258

Gary Lucas: The Edge of Heaven

AAJ Staff By

Sign in to view read count
Gary Lucas: The Edge of Heaven These days it seems like producers are constantly scrambling for the next "untouched" genre to market, from Cuban sones to hardcore bluegrass to bamboo percussion from Micronesia. Novelty sells, or so they believe. Thus the hype surrounding Gary Lucas's latest album, The Edge of Heaven. Some of you may know Lucas from his edgy guitar work with Captain Beefheart's Magic Band, while others might have him pegged as a charter member of Manhattan's loft music scene. (He's got street cred, having been recorded by John Zorn and other tastemakers in that hermetically sealed world.)

And you might be ready to write him off at this point, but that would be a big mistake — Lucas, a master guitarist, puts a wicked, bluesy spin on old Cantonese pop tunes. Though the album concept might sound dubious, it's anything but: the music has a delicate, evanescent loveliness that goes far toward explaining Lucas's fascination.

As he tells it, a business trip to Taipei in the mid-1970s was the start of it all. While there, he fell very hard for Chow Hsuan and Bai Kwong, the top women singers from the 1930s through the '50s. Lucas was so besotted that he began opening Captain Beefheart shows with medleys of their songs, played for Chinese weddings, the works. And he eventually talked someone into letting him record this album, which (in my book) is a good thing. His ferocious technical ability could have sunk the project, but The Edge of Heaven is no chops-fest — I think Lucas would rather die than trivialize this exceedingly lovely music.

He comps for singers Celeste Chong and Gisburg with a feather-light touch, but this is where the going gets a bit tricky. Chong's passionate restraint brings the lyrics home sans translations, but Gisburg's cool, emotionally distanced interpretations are another thing. They're interesting enough in their way, but they simply don't grab my imagination like Chong's. (Or Lucas's instrumentals, for that matter.)

The Edge of Heaven is highly diverting, and it certainly bears up under repeat listenings. But I'd far rather hear the recordings that captured Lucas's imagination in the first place. Here's hoping his work here spurs someone to risk releasing them for the U.S. market.


Track Listing: 1. Old Dreams; 2. Please Allow Me to Look at You Again; 3. The Mad World; 4. The Wall; 5. If I'm Without You; 6. Night in Shanghai; 7. Where is My Home; 8. Songstress on the Edge of Heaven; 9. I Wait for Your Return; 10. Pretense; 11. The Moon in the Street; 12. The Wall; 13. Please Allow Me to Look at You Again

Personnel: Gary Lucas: acoustic, electric and National Steel guitars, electronics; Celeste Chong, vocals (2, 6, and 8); Gisburg, vocals (4, 9 and 11); Ernie Brooks, bass (4, 9, 11, 12); Jonathan Kane, drums (4, 9, 11, 12).

Title: The Edge of Heaven | Year Released: 2003 | Record Label: Label Bleu


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Albert Mangelsdorff And His Friends CD/LP/Track Review Albert Mangelsdorff And His Friends
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: August 16, 2017
Read Heaven On Their Minds CD/LP/Track Review Heaven On Their Minds
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: August 16, 2017
Read Unnatural  Events CD/LP/Track Review Unnatural Events
by Roger Farbey
Published: August 16, 2017
Read Rediscovered Ellington CD/LP/Track Review Rediscovered Ellington
by James Nadal
Published: August 16, 2017
Read Clean CD/LP/Track Review Clean
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: August 15, 2017
Read Expedition: Duo Electro-Acoustic Improvisations CD/LP/Track Review Expedition: Duo Electro-Acoustic Improvisations
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: August 15, 2017
Read "Glitter" CD/LP/Track Review Glitter
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 12, 2017
Read "Ugly Beauty" CD/LP/Track Review Ugly Beauty
by Nick Davies
Published: July 20, 2017
Read "Big Wheel Live" CD/LP/Track Review Big Wheel Live
by Glenn Astarita
Published: October 17, 2016
Read "Dialectrical" CD/LP/Track Review Dialectrical
by John Sharpe
Published: June 19, 2017
Read "Have Yourself an Alto Madness Christmas" CD/LP/Track Review Have Yourself an Alto Madness Christmas
by Jack Bowers
Published: December 4, 2016
Read "Conditions" CD/LP/Track Review Conditions
by Mark Sullivan
Published: September 16, 2016

Sponsor: JANA PROJECT | LEARN MORE  

Support our sponsor

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.