avant Garde Music," sponsored by Michael Dorf's New York club and production company the Knitting Factory. Over the past year, Lucas worked on studio projects in London, Scandinavia, and Paris—another case of "foreigners" recognizing an overlooked American talent.

Earlier this month, he performed to a packed house in the elegant Hotel du Nord in Paris. And last week, he was the headliner in the Knitting Factory's new West Coast annex. "My L.A. debut," said Lucas, with irony: "I know every nook and cranny of Germany, but the U.S is still virgin territory."

Billboard, January 27, 2001

Gary Lucas featured in the "Declaration of Independents" column
by Chris Morris

Flag Waving: "Street of Lost Brothers," the new album by guitarist Gary Lucas, is the latest entry in New York-based Tzadik Records' "Radical Jewish Culture" series. That makes sense, since, as a youngster, Lucas always wanted to be either a rabbi...or a vampire.

"There was a period when I was fairly religious," Lucas says. "I went to synagogue every Friday night with my uncle...I guess I got sidetracked with music and horror films. I was a big fan of Bela Lugosi, and later, [England's] Hammer [Studios] horror films."

Lucas—currently profiled in Maverick Records partner Guy Oseary's book "Jews Who Rock" (St. Martin's Press)—says that "Street of Lost Brothers" is "a manifestation of the aspects of growing up Jewish."

The album includes interpretations of everything from traditional Jewish folk music to the Velvet Underground's "European Son" (a song inspired by poet Delmore Schwartz) and a medley of Marx Brothers tunes. He also offers a delirious solo take of "Ride of the Valkyries" ("To defeat thine enemy, sing his song," Lucas says in the liner notes).

Lucas is also represented in the racks by no less than two retrospective collections—"Improve the Shining Hour (Rare Lumiere 1980-2000)" on Knitting Factory Records and "Level the Playing Field—Early HurlyBurly 1988-1994" on France's Last Call Records (distributed in the U.S. by DNA).

The guitarist says of these compilations, "Captain Beefheart [who employed Lucas from 1980-84] used to say to me it was difficult to hear his own stuff because, he said, it was 'like going through your own vomit'...But [my old material] didn't seem to date. It sounds as fresh as the stuff I'm working on now, to be honest."

The peripatetic axeman, who just completed a series of European dates, will be much on view in upcoming days.

"Lalee's Kin," a new film by the Maysles Brothers featuring a score by Lucas, is screening at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, beginning Jan. 19. "The film is about poverty in Mississippi," Lucas says. "It exposes more of the Delta blues stylings and folkish parts of my playing."

On Saturday (20), Lucas finally makes his Los Angeles debut at the Knitting Factory, playing a solo show.

Wire (UK), January 2001

Gary Lucas' Pros and Cons of 2000

Pros: Film: Eva (Joseph Losey, 1962)—a hitherto undiscovered (by me) classic of Euro-erotic art cinema. Jeanne Moreau smoulders magnificently presiding over Stanley Baker's ultimate degradation—woof! Music: Genuine Live 1966—Bob Dyland and the Hawks, an eight CD bootleg of select board tapes of Dylan's greatest rock 'n' roll stand, fantastic packaging and notes. Manhattan Research Inc., Raymond Scott, as an occassional soundtrack composer, these electronic vignettes from the 60s strike a profound chord with me. Now does anybody have any tapes of Percy Grainger's electronic experiments/inventions? Books: Captain Beefheart by Mike Barnes, this book actually got me back into listening to the work again (and what glorious work it is), something I'd suppressed for about 15 years; The She Devils by Pierre Louys; Roy Stuart Vol. 3. Gigs: London, Dingwalls, 21 November: solo guitar for the BBC's Mixing It show—an overwhelming experience for me, old anglophile that I am, like a childhood dream come true, audiences in NYC rarely exhibit such emotion! Merkin Concert Hall, Linoln Center, NYC, 14 September, solo guitar, 'A Tribute to Robert Johnson': an honour to be on a bill with John Renbourn. This gig, broadcast over National Public Radio, led to a commission from Maysles Films (Gimme Shelter) to score a new documentary for them (they heard the broadcast by accident, then tracked me down through the internet).
Cons: No new Teletubbies episodes! (bring 'em back now...)

Guitar World, January, 2001

Review of "Street of Lost Brothers"
By Ted Drozdowski


Full of freaky beauty, the latest release from former Captain Beefheart guitarist Gary Lucas zips from acoustic ballads to Hendrix-inspired voodoo to whacked-out slide-guitar klezmer music and National steel blues, and does so with unfailing virtuosity. Lucas is backed here by an eclectic team of players that includes his Gods and Monsters band and saxophonist John Zorn, who is also the owner of the Tzadik label. But he's at his best when playing alone—conjuring Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" by tracking live with loops, slide, edgy frailing and walls of distortion, and summoning his own banshees on "It's Like a Wheel" with a balance of sweet, intricate fingerpicking and filthy electric oomph.