I can’t really call the Masters of Reality a band. It’s a guy. But singer-songwriter-guitarist-producer Chris Goss has managed to surround himself with an ever-shifting array of wicked little sidemen, and has crafted some of the best new classic hard rock of the past two decades. Every album is different, and every song is different, from party-time hard rock to gentle ballads, from psychedelic sonic tapestries to jam-based guitar freakouts, and also a song about riding a bicycle around at night.
Actually, it’s been 20 years since I first found this band. I’d never heard of them, but the crazy-ass LP cover of the band’s self-titled debut caught my eye in a record store, so I bought it, put it on, and heard the butt-smacking sonic barrage of a short intro called Theme For The Scientist Of The Invisible, followed by the crunchy chordwork of a track called Domino.
I don’t know why Steven Seagal is in this video. Sorry about that.
That disc, along with Blue Oyster Cult’s Imaginos, was the soundtrack of that summer, my last summer as a teenager. I can still bring those hot months back by popping either one of these albums on the turntable … well, clicking on iTunes, as it were.
But then … nothing. Grunge happened, and this kind of music faded out, and in a pre-Internet world, finding out whatever happened to the Masters was pretty much impossible. The first album wasn’t a hit. They vanished.
So I was stunned five years later when the Masters of Reality re-emerged, this time with a new lineup that included Ginger Baker on drums, with a disc called Sunrise on the Sufferbus. This was an entirely different animal, a melodic pop-rock album, but still a total winner. It was new, it wasn’t grungy and it had Ginger Baker, that overly distilled English drum legend, who sort of raps through a great little track called T.U.S.A., which is all about how he can’t get decent tea in the States.
Things were quiet for a few years before How High The Moon, a live disc recorded at the Viper Room in L.A., roared forth, and man, what an epic. A thundering new version of The Blue Garden (from the first album) accompanied by a gorgeous tune called Jindalie Jindalie, sung by Scott Weiland of STP … this is one of the best live discs ever made.
After that, things got a little strange. Goss retreated to the Palm Desert, where he produced acts like Kyuss, Queens of the Stone Age and Cult singer Ian Astbury. A new Masters album comes out every couple of years; they’re more experimental, far more challenging, but still rock nicely. And Goss’s understated vocals have gotten stronger as the years wear on.
I don’t know anyone who’s even heard of this band, but I try to turn new people on every chance I get. It usually works. People hear songs like John Brown, Kill the King, Ants in the Kitchen or Jody Sings and they say “Who ARE these guys?”
So trust me on this one. If you come across the Masters anywhere, especially the first three discs, give them a shot. You will rock.
- Masters of Reality (aka The Blue Garden), 1988
- Sunrise on the Sufferbus, 1993
- How High The Moon, 1997
- Welcome to the Western Lodge, 1999
- Deep in the Hole, 2001
- Flak n Flight, 2003
- Give Us Barabbas, 2004
- Pine/Cross Dover, 2008
The gatefold cover to the original vinyl debut album,
the image that sucked me in.