Considering how much has been done by now with the rock guitar, I'm amazed to hear somebody doing something with it that doesn't make me want to vomit or fall asleep. But New York-based guitar virtuoso Gary Lucas has a new CD out, Gods and Monsters, with an impressive cast of musicians' musicians--drummers Keith LeBlanc and Michael Blair, Pere Ubu bassist Tony Maimone, and vocalist Jon Langford of the Mekons--and some of the most consistently pleasurable and interesting rock-idiom guitar playing I've encountered recently. Lucas first came to prominence in the last recorded lineup of Captain Beefheart's Magic Band, which should be credentials enough for anybody; his performance of the Beefheart solo guitar composition "Flavor Bud Living" on Doc at the Radar Station (1980), all hand-wrenching fingerings and rapid pull-offs, was reportedly so physically demanding that it left him with shooting pains in his arm for days after the studio session. It's one thing for a guitarist to play fast and fluently--and Lucas does--but it's quite another for him to do so in a tuneful and imaginative way. Lucas is good at devising sparkly, colorful contexts for his work on electric and National steel, and though his CD could be faulted for a certain stylistic centerlessness, he's both intelligent enough and sufficiently aware of his own limitations (always willing to bring in a guest vocalist, for instance) to avoid most of the pitfalls that trip up so many virtuoso-sidemen-turned-bandleaders. Saturday, Lounge Ax, 2438 N. Lincoln; 525-6620.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/NAD.