This album shows no mercy as it takes captive its listeners from the very get-go with "Vampire Circus." This song has a unique blend of the avant garde, pleasingly macabre, psychedelia, and pure sweet rock that only Gary Lucas can create. One of the many joys of this album is that each song croons its own symphony. The songs are not merely rehashes of the same melody and jumble of words, as evidence on far too much of today's music.
"Poison Tree" was the seductive introduction to me of (Canadian) Mary Margaret O'Hara's uniquely fabulous, jazzy voice. The intriguing dreamy but punctuated melody seems to whisper some covert knowledge that teases the listener. Notes with the CD say that this is the very first song Gary Lucas attempted to write - whoa! Many mainstream songwriters with literally dozens of songs under their belts can only dream of writing anything closely resembling this slightly ominous but wonderful gem.
"Jericho" showcases the enticingly sweet voice of Sonya Cohen, riding high on a surfboard over the flowing waves of Gary's unbelievable acoustic guitar. The song is spiced with flavors of folk, but like a great deal of Gary's songs, cannot be lassoed and branded into one generic genre.
"Whip Named Lash" is a dark but brilliant response to the Gulf War over a decade ago. The melody punches with cynicism and sinisterness which coincide with highly clever and thought-provoking lyrics. One can only wonder what jewels may be carved out of the world's political situation that exists at the time this review was written.
The bonus tracks are true treasures of an encore to this phenomenal album. "And You Will" is the original melody which later became "Mojo Pin" with the addition of lyrics by the late Jeff Buckley. "Rise Up to Be" is the template to "Grace" again before Jeff added the words. Both are beautiful and unique melodies that stand proud and strong by themselves.
One of the perplexing beauties of this album is that it's nearly impossible to categorize. Gary mixes a bit of folk, jazz, psychedelia, hip-hop, and rock among other hues in this bright palette of art. He simply doesn't fit neatly into any category and like a true musical genius, fashions his own mold with unique vocals and melodies. This diverse album is only the tip of the iceberg into his lush talent. Who could begin to predict that his repertoire would include, among many other things, Chinese pop, knee-slapping folk, beautiful love songs, traditional Jewish music, solo acoustic and electric guitar, and a live accompaniment to a 1921 German Expressionist film with flavors of psychedelia?
The real question is, what can't Gary Lucas master? Fortunately for us, I think the answer is pleasantly, "nothing."