Masters of Reality

9.2 Overall Score
Songwriting: 10/10
Cover art: 9/10
Musicianship: 9/10

The songs. The songs. And the songs.

I do not like the band's name.

Masters Of Reality
Def American Recordings
1988

Today I will let you in on a little music reviewer’s secret – reviewing bad albums is a lot more fun than reviewing great ones.  With the bad ones you get to make all sorts of jokes, jabs, puns and amuse yourself with other shenanigans. With the good, and especially great, ones the focus is a lot more on having fun by exposing people to great music that they have never heard before than by having fun at a bad band’s expense. Nonetheless I’d prefer to review only great ones, since they seem to be thin on the ground these days. Today you are getting a great one. A masterpiece, dare I say the word. But it really is very, very good. And, as I am traveling and have spotty Internet connections and a crappy laptop, I am going to review something that I am already very familiar with.

In 1988, a gentleman named Chris Goss wrote a few tunes and built a band around them which he called Masters of Reality (an obvious and almost direct ripoff of the Black Sabbath album called Master of Reality). This is something that usually signals bad things to come, ie. if a band cannot even think of an original name for themselves then how good can the music be? But fortunately this is not the case here. This is a great album filled with great songs (by the way, the original name of the band was the Manson Family, which would have screwed Marilyn pretty well…).

The first thing you should know about this album is that the original release from 1988 was re-released in slightly different form in 1990. Both editions are the same except for the cover art, however the 1990 version has an extra track on it called Doraldina’s Prophecy, which is definitely worth your time.  If this review makes you want to listen to the album try to get the 1990 issue with Doraldina’s Prophecy on it as it is certainly up to the bar set by the rest of the songs, actually it exceeds that bar and is one of their best songs.

When trying to describe this album, many reviewers and fans compare it to Cream.  And I agree with them. It’s not that they sound just like Cream, because they do not, but there is SOMETHING Cream-like about the record. To this reviewer it sounds like Disraeli Gears meets the studio side of Wheels of Fire as far as the Cream thing goes. And, on their second album, Sunrise on the Sufferbus, Ginger Baker of Cream actually played drums and Masters of Reality scored their closest to a hit song with She Got Me (When She Got Her Dress On) which was a minor hit and got a bit of airplay. The band has continued making records to this day, but it has been a revolving door situation with Chris Goss as the only constant. However all of their albums have been interesting in one way or another, and the revolving door, rather than being a hindrance, insures a fresh sound every time.

This review, though, is about their self-titled first album, released by Def American in 1988 and produced by the ever-controversial Rick Rubin. I do not throw the word masterpiece around, but I think it applies here.  This is a really good record. You have flat out rockers such as Domino and Kill The King (listen for a particular Jimmy Page lick in that one – I could not tell you if that was done purposely or not but I think not as it is an obscure lick), heavy psychedelic stuff like The Blue Garden (and Doraldina’s Prophecy from the 1990 release), and more that defies positive categorization. Every song on this record is different – not something that you get a lot of these days. It would have been interesting had the original band kept on going to see where it would have ended up but no matter, if you are a fan of hard rock you can pick up any of their records and find something interesting. Having said that I definitely recommend starting with the first, self-titled release as it is their best in this reviewer’s opinion and just may turn out to be one of your favorites.

I do not know if there will ever be records as good and as original and varied as this one is made again. I certainly hope so. But regardless of that, if you like hard rock music but have yet to be exposed to Masters Of Reality then I would suggest that you seek this one out.

 

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Jeff Strichart
Author: Jeff Strichart View all posts by

Jeff Strichart has been a frustrated musician for almost forty years. He is also a producer and has mixed and/or mastered many local Colorado bands. Aside from his music and production he enjoys his dogs, motorcycles, collecting vintage BMX bicycles, reading and his new found love of sound design using hardware synthesizers and has licensed material to the BBC for use in their television programs.

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