MASTERS OF REALITY (1987–PRESENT). Classic lineup: Chris Goss (vocals and guitar), Tim Harrington (lead guitar), Vinnie Ludovico (drums), and Googe (bass).
Named after the classic Black Sabbath album, Masters of Reality played a unique brand of hard rock influenced by Cream and Led Zeppelin, which also featured Beatlesque influences and unusual lyrical content. Led by vocalist/guitarist (and now producer) Chris Goss, the band has only released a handful of albums, yet they have been quite influential, especially to such latter-day bands as Queens of the Stone Age.
Beginning as a quartet in the late eighties, the first iteration of the band featured leader Chris Goss on vocals and guitar, Tim Harrington on lead guitar, Vinnie Ludovico on drums, and Googe on bass. Their first self-titled album was released in 1988. Produced by Rick Rubin, the album featured such tracks as “Candy Girl” (which received some airplay), as well as “John Brown,” “Doraldina’s Prophecies,” and “Kill the King.” The songs begin with straightforward, Zep- or Cream-type riffs but bloom into something else as Goss’s inspiration often takes the tunes into Beatlesque or even King Crimson (minus the instrumental displays) type of prog rock. And Goss’s clear and sweet voice (not unlike that of Cream’s Jack Bruce) keeps even the heaviest of the band’s songs from sounding overly heavy.
After the album, Goss disbanded the group for a while, then relocated to L.A. with Googe, and recruited ex-Cream drummer Ginger Baker, for the excellent Sunrise on the Sufferbus. Featuring a somewhat lighter sound, the album was another creative success for the band with songs like “She Got Me” and “Ants in the Kitchen” (containing the memorable line, “stuck in Indiana with a bug in my banana”) transcending their blues-based forms. Baker’s playing is perfect, and his spoken word performance on T.U.S.A. (a treatise on “the inability of Yanks to brew a decent cup of tea” is hilarious). The album, like the first, was moderately successful, yet the band’s (read Goss’s) penchant for following the beat of their own drummer (figuratively speaking, of course) meant that the band never fit into the prevailing rock trends of the time, instead becoming a favorite of fellow musicians and creating more of a cult following. Goss eventually moved out to the Joshua Tree area of the California desert, working more and more as a producer, with such groups as Kyuss, and later Queens of the Stone Age, as well as others, and becoming a central player in the development of the “desert rock” scene. He has continued to sporadically release albums under the Masters of Reality name and occasionally tours with a changing lineup of musicians.
Discography: Masters of Reality (Delicious Vinyl, 1988); Blue Garden (Def American, 1990); Sunrise on the Sufferbus (Chrysalis, 1993); How High the Moon: Live at the Viper Room (Delicious Vinyl, 1997); Welcome to the Western Lodge (Spitfire, 1999); Deep in the Hole (Brownhouse, 2001); Reality Show (Cargo, 2002); Flak ’n’ Flight [live] (Import, 2003); Give Us Barabbas (Brownhouse, 2004).