Masters of Reality | Sunrise On The Sufferbus | How High The Moon | Welcome To The Western Lodge
 Deep In The Hole | Flak 'n' Flight | Give Us Barabbas | Pine/Cross Dover

Masters of Reality


Masters of Reality
5/5 (for ageing rockers)
3½/5 (for young bucks)

Neither that rating nor this review is intended to be age-ist, but I think I can say without fear of contraception, that my only doubt about this debut album is what those of you who have yet to see your 21st birthdays will make of it!

Everyone in this office who has to indulge in half-imagined fiction when they speak of their own personal 'coming of age' (cough) has, without exception, stopped in their tracks and exclaimed, 'Bloody hell! Who is that?' in stunned admiration whenever I've played this tape. Me, I keep grinning, shout, 'Masters of Reality - Rick Rubin's latest', and try to remember again... just what was I doing on that March evening...

Anyways up, this is Rubin's latest adopted baby and no, I don't know who the parents were. I've got a guess that they were born this side of the last world war, and I'm absolutely certain they were making music in the late '60s/early '70s. Maybe they were in the Doors, Cream, ELP, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Black Sabbath, Frank Zappa's Mothers, Led Zeppelin... need I go on?

Yes I do, because I don't want to give you the impression that Masters of Reality have made a record that's a historical relic... or nothing more than a collection of riffs-and-hooklines-we-have-loved, because it ain't. These four enigmatic guys have turned in something devoid of clichés nd packed with real guts, soul and POWER. The roots may lie in the past but the feel of Blue Garden is modern, the sound is BIG.

It opens with a cataclysmic cacophony called 'Theme For The Scientist Of The Invisible' - natty huh? - then segues into 'Domino', a heavy an' hectic romp with the title hauntingly intoned and repeated over a simple but explosive drum pattern.

After that it's a veritable cornucopia of textures, moods and bloody fine songs. Some are fast but most are mid-tempo to slow (like the title track). Some are ultra-heavy ('Kill The King' opens with a riff that Slayer would kill for) but several are almost folky acoustics (like 'Lookin' To Get Rite' or 'John Brown'). Some are bluesy, almost gentle (like 'Gettin' High' or Sleep Walkin''), but most are subtly heavy and deceptively brutal as in their tribute to ZZ Top, 'The Eyes Of Texas'.

But on initial plays I kept coming back to 'The Candy Song' with it's totally infectious hookline and chorus, 'Sugar girl knocks me offa my feet/The price is high but the candy's sweet', and the weird (but wonderful) 'Magical Spell'. If you've ever been mesmerised by a passing body, this track tells your drooling, sordid story with an almost comical guitar/piano interplay so lazy and hypnotic it could only be moving in time to some girl's hipswing.

As I dash for the cold shower I start to wonder who the hell these guys are...

Says biog: Chris Goss (vocals/guitar/keyboards) is the mainman, a former punk who named the band - in '81 - "to fill the void in the record store bins between Dave Mason and Paul McCartney". Tim Harrington (lead guitar) co-writes all the songs with him but describes himself as, "other-wordly, noble. In a word, kingly." Googe (bass) is a "Renaissance man" and a bona fide chef (!), while drummer Vinnie Ludovico is said to be "marginally disturbed, a reincarnation of Mussolini - in a nice kind of way."

Now you'd expect that little lot to come up with an indescribable LP and you won't be disappointed, they did.

Hell! Let's just say that if this record was a book it'd be an encyclopedia. If it was an encyclopedia it'd have more volumes than 'Britannica'. And if a guy knocked on my door to sell me one, I'd steal his whole suitcase. [Neil Jeffries]


Rolling Stone:

Masters of Reality

As the procession of young bands who grew up listening to Seventies FM radio continues, the reputations of many once forgotten or ridiculed bands have been enhanced. And though it isn't a surprise to hear Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin and AC/DC saluted by today's hard-rock brats, it has gotten to the point where even the dregs of the era are enjoying revisionism – Guns n' Roses praise Nazareth, and Bon Jovi champions Uriah Heep.

Within this context, Masters of Reality are nearly ambitious; they remember the Sixties. Singer Chris Goss has a vaguely mystical, jazz-influenced tenor reminiscent of Jack Bruce, and on a psychedelic jam like 'The Blue Garden', Masters of Reality sound a lot like Cream. Other songs demand other comparisons: 'Gettin' High' is an antiwork, dropout yarn in the spirit of Bachman-Turner Overdrive; 'Magical Spell' sounds like the Doors rehearsing a version of Bob Dylan's 'Rainy Day Women #12 and 35'; and the grandiose, droning acoustic metal of 'John Brown' could impress even Kingdom Come's biggest fans.

In compliance with the genre, a few of the Masters' songs are about their dicks. But most of the goofy lyrics avoid any clear meaning: 'John Brown' may be about a public hanging. The tone of the album is chiefly set by imagery and ominous, sustained chords that summon the comic-book terror of Black Sabbath and Alice Cooper. The Masters playfully scramble sources without making a commitment to any hard-rock fellowship.

Producer Rick Rubin, whose love of AC/DC's characteristic rhythm-guitarsnare-drum axis shows in his production of the Beastie Boys and the Cult, probably chose this Syracuse, New York, quartet for his second production on his Def American label because the band plays with terrific economy. Goss' voice may trip a few memories, but it is drummer Vinnie Ludovico's shifting backbeat that certifies Masters of Reality as disciples of a better generation of hard rock. [Rob Tannenbaum]


Classic Rock:

Every Home Should Have One

Masters of Reality
A dreamy and wounded debut that got lost in the late-80s rush

Also sometimes referred to as The Blue Garden for it's distinctive cover artwork featuring a decidedly creepy twilight scene, Masters of Reality seemed desperately out of step when it appeared in January 1989. That it was forced to share column space with the likes of Roxx Gang, Exodus and Skid Row's eponymous debut illustrates how little the Syracuse, New York-based quartet had in common with their contemporaries of the day. MOR did, however, have Rick Rubin fighting their cause after the producer / Def American owner had discovered the band playing a gig in a Lower East Side fleapit called The Pyramid. Masters of Reality became the predominantly rap label's first rock release.

