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Gary Lucas / Busy Being Born

by Mark Melnick (email Mark Melnick)

Review | Personnel | Songlist/sound samples

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Album cover: Lovely painting of the devil trying not to hear a child blowing panpipes Gary Lucas
Busy Being Born

Tzadik Records, TZ7121, 1998

Gary Lucas, ubiquitous in the downtown New York City music scene and elsewhere with his acoustic, electric and National steel guitars, connects with John Zorn's Tzadik label to produce an eclectic album of Jewish-themed works. Funny how the childhood ditty writ be-bop and the avant garde writ sweet can rendez-vous at the far end of the circle. This CD has bite: "Crawlspace," a fantasy of escape, impales wistful lyrics with a driving, Velvets-esque beat. "The Mensch In The Moon," about, well, you know, infuses clever Yiddishisms into a naïve little number about our lovable lunar live-in. There is a veritable Viennese Table of homages here, to everyone from Zero Mostel to Groucho Marx to Popeye to Betty Boop. Yes, certain pieces do have elements of atonality, but never to the point of anarchy and always in a context of great wit. This CD spans a near minyan of genres -- rock, klezmer, free jazz, punk and in a twisted sort of way, prayer. At the end of the disc, as the ex-Yalie Lucas completes his third version (!) of "Adon Olom," one does not know whether to remove the clip from one's tallis or the safety pin from one's ear. "He not busy being born is busy dying," Bob Dylan first told us. Gary Lucas is not busy dying, tenk Gut.

From a former member of Captain Beefheart, a CD of real fleisch.

Reviewed by Mark Melnick (email Mark Melnick), 11/11/98.


Personnel this recording:
Gary Lucas: acoustic, electric & National steel guitars, vocals, arrangements
Greg Cohen: acoustic bass
Jonathan Kane: drums

Kenny Hurwitz & Larry Fine: vocals on tracks 2, 7, 12 & 17
John Zorn: alto sax on track 1, 2 & 4
Misako Kano: piano on track 14



  1. Adon Olom -- instrumental (trad.) 1:30
  2. Adon Olom -- vocal (trad.) 3:11
  3. Shekhinah (Lucas) 2:19
  4. Sandman (Lucas) 4:27
  5. Sunrise Sunset (Bock, Harnick) 2:53
  6. Tradition (Bock, Harnick) 2:35
  7. The Mensch In the Moon (Lucas, Horn) 5:07
  8. Lydia, the Tatooed Lady (Harburg, Arlen) 2:06
  9. Crawlspace (Lucas) 3:08
  10. Dayenu/Dreidel (trad.) 2:56
  11. Fleisherai (Timberg, Lerner, Green) 3:01
  12. A Hundred Pounds of Clay (Elgin, Dixon, Rogers) 2:41
  13. The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao (Harline) 2:06
  14. Abie the Fishman (Lucas) 2:28
  15. Hinay Ma Tov (trad.) 2:53
  16. Theme From Exodus (Gold) 2:50
  17. Adon Olom -- a cappella (trad.) 2:56

Sound samples of all songs available at:


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