Sunday, July 10, 2016
Better late than never, I guess. The Master's Apprentices have long been held in high esteem as one of this land's finest ever rock and roll combinations, and who am I to argue the point? They're right. Let me briefly discuss, in particular, their albums from 1971 and '72, Choice Cuts and A Toast To Panama Red, respectively, which they recorded in the UK as they tried to break it on the continent after dominating their homeland and producing two LPs of great beat/psych/pop. These last two LPs both currently remain out of print (except for possible 'grey area' issues c/o the Pig's Ear label from Germany), a ridiculous state of affairs, but a fairly typical one, too. They were reissued onto CD in the late '90s by the Sydney label, Ascension; hearing them for the first time, several friends of mine flipped their collective wig over their wares. I promised them I would get around to them one day, and I guess that day has finally arrived. I guess I've heard enough progressive/psychedelic hard rock albums in my life by now to state that these really are about as good as they get.
You can hear elements of various known entities in there - contemporaries they may or may not have even been aware of - such as Black Sabbath, Amon Duul 2, Groundhogs, Budgie and various Vertigo Records outfits - and I have just name dropped these outfits with a straight face and a serious intent: Australia's Master's Apprentices made albums on such a higher plane of consciousness. Choice Cuts boasts possibly the band's best-known song in 'Because I Love You' (used in an ad here for a number of years), but other than that, the two LPs consist of mainly deep cuts: prog-infused heavy guitar rock and roll. Jim Keays was an ace vocalist and a real presence in the band. He later contributed vocals to this cult underground Australian klassique from the mid '70s, and even produced two great albums of garage rock in his last few years (and I was privileged to be involved in the release of the last one), but for me what really catapults these discs into the stratosphere of greatness is the world-class ranking of the songs. It's all about the songs, man. And THE BAND. Master's Apprentices sound like a real band. What do I mean by that? I mean they gel, there's no hired hands here: the rhythm section works in total unity (that's Colin Burgess and Glenn Wheatley - the latter being a well-known 'industry' figure down here who actually served time on tax fraud charges a few years back) - and guitarist, Doug Ford, ebbs and flows between heavy powerchords of doom, spastic, Ginn-like solos and gentle, bucolic melancholy. Australia produced some hacks in the day - it's perfectly obvious that the Master's Apprentices were the real deal. So, so good.... and right under my damn nose the whole time.