Rick Rubin after toying with LL Cool J, the Beastie Boys and RUN DMC (Tougher Than Leather) returned to his rock roots in 1988. Masters Of Reality (named unashamedly after the Black Sabbath album), a band seldom referenced for their huge influence in the “Desert Rock” scene were the next act for Rubin to play his magic with.
The producer would go on to produce Wolfsbane, The Black Crowes and more albums from Danzig, Red Hot Chili Peppers & Slayer in the following few years. Definitely my favourite producer of all time Rubin makes the artist he works with sound as crisp and clear as possible.
I bought the Masters Of Reality LP in the late eighties just because Rick Rubin produced it. Arguably an album with no title – it is often referred to as ” The Blue Garden” due to the artwork on the gatefold sleeve.
Theme for the Scientist of the Invisible kicks off side one. Straight away the crisp drums crunch the spaced out sliding guitars. The track is brief, it’s just an intro to…
Domino bursts in with a very hooky guitar. Then even crunchier drums. Chris Goss showcases a very laid back, mature vocal. A stand out track – already – and we’re just two songs in. Pre-dating Queens Of The Stone Age by almost a decade the sound is as a solid as you could wish for. Not exactly the angriest band ever – but somehow the sound works very well.
The Blue Garden throws more of that layered but – oh so crisp – sound in the direction of your ears. Guitars use an echo effect and stagger around. Brief offshoots of solos and an all round majestic vocal delivery.
Gettin’ High is straight up blues that could have come out several decades before the album. Only the production marks it as a late eighties song.
The Candy Song was, if my memory serves me well, a single. A plodding track, quite a straight up heavy rock n’ roll song that again showcases some quality musicianship.
More blues with Magical Spell. The only thing you could hold against the band was that they were, and sounded, older than all the cool bands – but it’d be just fickle to hold this against Masters Of Reality. If anything you were growing a bit by listening to them.
Yet more cool old man rockery with the delightful The Eyes Of Texas. Another slow bluesy scorcher. The track builds and swirls with devilishly brilliant drums, guitar and bass spinning around each other. The final third of the track feels like your in a washing machine with the band. One of my favourite tracks on the album.
Sleep Walkin’ sounds so much like Queens Of The Stone Age that if you play the Masters Of Reality debut album now – you practically have to check the LP, CD cover, etc. Desert Rock personified (it was written in 1988).
Acoustics and toms with a heavy Led Zeppelin vibe set the tone for Lookin’ To Get Rite. The strings sound so clean that the only detraction from the track is that Robert Plant does not sing the vocal.
John Brown mixes the Zep vibe of the previous track with the more rootsy, rocky sound of Masters Of Reality. Despite a small quibble about the previous tracks vocal, the vocal here is perfect for the song. Assured and strong. A great track.
Menacing, brooding piano opens the albums closer track Kill The King. With a minute of brooding Kill The King then explodes into a very ear pleasing heavy stew. Super crunchy, yet clear production. The band sound at their fullest on the epic, over 7 minute finale. Effects on the vocal accompany the verses only to faze into clear lyrical delivery for the chorus. Delicious guitar solos run free before the track gathers and stews in a fade out jam. A truly great album.
Masters Of Reality – The Blue Garden was remastered years later. It really didn’t need to be – there was nothing to fix. Also, of note the remaster runs in a totally different order which kind of makes no sense at all to do.
If it ain’t broke…