By that time, Masters of Reality had already been banging their heads against immovable metaphorical walls for almost seven years. Named, of course, after Black Sabbath's legendary third album, and already into their 30s by the time their breakthrough arrived, the band found themselves cast as square pegs into round holes. Early reviews were good, equating them with The Doors, Frank Zappa and The Mothers, Led Zeppelin, ZZ Top and even Emerson Lake and Palmer. At first it seemed as though Rubin's patronage would be useful, but away from specialist rock titles they were either dismissed as Sabbath impersonators or hopelessly outdated Goths.

While there could be no denying the quartet's retro roots, one listen to the album was all it took to confirm that they were doing something truly exciting with a bunch of unashamedly ancient influences. Many of Goss and Harrington's riffs had the gooey consistency of treacle, but were not as sickly sweet. And although the album was comprised of haunting hooks and carefully created textures, it also threw curveballs at a moment's notice. It would be too simplistic to tag them as Sabbath covering The Beatles, yet in layman's terms that's effectively what was going on in the deep grooves of songs like 'Gettin' High' and 'The Eyes of Texas'.

However, the album's overriding strength is still it's sheer diversity. While opener 'The Candy Song' quickly set the scene with a blend of psychedelic vocals and Zep-style power, many of the album's other songs left journalists scrambling in the dust as they attempted to make comparisons. Somehow, 'Domino' and the mysterious 'Doraldina's Prophecies' sounded like numerous other acts that the listener was momentarily able to pinpoint, but then they were like nothing else at all.

On paper, MOR also seemed like a fascinating bunch. Harrington, who co-wrote the songs, descibed himself in the accompanying biography as "kingly"; Ludovico claimed to be "a reincaration of Mussolini - in a nice kind of way"; Goss, meanwhile, professed to have set up the band in order to "fill the void... between Dave Mason and Paul McCartney".

That's all water under the bridge, because in 2001 Goss is all that now remains of the original band. The intervening years have also seen him producing the likes of Queens Of The Stone Age and Scott Weiland. Goss remains a mythical figure who always appears poised on the precipice of the big time, although earlier this month a line-up that included Josh Homme and Nick Oliveri from QOTSA toured the UK. Both of Goss' proteges have now gone on to become bigger attractions than the original Master. Listen to Masters of Reality and that's more perplexing than ever. [Dave Ling]

Sunrise On The Sufferbus

Rolling Stone:

Masters of Reality - Sunrise On The Sufferbus

Masters of Reality have conjured a fantasy land for Sixties-bred acid eaters and their tie-dyed progeny. Sunrise on the Sufferbus takes its name from the chronic insomnia that left singer-guitarist Chris Goss and drummer Ginger Baker greeting the sun through bus windows on the band's 1989 tour. But more than sleep deprivation induced the Masters' refreshing hallucinosis. Their sound is also a matter of refinement and a determination to fuse melodies with the psychedelic power blues of Cream and other heavy-mannered trip-rock antecedents.

Baker, who signed on for that tour and stayed, is an obvious reason this trio sounds Creamier than on its debut, Masters of Reality, which due to label complications was released in 1988 and again in 1990. His playing elevates these songs beyond the appealing, bestial blues rock of the Masters' first college-radio hit 'Doraldina's Prophecies'. On the new single 'She Got Me (When She Got Her Dress On)' and other cuts, Baker's sticks tap out impeccable time-keeping, cross-stitched with counterrhythms and brilliant fills. And Goss' singing has sweetened enough that he's often a ringer for Baker's old band mate Jack Bruce.

Baker's elegant command gives Goss and bassist Googe limitless freedom, which they wisely refuse. Discipline makes this an ideal soundtrack for spin-dancing in grassy fields (and may explain why the mellotron textures recall early King Crimson). Googe plays it supportive, laying rich-toned lines deep at the bottom of the sonic well. Goss is a ripping guitarist, yet his riffs and solos, including the cock-rock screamer he uncorks in 'She Got Me', always thrive on a few hummable notes.

Even lyrics surrender meaning to melody. Many, like those of 'V.H.V.' and 'She Got Me', are little more than mantras. Others are goofy surrealist doggerel, like the line "Stuck in Indiana with a bug in my banana" from 'Ants in the Kitchen', a song that's already captivated David Lynch. There's also a cheeky acoustic ode to Madonna, with Goss wondering aloud if she's lonely, asking, "Do you really want to be a bad girl, after all?"

Regardless of the Masters' aspirations, they'll probably never be media stars. They are an ugly lot – but a great rock & roll band. [Ted Drozdowski]


Entertainment Weekly:

Masters of Reality - Sunrise On The Sufferbus
Rating: A-

Yeah, the leaders of this offbeat L.A. trio are masters. Why else would their 1988 debut have impressed two separate labels, which released it two separate times? Why else would they have landed Cream's deft and powerful Ginger Baker as the drummer on this second release? Why else would they write lyrics as pithy as haiku? Why else would their tight little countrified rock songs sound so wise and assured? [Greg Sandow]



Masters of Reality - Sunrise On The Sufferbus

Close your eyes, open your mind, and I'll talk out of my arse (hey, they pay me to do this!). If the process of brainwashing didn't actually describe the exact opposite of the operation, then I'd use that misleading term to put across the basic vibe (maaan) of Sunrise On The Sufferbus. It's definitely a cerebral cleanser. Music for the relaxed, nd in my case, therapy for the hyper.

