Masters of Reality, Flak ‘n’ Flight (2003)
First, I love this album. I don’t know that I have a favorite live record, but if I did, this would have to be high on the list if not at the top. From the dripping sentimental opening guitar lines of “The Ballad of Jody Fosty” used as the intro on down to Mark Lanegan himself showing up for “High Noon Amsterdam” and Chris Goss (2010 interview here) leading the way brilliantly through a set spanning what was already by then a substantial career backed by drummer John Leamy and Queens of the Stone Age‘s Josh Homme and Nick Oliveri, ending with “She Got Me (When She Got Her Dress On)” and the Ramones cover “Cretin Hop,” it’s just perfect. Right band, right time, right songs. The versions here of “Rabbit One” and “Why the Fly?” outdo their studio counterparts (the latter is my favorite single Masters of Reality moment, period), and “Deep in the Hole” and “Third Man on the Moon” remind of how criminally underrated 2001’s Deep in the Hole — the full-length which Masters of Reality was touring to support at the time — is in the sphere of desert rock. Unreal, how good this record is.
Of course, Goss is probably best known as the producer of Kyuss at their peak, having helmed the holy trinity of 1992’s Blues for the Red Sun, 1994’s Welcome to Sky Valley and 1995’s …And the Circus Leaves Town, but Masters of Reality goes all the way back to 1981 when Goss started the band on the East Coast. Their first album, Masters of Reality (aka The Blue Garden) arrived in 1989 and it and 1993’s Sunrise on the Sufferbus set the band apart from both commercial rock and the nascent grunge movement, “alternative” still very much an underground ideal at that point. It would be six years before Welcome to the Western Lodge showed up in 1999, but when it did, it found Masters of Reality with a more psychedelic focus — influences and experiments that would solidify into the prime songwriting of Deep in the Hole two years later. Goss‘ second album working with Leamy, it also featured Dave Catching, Lanegan, and a host of others, including Homme and Oliveri, who at that point were one year removed from Queens of the Stone Age‘s second album, Rated R.
I don’t know how they wound up doing the tour with Goss. Rated R came out in June 2000, so a full year’s touring cycle (which included their disastrous stint on Ozzfest 2000) would’ve likely been done, but I’m not sure on the timeline of this European run, which was Sept.-Dec. 2001, and when Queens started working on their third record, 2003’s now-classic Songs for the Deaf, on which Goss also appears, singing lead on the bonus track “Mosquito Song.” Still, Flak ‘n’ Flight captures all of these players at an arguable pinnacle of their powers, and is a thrilling, special document of a moment not likely to come again. Masters of Reality‘s latest outing was 2009’s Pine/Cross Dover (review here), which showed Goss‘ will to manipulate a pop influence was unabated.
Hope you enjoy.
Next week is Vinyl Week. I’ve got a backlog of LPs that need to get written about, so I’m just gonna plow through them as best I’m able. To be honest, I doubt I’ll get through all of it — the pile’s like that — but I’m going to try damn hard to do precisely that and we’ll just see how it goes. Stay tuned as well for a couple giveaways (yes, vinyl giveaways) and anything else I can think of. I also have a couple streams planned, for Brain Pyramid and U Sco and who knows what else will come down the line in that regard, but my priority all next week is LP reviews, so if it’s news or whatever that has to get pushed back to fit that in, that’s what I’m going to do. The rest can wait. I gotta clear some space on my desk.
So, reviews of Storm Ross, 35007, The Kings of Frog Island, Mos Generator and more coming up next week. It’ll be awesome.
I’m also leaving in a little over an hour’s time to go see Blackwolfgoat‘s CD release show in Allston, so I’ll review that as well. Big Friday night out. I was all set to go see Magic Circle in Cambridge last night, but the thought of being in such proximity to Harvard this close to the start of the semester scared me off. Wide-eyed scholarship winners perpetuating the global elite. I stayed home and hung out with The Patient Mrs. I’m sure the show was good, but can’t say I feel like I lost out.
There’s more, but I need to put some water on for pre-show pasta. Do us both a favor and have a great and safe weekend, and please check out the forum and radio stream.