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Masters Of Reality: Sunrise On The Sufferbus - Album Of The Week Club review

Remember that time Ginger Baker joined stoner rock pioneers Masters Of Reality?

Masters Of Reality: Sunrise On The Sufferbus
(Image: © Masters Of Reality)
Masters Of Reality: Sunrise On The Sufferbus

(Image credit: Masters Of Reality)

She Got Me
J.B. Witchdance
Jody Sings
Rolling Green
Ants in the Kitchen
V.H.V
Bicycle
100 Years (Of Tears on the Wind)
T.U.S.A
Tilt-A-Whirl
Rabbit One
Madonna
Gimme Water
Moon in Your Pocket

Masters Of Reality had pretty much invented stoner rock with their 1988 debut Blue Garden, and founder Chris Goss would go on to become one of the most influential figures in the genre, producing both Kyuss and Queens of the Stone Age in the years that followed.

The band's second album, Sunrise On The Sufferbus, was perhaps most noticeable for featuring a drummer who'd made his name more than two decades earlier on the other side of the pond: former Graham Bond Organisation, Cream and Blind Faith man Ginger Baker

Baker even "sang" on the album, reciting the lyrics of T.U.S.A, a song bemoaning the average American's ability to make tea properly ("Now this is serious," he starts, before going on the explain the process: "Pour boiling water over the tea/How simple and clear/Can the instructions be?"). Confused? That was probably the idea. 

Every week, Album of the Week Club listens to and discusses the album in question, votes on how good it is, and publishes our findings, with the aim of giving people reliable reviews and the wider rock community the chance to contribute. 

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Background

Hailing from Syracuse, New York, Masters of Reality released their debut album in 1989, and were joined by Ginger Baker for the tour that followed. He was the right match for band leader Chris Goss, whose natural affinity for late 60s and early 70s rock found a perfect foil in Baker, one of the sound's originators. 

The follow-up didn't arrive until 1992. Sunrise on the Sufferbus was named after the insomnia that kept Baker and Goss awake on the band's tour bus, and, like much of the Masters' work, inspires the kind of hushed reverence usually reserved for the genuine cult classic. 

Other albums released in June 1992

  • It's a Shame about Ray - The Lemonheads
  • The Lizard - Saigon Kick
  • Angel Dust - Faith No More
  • The Crimson Idol - W.A.S.P.
  • Legion - Deicide
  • World Falling Down - Peter Cetera
  • Hold Your Fire - FireHouse
  • Out of the Cradle - Lindsey Buckingham
  • Dehumanizer - Black Sabbath
  • Meantime - Helmet
  • The One - Elton John
  • Tools of the Trade - Carcass
  • Utopia Banished - Napalm Death
  • Black Moon - Emerson, Lake & Palmer
  • Somewhere Far Beyond - Blind Guardian
  • The Art of Rebellion - Suicidal Tendencies
  • Blues for the Red Sun - Kyuss
  • Singles: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack - Various

What they said...

"Baker's elegant command gives Goss and bassist Googe limitless freedom, which they wisely refuse. Discipline makes this an ideal soundtrack for spin-dancing in grassy fields (and may explain why the Mellotron textures recall early King Crimson). Googe plays it supportive, laying rich-toned lines deep at the bottom of the sonic well." (Rolling Stone)

"Whether it’s the popping snare and crisp toms in Gimme Water, which follows the brief and actually-drumless Madonna — can you imagine having Ginger Baker on your record and then being like, “Hey man, it’s cool to sit this one out?” — or the languid fuzzy roll of V.H.V., the collaboration brims with personality and still never loses sight of the fact that the songs are most important. (The Obelisk)

"The first time I heard this album I was immediately struck by the resemblance of Chris Goss's voice to the Cream-era Clapton. The CD starts off with Ginger Baker stating "Fuckin' believe it", then the lead off track She Got Me (When She Got Her Dress On) kicks things into high gear and you are coasting on a rock and roll ride all the way through right to the end." (Music Dish)

What you said...

Ben L. Connor: Terrific choice. An album that truly feels like it’s been lost to history. In the stoner rock annals of 1992 this is the good time party music flip side to Kyuss’ dark psychedelia and Sleep’s crushing gloom.

Masters Of Reality’s debut album gets all the praise, but this one is tighter and funkier. It sounds like it could have been recorded in 1970 without actually sounding like any album from 1970.

Jonathan Novajosky: This was a pleasant surprise. The album is kind of "out there" and all over the place at times, but I liked most of the tracks. The vocals on Jody Sings and Rolling Green help make those two songs the best on the Sunrise On The Sufferbus. I even enjoyed the almost goofy interlude tracks,  Bicycle and Madonna because they gave the album a unique flow from one song to the next. There's some humour in a few songs like T.U.S.A. and Ants In The Kitchen, but they definitely aren't among the album's best.

Discovering even just one or two new songs I like when going through an album is absolutely worth it; so in that sense, this album gets a strong score from me. 7/10

Harvey Guerrero: Nifty songwriting. Cool sound sonically. Baker added layers of nuance. Lost somewhere in the maze of grunge and pop at the time. I love this album. Gave me one of my favourite lyric lines. From J.B. Witchdance: "Now I aint no wiser but I know it's a drag to be alone."

