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Improve the Shining Hour

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Audio CD, March 28, 2000
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Editorial Reviews

Guitarist Gary Lucas performs the musical equivalent of a high-wire act, lending his brave, innovative guitar work to an eclectic slate of projects that range from Captain Beefheart's final notable albums to collaborations with Leonard Bernstein, Joan Osborne, Nick Cave, and Jeff Buckley. Throughout, Lucas has shown a dogged determination to never repeat himself. Indeed, listening to this rarities collection and de facto retrospective, one can almost hear the musician reinventing himself on each cut. Whether working acoustic or electric guitar, the Yale English Literature grad shows an uncanny ability to conjure and embellish new musical languages, from Beefheart's tortuous "Flavour Bud Living" (recorded live on the Magic Band's final tour) to the smoky Latin fire of the Elli Medeiros-vocalized "Dulce" to a loopy, bluegrass inflected reinvention of the "Astro Boy" theme with Holy Modal Rounder Peter Stampfel. Other standout collaborations feature D.J. Spooky ("Golgotha"), Nick Cave ("And the Ass Saw the Angel"), and Mary Margaret O'Hara ("She Was Showing Me"). Lucas's own songs are generously represented as well, including a David Johansen-sung rendition of his collaboration with Osborne, "Spider Web." Fully half the cuts here were recorded live, an environment in which Lucas's invention and luminous drive truly come into their own. --Jerry McCulley

Listen to Samples and Buy MP3s

Songs from this album are available to purchase as MP3s. Click on "Buy MP3" or view the MP3 Album.

Song Title Time Price
  1. Coming Clean (Demo) 3:36$0.99  Buy MP3 
  2. And The Ass Saw The Angel 3:58$0.99  Buy MP3 
  3. Spider Web 4:26$0.99  Buy MP3 
  4. Dulce 5:07$0.99  Buy MP3 
  5. Flavor Bud Living (Instrumental) 1:36$0.99  Buy MP3 
  6. Her Eyes Are A Blue Million Miles 3:10$0.99  Buy MP3 
  7. In A Forest 3:39$0.99  Buy MP3 
  8. Judgement At Midnight Theme 1:39$0.99  Buy MP3 
  9. Judgement (Instrumental) 2:46$0.99  Buy MP3 
10. Oat Hate (Instrumental) 2:30$0.99  Buy MP3 
11. Follow 3:33$0.99  Buy MP3 
12. Astro Boy 2:19$0.99  Buy MP3 
13. Indian War Whoop (Instrumental) 2:47$0.99  Buy MP3 
14. She Was Showing Me 2:28$0.99  Buy MP3 
15. Ted's Theme (Instrumental) 1:54$0.99  Buy MP3 
16. Golgotha 5:26$0.99  Buy MP3 
17. Breath Of Bones 6:13$0.99  Buy MP3 
18. Listen, You Who Dare/ Improve The Shining Hour (Instrumental)13:00Album Only

Product Details

  • Audio CD (March 28, 2000)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Knitting Factory
  • ASIN: B00004BYYJ
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #430,573 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By BB on June 27, 2000
Format: Audio CD
(...)If Gary Lucas was ever a guitar rookie, it doesn't show here. This is Lucas' Biograph, his Basement Tapes: sterling songs and instrumentals that lay somewhere like loose gems in a drawer waiting for the right setting. Lucas, who has played with everyone from Leonard Bernstein to Captain Beefheart, has the true artist's need to copter again and again into fresh territory, to see how his skills and vision can interact with new forms. Included here are solo acoustic guitar pieces (some with Lucas' own vocals, something he has been too shy about), others are shimmering sheets of controlled electric sweetness. Lyrics range from the zany to the philosophical. One of the best pieces here is an earth-toned, slide guitar and tabla driven, version of "Spider Web," a song Lucas wrote with Joan Osborne and which was nominated for a Grammy. Lucas also includes a few pieces from his days with Captain Beefheart. The best of these is the the instrumental "Oat Hate" (Beefheart's name for sexual jealousy). Lucas also includes his comic side: the "Astro Boy" theme, excerpted from an unreleased (WHAT? why?) album with Peter Stampel. But, for me, the big blue diamond here is "She was Showing Me," from the "Darn It!" album. Lucas' music here is layered, skewed, with an astonishingly original and dense kind of counterpoint---this one of those Lucas tracks that makes me wonder why someone isn't calling up the Kronos Quartet and saying, "Listen to this!" Lucas is not just a good, but a brilliant composer. One wonders, how many more gems is he keeping hid?
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 13, 2003
Format: Audio CD
Blues, rock, avant garde, jazz, musical accompaniment to a narrative, African influenced, an energetic, humorous children's tune, and what the CD jacket describes well as "sensuous dementia" - this record draws a little from a lot of categories. The amazing thing is how well executed they all are. Gary Lucas seems to be afraid to tackle nothing and these tracks include solo instrumentals, his own vocals, and vocals by others, including Don Van Vliet (Captain Beefheart), the delicate voice of Eli Medeiros, the raw power of Eric Mingus, and the husky but expressive David Johansen.
The eclecticism is only one appeal. There simply isn't an unmemorable track on the album. The understated beauty of the Latin influenced "Dulce" is spotlighted by Eli Medeiros' sweet vocals. It's a song that makes you want to cuddle up to someone special on the dance floor with its sensuous flavor. My favorite song on this CD is "Breath of Bones," which defines its own sound that is very difficult to categorize neatly in a box of perfectly designed criteria. The beginning solo electric guitar with effects creates a psychedelic aura that foretells an unknown event that promises to thrill. Vocals, which appear later, are by Lucas, whose low, seductive (almost) whisperings accent perfectly this totally funky creation. As with most innovative and intelligent music, these are songs that seem to present a new facet each time you listen to them. I found this especially true with his Grammy-nominated song, "Spider Web," vocally interpreted here by a very bluesy David Johansen.
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