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's 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. (RS 551)
(Posted: May 4, 1989)
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