The envelope-pushing former Captain Beefheart and Jeff Buckley collaborator chooses his finest performances on this kaleidoscopic 40-year retrospective.

Gary Lucas

The Essential Gary Lucas

To paraphrase Casey Kasem, Gary Lucas keeps his feet on the ground and reaches for the stars. Since emerging as part of Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band in 1980, he’s honored the blues, folk, and world traditions as well as leapt into the stratosphere of jazz, art-rock, experimental, soundtrack, classical, and textural music. He’s recorded close to 50 albums as a leader or collaborator, and his instrumentals “Rise Up to Be” and “And You Will” were foundations for co-writing “Grace” and “Mojo Pin” with Jeff Buckley, when the latter was in Lucas’ band, Gods & Monsters.

Disc one features that longtime psychedelic rock outfit. The second spotlights rarities, solo performances, and songs with Beefheart, Nona Hendryx, Los Van Van, and others. The star is Lucas’ cosmic virtuosity, ripping raw down the rural backroads of acoustic 6-string or transforming Abdullah Ibrahim’s “Bra Joe From Kilimanjaro” into poetry that illuminates the entire emotional and sonic spectrum of electric guitar.

Must-hear tracks: All 36 of them

At L.A.’s Grammy Museum in 2011, Gary Lucas’ highly personal musical vision takes Abdullah Ibrahim’s “Bra Joe From Kilimanjaro” on an unpredictable sonic journey, ranging from delicate texturing to hard-edged shred. On another night, it might sound wildly different.


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