oth improvisation and rhythm have always been major components of the unmistakable Masters of Reality sound. But on their fifth release for Mascot Records, ‘Pine/Cross Dover’ (which will be released August 24, 2009), the group pits the finer elements of the Mahavishnu Orchestra and Public Image Limited against each other. The end result? A Masters of Reality album that rocks, rolls, and grooves like one devilish son of a gun.
“I did a rock n’ roll record this time - I was able to exorcise a lot of different styles of music that are really important in my life,” explains longtime Masters leader Chris Goss. “And not just Led Zeppelin, Cream, the Beatles, or Black Sabbath. It’s a lot of everything on this record. But proud to say, not one acoustic guitar – it’s all electric and very rhythm oriented.” And the album’s origins can be pinpointed to a simple question. “It was in 2008 that Ed van Zijl, who is the head of the label, wrote and said, ‘Do you feel like doing another record?’ So after a long period of recording it finally is done and I’m proud of it.”
Joining Goss (who supplies vocals, guitar, and keyboards) was long-time band mate John Leamy on drums, as well as a host of special guests, including Eagles of Death Metal bassist Brian O’Connor and guitarist Dave Catching, Merle Jagger guitarist Mark Christian, background singers Shawnee Smith and Missi Pile, as well as former Queens of the Stone Age guitarist Brendon McNichol.
The outcome is the first-ever Masters of Reality album to feature long-and-winding free-form instrumentals. “The first one is called ‘Johnny’s Dream,’ which is a little nod to John McLaughlin,” explains Goss. “Because I’ve been listening to a lot of Mahavishnu in the last year. It’s music that’s been doing it for me lately. Pretty much improvised except for a melody figure that gets repeated. The last song on the record is called ‘Alfalfa,’ and it’s a twelve-minute improvisation. It was the four of us – Mark, Brendon, myself, and John. We’d never been in the same room before, and the twelve minutes that’s ‘Alfalfa,’ you’ll hear it. Honestly, it’s been a dream of my whole life to play music like that, the way it came out. There was no sketchbook, no plan whatsoever – we just plugged in and played, and what happens in that twelve minutes is a dream come true for me.”
However, not all of ‘Pine/Cross Dover’ is instrumental according to Goss, who picks two of his favorite rhythm-heavy tracks. “There’s a song called ‘Worm in the Silk,’ it’s kind of a dub-bass piece. There’s a nod to Public Image on this record – some of the ways the songs flow are bass and drum oriented like that. That song has a really long psychedelic chant on the end of it. There’s also this song called ‘Rosie’s Presence,’ that swings like ‘Presence’-era Zeppelin