Masters of Reality feature (and are no doubt extremely proud to) rock-fossil drummer Ginger Baker, ex of '60s supergroup Cream, blah, blah, blah. Ginge, in his consummate excellence, being the backseat driver to his fellow even flow-ers, Chris Goss on vox and geetar and Googe on the bass. And if effective riff sequences and often odd melody lines were a trademark of Cream, then MOR (there's a joke there, I'm sure) work, nay, play with the beauty-lies-in-simplicity principle nicely. Even leaving one to ponder, in the production scheme of things, how much is actually down to the layering of the volume.

Take opener 'She Got Me', f'rinstance. Too cool. Toooo fuckin' cool. Understated punctuation with aerobic rivvums - yet with some ham-fisted mixin' and a certain Mr. Tyler yelpin' out the words, this baby could snake it's way into the grooves of any Aerosmith record! Makes you think (and they don't pay me to do that!).

Interesting too, is how the laaaid back blues and slight jazzy, jam-like feel to Sufferbus could have had this freewheelin' trio takin' any tune you care to drop yer needle onto (or aim a laser at) to Grateful Dead-type proportions. But no unnecessary wanking here; when the job's done, it's done, with songs fading willy-nilly after a tidy few minutes, and even, like 'V.H.V.', culminating with an almost rude abruptness!

Vocally, Goss has a haunting, Morrison quality; spliffed-out and riding on his own cloud, yet still melting into the music like a knob of butter on a steaming crumpet. Lyrically, however, there seems to be some intentional inanity and piss-takin' goin' down. Hark: "Wish I was a rabbit, rabbits can run..." ('Rabbit One'), and "Stuck in Indiana with a bug in my banana..." ('Ants In The Kitchen'), whereas Blighty member Ginger Baker goin' off on one about the septic tanks' inability to make a decent cup o' Rosie in 'T.U.S.A.' has to be heard to be believed!

Sunrise On The Sufferbus is the perfect complement to a cold beer on a hot, lazy afternoon, and could well be the refreshing mood change you've been craving to segregate repeated plays of Kiss' Alive III and Wolfsbane's Massive Live Injection... [Ray Zell]

How High The Moon
Live at the Viper Room


Masters of Reality - How High The Moon: Live at the Viper Room

Masters of Reality. Remember them? They were on the cover of Kerrang! many moons ago, tipped for big things, and rightly so. Their first album, known as both Masters of Reality and The Blue Garden, actually got five Ks way back in 1990.

The Masters have been around for 17 years, but they didn't get signed until 1987, when Rick Rubin inked 'em to Def American. They put out the aforementioned debut to mass critical acclaim, tried to tour in support of it, decided they hated each other after all that time, and promptly split up.

A couple of years later, vocalist/guitarist Chris Goss and bassist Googe got together with ex-Cream drummer Ginger Baker and put out a second album, 1993's Sunrise On The Sufferbus. They were supposed to play the Reading Festival that year too, but Baker decided he'd rather play polo and buggered off. Since then, Goss has been better known for producing the late, lamented Kyuss.

Basically, that explains why Masters of Reality aren't bigger than hell because, if you'll excuse the crap American vernacular, they fucking rock! Imagine a wonderfully twisted, hazy blues sound that drifts and soars like some huge dark bird riding the thermals, and your close to tracks like '100 Years', 'Alder Smoke Blues' and the wonderful 'Doraldina's Prophecies'. It's like smoking a spliff with God.

And every now and then they'll swoop in with something like 'Goin' Down' or 'She Got Me', and you'll be straight into shit-kickin', Jack Daniel's-swiggin', boogie-yo-fat-ass-off territory. The sort of stuff that so many bands attempt at bike shows, but so few get even close to pulling off.

Recorded live at LA's far-too-trendy Viper Room, the only time How High... drops a clanger is when the Masters let Scott Weiland from Stone Temple Pilots sing a song called 'Jindalee Jindalie'. As you might imagine from the stupid title, it sounds too much like some old hippy bleating on at the tail end of a festival for it's own good.

But otherwise, this is a fantastic record that captures the best of a band in a genre of their own. Masters indeed. [Mörat]

Entertainment Weekly:

Masters of Reality - How High The Moon: Live at the Viper Room
Rating: B

Talk about terminal stasis: Not only is the first album in four years from these onetime Rick Rubin proteges a live one, but it features only four new tunes. Still, the oldies are durable, and freshly-minted tracks like the acoustic 'Jindalee Jindalie' (sung by Stone Temple Pilots' Weiland) bode well for the future. [Tom Sinclair]


Welcome To The Western Lodge


Masters of Reality - Welcome To The Western Lodge

So who, you might reasonably ask, are the Masters of Reality?

To answer that you'd have to go back to 1990, when their eponymous debut album was awarded the full five Ks by the very organ of good taste you hold in your grubby mitts. With a fuzzed-up mire of a sound, the Masters were peeling out awesome stoner rock before that catch-all term was coined. But they were no mere one-dimensional juggernauts with it - mixing twisted blues and fat boogie-riffs with soaring, emotional head-trips, they genuinely sounded like a band who were capable of beating the world.

Then it all went a bit pear-shaped, with a series of splits leaving just two of the original band members to record 1992's critically acclaimed follow-up album, Sunrise On The Sufferbus.

This time around there's just the one, with Chris Goss supplying vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards and, quite possibly, the triangle and spoons as well. Skin-pounding is obviously not his forte because he's recruited a drummer in John Leamy. But, with Goss also handling production and songwriting this is pretty much a one-man show, which is an extremely impressive feat.

