Masters of Reality – Blue Garden
There’s only one thing better than discovering new music and new bands: and that’s discovering old music and old bands that you have not heard before. (NB. There are of course many things that are more fun than both, but this is a family website, and I will leave such matters to your imagination).
So this is the first of a short series of articles that I hope will introduce you to (or in many cases no doubt, remind you of) five great “lost” albums – records that have somehow disappeared between the cracks of popular culture. “I guess I just wasn’t made for these times” said Brian Wilson, and perhaps all of these records were a little out of step with the time they were released.
Record #1 is Masters of Reality – Masters of Reality (sometimes known as “The Blue Garden”).
“And in many degrees of heat, the fire looked at the meat, and said if I cook you, the least you can do is lay there and be sweet”
The first thing you should know about Masters of Reality is that they are my favourite band and “Blue Garden” is my favourite album of all time.
“Holiday, holiday, no matter what the doctors say”
There was something about that first album that was, if I may quote Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan (in perhaps the least appropriate film to describe a rock band) Sleepless in Seattle “…just magic…”.
“Out of the engine, came a flame with a name. It burned up my mind, man it made me insane.”
There was the mysterious painted gatefold cover featuring a Blue Garden.
“The goat he ran, the goat he hid”
Inside the gatefold cover was a series of odd rhyming couplets and phrases, which I have replicated here to attempt to mimic how the whole thing felt. These were interspersed between magical symbols and strange photos. It wasn’t altogether clear what the band looked like.
“Drop another coin in the slot and I will tell you more”
There was no lyric sheet, but it was clear that the words on the cover were fragments of lyrics – but strangely not always.
“Then when the circle spoke. The light fell. The spell broke…”
When I put the record on, the first track was a series of huge power chords. They called it “Theme for the Scientist of the Invisible”. It was swiftly followed by a chugging deep repetitive riff that didn’t realise it at the time, but was the birth of a new genre called “Stoner Rock“. That song was called “Domino”. I knew little about the band, save for a magazine article or two. The mystery only made the band more interesting…
“Lightning came downward, and I fell, as a tear.”
The record didn’t propel the band into stardom. It’s a rum state of affairs. They couldn’t have picked a trendier producer in Rick Rubin, who signed the band to Def Jam in 1986 after hearing a demo tape. They couldn’t have been on a trendier label in Def American, which Rubin formed after breaking away from Def Jam. Latterly, Goss couldn’t have mentored a more well known and loved person in Josh Homme (Goss produced three Kyuss albums, plus QOTSA‘s Rated R and Era Vulgaris) and Homme and Oliveri couldn’t have been more successful in any other band than Queens of the Stone Age. Short of accidentally shooting Dick Cheney on a quail hunt, it’s difficult to see what more Goss could have done to be lauded as a national treasure.
“She needs to be picked, like fruit off the vine”.
Whilst touring in 1989 the band broke up. Goss travelled to LA, and had his Def American contract and recordings bought out by indie label Delicious Vinyl, who remastered and re-released “Blue Garden” with a different sleeve, running order and an extra track “Doraldina’s Prophecies”. That song contained some, but not all, of the unexplained fragments of lyrics in that original sleeve. The band continued with a different line up.
Yet, despite the limited commercial success, the Masters of Reality legend grew. Some ten years later a clued up music press started calling the band the forefathers of Stoner Rock because of the influence Goss had over Kyuss and Queens of the Stone Age. The secret was out. Blue Garden started appearing in “Greatest lost songs” lists. Lemonjelly sampled it on one of their albums. But whilst there is a sprinkle of recognition, this is certainly a “lost” classic.
“I stood there in my own mind, the way a stranger prowls around”
There’s a terrific documentary about the band that a TV show in The Netherlands called Lola Da Musica made over ten years ago. I wrote to them and they sent me the show on VHS tape (which I have since converted to DVD) but which is sadly currently unavailable on YouTube (although I have seen it on YouTube before now). If it crops up again I’ll post the link…
So what does Blue Garden sound like?
There are rockers like “The Candy Song”, there’s the Americana of “Lookin’ To Get Right”, the psychedelia of “The Blue Garden”, a Sabbath-y “Domino” whilst the riff in “Kill The King” would have made Slayer proud. Meanwhile, “Magical Spell“ is nothing less than a waltz and “John Brown” is a slide guitar stomping anthem that might not have felt out of place on Led Zeppelin III.
Blue Garden was re-released earlier this year by Delicious Vinyl, together with a bonus (and superb) live album “Live At The Viper Room”. The version of “Blue Garden” now available is the re-mastered version with the extra track, but I prefer the running order of the original version. It’s a lost classic just begging to be re-discovered, and with the new remastered version, there’s no better time than now to listen to one of the greatest “lost” albums…
Masters of Reality are currently touring the UK and Europe and play the Download Festival this weekend.
Record #202: Masters of Reality – Domino
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