His vision is still an innovative and captivting one. Welcome To The Western Lodge lacks a lot of the obvious heaviness of it's predecessors but none of the magic. 'Moriah' features an insistent, driving riff, but the likes of 'Lover's Sky' and 'Time To Burn' rely more on subtlety, worming their way insidiously into your brain. There's a sinister, creeping edge to many of the songs, although Christ only knows what he's warbling on about in the lyrics. "Remember when mothballs were candy?" inquires Mr. Goss on the dark, edgy 'Take A Shot At The Clown'. Frankly, no we don't.

'Calling Dr. Carrion' and the superb, brilliantly-titled album opener 'It's Shit' are similarly oblique and spaced out in their subject matter, but that doesn't stop them from being deceptively catchy in their own completely oddball way.

Welcome To The Western Lodge certainly isn't a perfect record - the shuffling acoustics of 'Baby Mae' and the sweeping keyboards of 'Boy Milk Waltz', for instance, are hardly likely to trigger anything resembling rioting in the streets. But, for tense atmospherics and darkly quirky songwriting skill, the Masters remain, well, masterful.

So, what are you waiting for? [Paul Travers]


Masters of Reality - Welcome To The Western Lodge
Third studio outing from Palm Springs cult metal duo Chris Goss and John Leamy. Follows 1997's Live At The Viper Room.

You don't often find the words 'eagerly awaited' and 'metal album' in the same sentence in MOJO, but a new release from this consummate duo is, as cognoscenti will attest, an occasion. In the 11 years since their superb first album there have been just two others, one of them live. Naming themselves after Black Sabbath's 1971 hippy-gone-bad album, the band took it's contents as music's starting point, adding Southern rock riffs and a hippy twist to come out on their debut like Cream starring Tony Iommi. A concept they evidently liked since they recruited Ginger Baker for the mystical, muso follow-up Sunrise On The Sufferbus. 'Sweet Leaf' remains the Rosetta Stone by which they interpret rock, but this time the reading is less stoned-visionary, more prog-experimental, with Floyd, funk and psychedelic singalongs sharing the stage with stunning Cream-isms and Tony-Iommi-Is-God stonking doom riffs. [Sylvie Simmons]


Deep In The Hole


Masters of Reality - Deep In The Hole
5/5 Melodic post-stoner masterpiece

If you've yet to discover the recorded works of semi-legendary hard rock stalwarts Masters of Reality, then it's really about time that you got with the programme.

Fronted by the deliciously elusive Chris Goss - who, outside of his inspirational contributions to no less than five MOR albums, has also found time to produce Kyuss, Stone Temple Pilots and the epoch-making Rated R for Queens Of The Stone Age - Masters of Reality combine the sheer eruptive might of stoner central with the irresistable melodic lightness of touch of a reflective post-grunge Beatles or, indeed, David Bowie fronting the siamese dreaming Pumpkins. Their material is simply stunning, and with guest appearances from, among others, Josh Homme and Mark Lanegan, this should find its place deep in your heart. [Ian Fortnam]



Masters of Reality - Deep In The Hole
4/5 If Black Sabbath had taken even more drugs...

It's been a long, strange trip for Masters of Reality. Named after a Black Sabbath album and originally based in New York State, they signed to Rick Rubin's Def American imprint in the late '80s and released a brilliant debut album of whacked-out, whimsical and faintly evil psychedelic rock. This encouraged grouchy ex-Cream drummer Ginger Baker to join them for one album. Latterly, leader Chris Goss has paid the rent producing records for Kyuss, Stone Temple Pilots, Ian Astbury and Queens Of The Stone Age, whose big cheeses Josh Homme and Nick Oliveri appear on this, the fourth Masters album. Homme co-authored the quaint, Syd Barrett-inspired 'Roof of the Shed'. The remainder rocks as mightily as, well, Queens Of The Stone Age. Heavy shit indeed. [Paul Elliott]



Masters of Reality - Deep In The Hole

A striking return from Chris Goss, head honcho of Masters of Reality and production wiz famed for his work with Kyuss amongst others. Progressing from the weirdly psychedelic moodiness of his last effort Welcome To The Western Lodge, this is a lush concoction of variant textures. As expected from a producer of Goss' calibre, no harmony or carefully layered effect is out of place. Songs drift through the atmosphere, Goss' mellow vocals on 'Counting Horses' and 'Major Lance' soothing gently like vintage Bowie circa 'Space Oddity'. For those who desire rock with a little more urgency there are bursts of energy in 'High Noon Amsterdam' and 'Deep In The Hole' but the main body of work is music crafted for meditation and reflection. Chris has surrounded himself with familiar creative allies. 'Roof Of The Shed' is co-written with Josh Homme and although the album credits don't signpost who plays where, you can pick out splashes of his guitar work, joined by QOTSA cohort Nick Oliveri and Mark Lanegan rounded out with contributions by Troy Van Leeuwen (A Perfect Circle) and Dave Catching (The Earthlings). An impressive roster of friends and an impeccable album. [Marion Garden]


Rock Sound:

Masters of Reality - Deep In The Hole

Sorely underrated outside of their cult following, the Masters of Reality return with an album that's laden with so much groove and passion it hurts! Chris Goss - MOR's erstwhile leader and famed producer (QOTSA, Kyuss, Screaming Trees) leads the troupe of John Leamy (drums) and guest appearances by Josh Homme, Mark Lanegan and A Perfect Circle's Troy Van Leeuwen, to name but a few - through an album that begs to be heard. Recorded in Joshua Tree, California, Deep In The Hole reflects that laidback 'stoner' vibe which bands like Homme's QOTSA have made so popular. But make no bones, this ain't copyist bullshit, this is the real deal, a record that displays true genius at work - check out 'A Wish For A Fish' and 'Deep In The Hole' itself if you really want proof! Real music played by real people. [Darren Sadler]


Classic Rock:

Reality Check
New album shows once again why Masters of Reality are a band without peers

Masters of Reality - Deep In The Hole
4/5 Godfathers of stoner rock show the pretenders how it's done. Again.

Masters of Reality's Chris Goss once told Classic Rock he regarded the band as having "such a fucked-up career”. And maybe he had a point. It took them no less than eight years to release their debut album, yet when they did, in 1988, not only was it the first hard rock record on Rick Rubin's rap label Def American, Masters of Reality (or Blue Garden, depending on who you talk to) was also a stunning exercise in 60s-style hard rock improvisation. And then all went quiet.

When they returned in 1994 with ex-Cream legend Ginger Baker along for the ride as drummer on the even better Sunrise On The Sufferbus, it was sadly apparent that Masters of Reality seemed destined to remain one of metal's best-kept secrets.

Goss retired to the studio to help mould the stoner genre with his production work with Kyuss, though fortunately MOR have recently begun to raise their profile since 1997's How High The Moon..., firing away ever since on all cylinders.

The caustic and brilliant Welcome To The Western Lodge ('99) inspired only their second ever UK live show, but the really good news is that not only does Deep In The Hole bring with it the promise of more UK shows, but it's right up there with the very best the band has ever produced.

In a truly fair world the grindingly repetitive rhythms and cascading vocal harmonies of opening track 'Third Man On The Moon' would be the kind of hit that the Goss-produced 'The Lost Art Of Keeping A Secret' was for Queens Of The Stone Age. But then in a fair world Masters of Reality would have been a hugely successful band from the beginning. That they're not is something Deep In The Hole goes a long way to making a mockery of. Whether it's the equally compelling groove of 'High Noon Amsterdam' or the haunting Doors-like drift of the title track, on their new record the band are evidently on top form.

Yet perhaps what has always been best about Masters of Reality is the fact that while Goss may have helped pioneer the stoner sound through his production work, Masters have ploughed a slightly different furrow. 'Wish For A Fish' may operate along familiar Sabbath-type lines, but a dark, psychedelic blues flavour - not a million miles from 60s legends like Cream - continues to pervade their sound. Typically, they save the best for last, with 'Roof Of The Shed' (co-written with Josh Homme), a dreamy ride with a constantly sinister underbelly that explodes into a colourful Floydian climax, while 'Shotgun Son' rounds things off with a nice blast of sonic thuggery.

Deep In The Hole is an album that effectively links stoner rock with the past and, more importantly, reminds you of the debt metal owes Masters of Reality. Maybe it's not such a fucked-up career after all, then. [Jerry Ewing]


Flak 'n' Flight

Classic Rock:

Masters of Reality - Flak 'n' Flight

The greatest stoner band of them all return with a live album that is going to have devotees of the genre lurching and wheeling from side to side, swaying their maxi joints in time to the swing of the Masters.

Recorded on the band's recent European tour, when Queens Of The Stone Age pair Josh Homme and Nick Oliveri joined the fun, it sees stoner guru Chris Goss in his finest form, as the band go full pelt through 'Deep In The Hole', 'The Blue Garden', 'John Brown' and 'High Noon Amsterdam' (joined by ex-Screaming Tree Mark Lanegan) plus other genre essentials.

This is the band's second live album, although 1997's How High The Moon - Live at the Viper Room had only limited availability.

But there's no question that Flak... captures what makes Masters of Reality a magnificent band. The musicianship is tight yet flowing, the atmosphere is genuinely vibrant, and the whole ethos is one of capturing the moment for posterity.

Granted, there may be more successful stoner bands around, but none of them possess the Masters' touch of genius that separates the great from the merely stoned. And that touch has never been surer. [Malcolm Dome]


Metal Hammer:

Masters of Reality - Flak 'n' Flight

Recorded on a European tour that saw them sandwiched in-between lively openers Anyone and yawn-inducing headliner Mark Lanegan, Flak 'n' Flight captures Masters of Reality at their enigmatic, exciting best. With Josh Homme and Nick Oliveri both guesting in the band, and Lanegan appearing to contribute lead vocals to 'High Noon Amsterdam', this is an album to interest fans of Queens Of The Stone Age and just about anybody who enjoys hearing musos walking the tightrope. Songs like 'Why The Fly?' and 'The Blue Garden' are as dark, intense and mystical as the previous build-up would indicate, but 'Deep In The Hole' and 'Third Man On The Moon' are built around nagging hooks that will penetrate your consciousness and stay there for days. If you're seeking an introduction to the underground legend that is Masters of Reality then look no further! [Dave Ling]



Masters of Reality - Flak 'n' Flight
3/5 Second live album in five years from Chris Goss and co.

If you're a fan of Queens Of The Stone Age then you'll probably salivate over Masters of Reality too. Less successful but more influential, Chris Goss and his revolving musical collective (which featured both Josh Homme and Nick Oliveri at the time this was recorded) have been plying a less overtly heavy but equally inventive and expansive style of stoner rock for more than a decade now.

Loaded with classic songs and impeccable musicianship, this is jaw-droppingly good at times, but as with most bands of this ilk, Masters of Reality have a propensity for wandering off into interminably long-winded jams. Fine if you're stoned out of your gourd at the show, but it can prove an endurace test for the casual armchair listener. [Steve Beebee]


Give Us Barabbas


Masters of Reality - Give Us Barabbas

Pity Dave Grohl, Chris Goss has just run off with his 'hardest working man in rock' title. Not content with lending his considerable production skills to recent efforts by Melissa Auf der Maur, Nebula, Mark Lanegan and many others, he's also been busy keeping the embers of Masters of Reality alive. The last time we heard the name they - 'they' being QOTSA's Nick Oliveri and Josh Homme, as well as Goss and drummer John Leamy - were embarking on a short UK tour. That was December 2001 and, except for Goss, none of that touring line-up appears here. The reason is that this is an odds 'n' ends collection comprising unreleased cuts, newly-recorded old songs, anything in fact that's interesting. Remarkably, it all is, not least the skeletal jug-country stoner epic 'The Ballad Of Jody Frosty'. There's a lot more to this stoner lark than meets the ear, here's the proof. [Suzie Q]



Masters of Reality - Give Us Barabbas
5/5 Desert rock über-producer clears out the vaults.

He may be best known for his work with QOTSA, but Chris Goss has a history in rock music that stretches back nearly 20 years. And what a history it is. This is a scrapbook of previously unreleased acoustic and psychedelic rock gems; and unlike other odds and sods albums, whether it's the Beatles-esque 'I Walk Beside Your Love', the rhythm and blues of 'Brown House On The Green Road' or the shanty-style 'Off To Tiki Ti', every track is a stand-alone classic. [Caren Gibson]


Metal Hammer:

Masters of Reality - Give Us Barabbas
6/10 Average effort from Chris Goss and co.

Masters of Reality made some incredible music during the past decade-plus, including their self-titled and Rick Rubin-produced debut and Flak 'N' Flight, a live album that featured QOTSA stars Josh Homme and Nick Oliveri in far happier times. Give Us Barabbas presumably takes it's title from the Biblical character freed by the Jerusalem mob, condemning Jesus Christ to the cross in his wake. Deep stuff. However, these dozen songs are miles from the stylish stoner rock that MOR leader and QOTSA/Auf der Maur/Nebula producer Chris Goss has made his speciality. 'The Ballad Of Jody Frosty' retains his usual air of dark mystery, but like most of the rest it's built around a fragile acoustic framework. The formula succeeds on the up-tempo 'Brown House On The Green Road' and the trippy 'The Desert Song', but 'Off To Tiki Ti' sounds like Hare Krishnas jamming with some pissed-up waiters from the local tandoori restaurant. [Dave Ling]


Classic Rock:

Masters of Reality/Chris Goss - Give Us Barabbas

Telling most people that Masters of Reality are your favourite band ever will usually have you facing a blank look. Unless, of course, you've run into a fellow cult member.

So a new release, even one such as this - which is essentially a Chris Goss solo record with a few odds and sods chucked in, such as the studio version of 'Jindalee Jindalie', recorded with Scott Weiland on vocals and previously only available as a (long-deleted) single - is like a visitation from the ascended master.

Give Us Barabbas is mostly acoustic, enigmatic and mystical, crossing the line into folksy areas that Goss would never cross with Masters. High points for band obsessives are 'The Desert Song', featuring and co-written by Ginger Baker, and Beatles-esque opener 'The Ballad Of Jody Frosty'. That these songs are all so magnificent makes Goss' enigmatic, obscurantist status all the more irritating. In a just universe he would occupy the critical and commercial place where REM are inexplicably parked. [Tommy Udo]


Pine/Cross Dover


Masters of Reality - Pine/Cross Dover
4/5 The Gossfather returns with MOR's first studio cuts in almost a decade.

It's been a long time since production whiz and Masters of Reality mainman Chris Goss released new studio material. A live album and a curios collection is all fans have had to chew on since 2001's brilliant Deep In The Hole but as with most things the barmy baldy puts his name to, it's been worth the wait. Again hooking up with a host of familiar desert rock chums, Pine/Cross Dover bears all the hallmarks of a classic Goss record. Dipping a curious toe into many musical waters - the slouchy grooves of 'Absinthe Jim And Me', the improvised instrumental of 'Alfalfa' - it always feels like a welcoming musical party you will feel like returning to time and again. [David McLaughlin]

Classic Rock Society:

Masters of Reality - Pine/Cross Dover

Masters of Reality is a rock band formed by New Yorker guitarist and vocalist Chris Goss, a prime exponent of the stoner rock scene. Seen more as a vehicle for Goss with a revolving door policy when it comes to other band members, this new album sees John Leamy (drums/keyboards/guitar) joining Goss (vocals/guitar/bass/keyboards) and several guests to produce a worthy stoner rock album that is best played loud. Not a true heavy metal workout by any means but a heavy back beat and some quality make this a thinking man's rock album. [TC]

Rock Sound:

Masters of Reality - Pine/Cross Dover

Chris Goss' veteran 70s-obsessive collective have been digging into some more hipshaking than usual territory for their sixth album. Goss says Mahavishnu Orchestra and Public Image Ltd are the chief inspirations, and you can see what he means in the record's many expansive instrumentals, offset by claustrophobic loops of murderous bass. But for all their Sabbath-referencing ways, MOR have never been the heaviest mob in town, and some of the best moments here come not from death disco, but the real deal: somewhere around the funky core of 12-minute closer 'Alfalfa' you'll feel the need to strut, and hard. [Andrzej Lukowski]

Classic Rock:

Masters of Reality - Cross Dover/Pine
7/10 Twenty years on from the band's retro debut, Chris Goss and co. have produced a modernist take on his old influences.

It's more than 20 years since Masters of Reality's stunning self-titled debut, produced by Rick Rubin and released on his American Recordings imprint. That record was an icy re-imagining of hard rock, delving back into it's late-60s psychedelic come-down roots, where soul, jazz and blues were still identifiable ingredients in the brew. The album was smart and brilliantly conceived and executed. Every song was a gem. It was beautiful and it was subtle. It was, in fact, the antithesis of the unambitious, none-more-white, hair-metal monster that hard rock had become by 1988.

That record should have been the first step on frontman and songwriter Chris Goss' journey to global superstar status. Circumstances dictated otherwise. The original band fell apart messily and unhappily. The album was reissued two years later in different packaging, with the tracks in a different order and a few new ones added, which was confusing. Subsequent releases went minimally promoted and were difficult to come by.

These days Goss is better known as the John The Baptist of Josh Homme; Goss is Homme's friend, his mentor and his producer, a co-conspirator in the creation of so-called 'desert rock', and an inspiration to a whole semi-subterranean movement of bands and musos around the world. Label and distribution problems, health issues and his growing career as an in-demand producer have led Goss to run Masters of Reality as a spare-time hobby, the line-up reduced to a duo (with ex-Surgery drummer John Leamy), seldom touring and recording only sporadically.

There have been three good studio albums: Sunrise On The Sufferbus (their second album, with a line-up that included Ginger Baker on drums), Deep In The Hole and the Goss solo album (with some lost Masters tracks) Give Us Barabbas. There has been one so-so studio album in Welcome To The Western Lodge, and two essential live ones: How High The Moon and Flak 'N' Flight.

The first thing that's apparent on opening track 'King Richard TLH' is how far Chris Goss has come. The debut album was very much a retro work. This isn't. Goss makes no secret of his influences - The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Cream - and they still shine through. But this is more of a modernist take on them, like recent albums by Queens Of The Stone Age and Mark Lanegan. 'Absinthe Jim and Me' almost alludes to Depeche Mode at their darkest, the rock elements swamped by large blocks of synth. 'Worm In The Silk' is a disturbing, bad-acid nightmare, all mellotrons and disjointed melodies.

The album is divided into two sections. The Cross Dover songs are more experimental, more 2009, products of Goss the studio wizard who has worked with the likes of UNKLE. The Pine songs are more straight-ahead rock'n'roll. 'Rosie's Presence' in particular sounds like it could have been taken from the first album, a swaggering, Zep-glam bluesy number with a high-tension riff and very tasty, sub-ZZ Top solos. If anyone cared about singles these days, this would be a great one. The two other strongest songs on the album, 'The Whore of New Orleans' and 'Testify To Love', are also to be found towards the end.

Whether you hear the 12-minute space rock jam 'Alfalfa' as a witty and knowing nod to The Grateful Dead-meets-Mahavishnu Orchestra or as a formless waste of CD space is dependent on your tolerance for 12-minute space-rock jams in general. It certainly ends the album on an indefinite note - you almost don't notice that it has finished.

Cross Dover/Pine is a good album that will hearten long-time Masters of Reality admirers and maybe win over some of the more adventurous Queens Of The Stone Age fans. There's a lot to explore and a lot to fall in love with. It would be unfair to be in any way damning of Goss that he hasn't made an album exactly like, as good as or better than his debut; the bar was set far too high from the start.

Nevertheless you almost feel disappointed that Cross Dover/Pine is merely a very good record and not a work of visionary genius. [Tommy Udo]


Masters of Reality - Pine/Cross Dover
4½/5 Chris Goss is back, and sounding as good as ever!

Masters of Reality mainman Chris Goss may have had a little more success as a producer of other people's music than as a musician in his own right. This is patently true in commercial terms; yet it belies the fact that he has not only produced but helped define the sound of some of the most groundbreaking acts of modern rock (Kyuss, QOTSA and Mark Lanegan among others) while simultaneously expressing his creativity in the purest sense, never allowing commercial concerns to taint his art.

That notwithstanding, there's nothing inaccessible about his music. This is modern blues, directly descended from the early Stones or Grateful Dead, yet having retained the rawness and fire that most modern blues has devalued and stripped away in the pursuit of the dollar. Goss' band have their chops down, which in addition to their distinctive and original edge and his creamy-smooth voice adds up to a truly excellent listen.

Pine/Cross Dover is a well conceived, beautifully packaged and brilliant record – it has it's own distinct spot in Goss' output and it's own mood. A truly excellent album from a truly excellent band.

Metal Hammer:

Masters of Reality - Pine/Cross Dover
8/10 Desert rockers get progressive

It's been five years since the last Masters album, and 2004's Give Us Barabbas was more a collection of old material anyway, though given mainman Chris Goss' production duties over the years, that's understandable. When they do release an album, MOR normally hit the bullseye, and Pine/Cross Dover finds Chris and partner John Leamy in fine form, rattling through desert rockers like 'King Richard TLH' and 'Up In It' in earnest style. However, there's more than a whiff of experimentalism here - desert blues on 'Worm In The Silk', avant-instrumentalism on 'Johnny's Dream' and pandering to Chris Goss' love of prog rock on the 11-minute-plus 'Alfalfa'. It will be interesting to see how longtime fans react to that one [Jerry Ewing]


Masters of Reality - Pine/Cross Dover
3/5 Eno-esque, stoner-prog. With ocean theme!

As much as it's about riffs, stoner rock has always had a prog element, and it's that which Masters of Reality explore here. A project fronted by Chris Goss, a frequenter of Josh Homme's Desert Sessions, Masters of Reality duly have their share of heaviosity (opener 'King Richard TLH'), but the multi-part jam segments (12-minute 'Alfalfa', say) are the head-turning ones. in among all this, bizarrely, it's Goss' understated voice that keeps the project on the straight and narrow. Like Homme's, it's entirely free of bombast, and lifts this potentially quite absurd music into a very cool place indeed. [John Robinson]


Masters of Reality - Pine/Cross Dover

'Proper' new album from Chris Goss and his on-off band known as Masters of Reality. A rock record that once again touches on the later things Led Zeppelin did in quite a big way - bits of groove, bits of stoner rock, bits of Cream, very much rhythm orientated old school rock record once more. Mahavishnu Orchestra seem to have influenced things rather a lot this time around, bits of free-form instrumentals, lots of this is instrumental actually and once you let it flow and accept it for what it is and just let the groove and the prog-fusion and the bits of later Zeppelin goodness flow in that familiar Masters way - the Presence and the tinge and the groove and such – then this is a rather enjoyable new album, not sure how relevant it all is in 2009, enjoyable when the groove and flow gets you though...

Get Ready To Rock:

Masters of Reality - Pine/Cross Dover

Masters of Reality have never had the commercial success they deserve despite some good reviews back when they started in Kerrang! Maybe it is because the band, which is basically mainman Chris Goss, are so musically diverse despite often being lumped in with the stoner rock sound.

Whatever the reason each of their previous four albums are aural treats and this new one continues that fine trend. Joining Chris Goss are long standing drummer John Leamy and a couple of guest appearances by Eagles Of Death Metal bassist Brian O'Connor and guitarist Dave Catching, as well as former QOTSA guitarist Brendon McNichol.

Highlights are many but to pick a few 'Worm In The Silk' is a new musical departure for the band into dub bass. The thing I love about this band is whatever musical sound they try the melody still remains the focal point. 'Always' has the Beatles influence pop up again whilst 'Dreamtime Stomp' is the most instant song and has a very catchy chorus. If MOR did singles this would be the one and in an ideal world it would be a hit.

The album closes with a twelve minute plus jam session entitled 'Alfalfa'. The sleeve notes say this was recorded in one take and it will be right up the street of fans of bands like Cream and Widespread Panic.

Another strong album and hopefully this album will get heard beyond their loyal fan base as it would be criminal for it not to convert some new listeners. Tune in and chill out! [Jason Ritchie]

Über Röck:

Masters of Reality - Pine/Cross Dover

Stoner/Desert/Acid Rock label it whatever you will, Chris Goss is back and he's reinventing the wheel of rock all over again with his latest opus Pine/Cross Dover.

Having spent huge chunks of his musical career since the epoch making self titled Masters of Reality album flitting between producer and musician its with a very welcome to the latter this time around, and boy is this one hell of a musical journey of discovery.

Split into two segments 'Pine' and 'Cross Dover', this album is the sound of a creative genius doing what he loves and does best, and leaving his contemporaries scratching their collective goatee beards wondering just how they can follow this.

'Pine' gets things underway with some of the best songs Queens Of The Stone Age never wrote in the shape of 'King Richard TLH' and 'Always', whilst stretching your imagination through tracks like 'Johnny's Dream' and  'Worm In The Silk' which take you the listener outside of your usual comfort zones into the multicoloured musical tapestries that Mr Goss likes to paint.

'Cross Dover' is more of the same mix of down right stomping rock music and musical conundrums that you have to mentally unwind, 'Up In It' and 'Dreamtime Stomp' getting things off to a cracking start, the latter sounding like the twisted soundtrack of Ian Hunter fucking Kings of Leon whilst dreaming of Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd, and somehow managing to sound all the more original for it. 'Rosie's Presence' is T Rex if he had been born in Texas, whilst 'Testify To Love' tips its hat to the omnipresence of Jim Morrison and the Summer of Love with a chorus that echoes in your brain long after you've put this album down.

Album closer 'Alfalfa' is really of another planet, and I'm not even going to try and describe this twelve minute plus exploration of time and space, let's just say that overall a challenging or more self rewarding album you'll not find this year.

Will everyone like it? Nah, this isn't music for everyone, it's for people like you and me.

Catch Masters of Reality when they play a series of rare live European shows this October, and tell Chris Goss 'Über Röck sent you'. [Johnny H]


Masters of Reality - Pine/Cross Dover

The original desert rock gangster, Chris Goss has always taken his sweet time between Masters Of Reality records, and this long-time-coming album, the first in five years since Give Us Barabbas, and the first in eight years since last album proper Deep In The Hole, is a definite pleasure to behold. Like his recent Goon Moon excursion, it's an eclectic set – there's even a smattering of dub on 'Worm In The Silk' - and likewise features a host of guests including long-term cohort David Catching. But as usual, Goss' rock n' roll inclination dominates and, given his long-standing working relationship with Josh Homme, parallels with QOTSA are inevitable ('Up In It' is so Homme it hurts). While not without its faults, one thing you can bet on is that Goss always comes up with the goods – Pine/Cross Dover is a most welcome return from the Masters. [Bobby Bone]


Masters of Reality - Pine/Cross Dover

Chris Goss has rather suffered through his influence on the desert rock movement and the brilliance of his debut, a collection of off-kilter songs and infectious rockers that still stands up today.

Due to the sporadic nature of his offerings, any new Masters of Reality album is a bit of an event. He's always determinedly gone his own way, has Goss. This album is no different. It's actually two albums, with no real distinction between the two and both inspired, it seems, by a nearby beach and the ocean. It sees him moving further away from his rock roots, but that's not to say this is bad, in fact there are some lovely pieces here.

He's always had a rather wistful, quiet delivery, but on occasion here he has the spiky neurosis of David Byrne, fully in keeping with the eclecticism of the songs. From the fuzzy Sisters of Mercy drive of opener 'King Richard TLH' to the odd piano and downbeat bass of 'Absinthe Jim And Me', the percussive atmospherics of 'Johnny's Dream' and the '80s synth rocker 'Dreamtime Stomp', this will keep you guessing.

It's all about the vision, not the hits. If you're in the mood for that, the half bluegrass, half garage feel of 'Rosie's Presence' and massed voices and tumbling drums on stomper 'The Whore of New Orleans' will make perfect sense. Probably not to everyone's taste, but that's fine too. Even if you're in the zone though, the eleven-minute Grateful Dead jam 'Alfalfa' might still tax the spirit.

Leaving the desert behind, with nary a backward glance. [Steve Swift]