Matt Roy: One of the greatest rock'n'roll albums ever in my opinion. The opening track, She Got Me, kicks you right in the ass. There is not a weak song on this album. Stellar recording front to back. Full of hooks and full of talent. And a classic Ginger Baker song, T.U.S.A., captures his cantankerous personality well. Ants In The Kitchen is a song that just gets stuck in your head. VHV and Rabbit One explore a very groovy psychedelic sound. Every song on this album is strong. This is one of my favourite albums of all time. I got hooked on it when it debuted in 1993, and I still listen to it regularly to this day. I highly recommend this recording to anyone that has not heard Masters of Reality.

Michael Baryshnikov: Heard it somewhere 'round 1995. Never knew that Ginger Baker participated in it... now listening to it and paying attention that there are really great drums playing. Now I know why. Thank you Ginger!

Mike Fildes: One of my favourite albums of all time, not a bad track on it, amazing feel to it, enjoy it folks, their other stuff is all fantastic too, bar Welcome to The Western Lodge which is patchy, the first two and first live album would be my picks.

Really hope people love this album.

Robert Baran: Always thought the singer sounded similar to Jack Bruce. This is a great album. I think this is their best. Ginger's drumming on this is one of his best.

Paul Stevens: A brilliant album, but just pipped by their debut, which is pretty much my favourite album of all time (and I have quite a lot!

James Paris: Love this album... been listening to this in the car in the last few days. Ginger's drumming is great and love his song about tea in the USA. RIP Ginger.

Shane Reho: Definitely a great listen. This group sounds like it could've been together for a long time, the interplay between the musicians is that good. The songs themselves are good, I'd need a few listens more to pick out a few that rise above the pack, but I'll put JB Witchdance up there now, after hearing it a couple times it's my favourite from this album. 

Adding Ginger Baker to the group is certainly an odd move (case in point: Baker was born almost 20 years before Chris Goss, making Bon Scott's advantage on his AC/DC bandmates look quite small), but it pays off. Baker sounds as great as ever here, whether it be his drumming (any way I could sum that up would be an understatement) or his sense of humour (how often do you hear a song about making a cup of tea?). Overall, this is a good one to jam out to. RIP Ginger.

Julie Plumpton: I have to admit I'd never listened to them before, but what a great album! To have the first track She Got Me kick off with the unmistakeable rhythmic pounding of Ginger Baker was a genius touch. I love J.B. Witchdance and Jody Sings was an ear worm that stayed with me for days. The lyrics in Ants In The Kitchen had me smiling on my journey to work. For more masterclass drumming V.H.V is a must listen do, I really can't fathom out how he managed to get a 'shoe-shuffle' sound in there. 

Blink and you'll miss some of the tracks like Bicycle and Madonna and some tracks ended too abruptly for me, but that aside the album is a keeper and I struggle to understand how Baker never managed to swear on T.U.S.A. You can almost sense his frustration, made me laugh. It's staying on my Spotify for sure.

Iain Macaulay: This is such a great album and does not sound in any way like what you would expect from the general ‘stoner’ identity that the band has cultivated. There is so much musical diversity and experimentation going on yet none of it flies the album off on a tangent. It all works. 

The production and feel of the album is great too. All the songs are memorable and the playing is superb. However, if there is one complaint, it is that some of the songs could have been a bit longer. Maybe a bit more developed. But hey, it’s a moot point.

John Davidson: I'd not heard of this before so came it it with no expectations at all. It's very easy to listen to and enjoy. The vocals in particular have a laid back charm. The music is bluesy rock with occasional hints at rock-a-billy.

As a tribute to Ginger Baker's drumming you could certainly do much worse. 7/10

Bill Griffin: I listened to this twice on YouTube. The first time I had the volume down a bit but it seemed awful repetitive. Eventually, I turned it off. The second time I had the volume up where I could actually hear the music and again encountered the repetition. This time I realised what was happening though; even though the playlist only showed each track once, it was playing them twice in a row.

I like it. I'll have to get it in my car where I really do my listening to really analyse it.

Carl Black: When this came up my first thought was "these are that wired lot" and after listening to it my opinion is up held. It's an uncomfortable listen and a bit "arty farty." I got a bit board by the end and I've no desire to give it another spin. I found all the elements a bit limited, very talented but restrained in there own contemporary cell.

Jeff Tweeter: I was a huge fan of their first album, so when Sufferbus came out, I was a bit confused. It took some years for it to really grow on me. It's a good album, and Ginger Baker is sublime throughout, but it's not the classic that the first album is (to my ears).

Randy Banner: This was a new one for me as well (which is a major perk of this group, discovering new music), and I was pleasantly surprised. There is a definite disparity of styles contained within the album. Some of it sounds like pseudo-Sabbath, other songs sound like they could have been on a Cream album. 

Kick-off track She Got Me (When She Got Her Dress On) definitely starts things off right, capturing the attention right away. The album shifts through many shades of soft and heavy, so it never leans toward being one-dimensional. And the ever-irascible Ginger Baker is in signature form on the amusing T.U.S.A.. I wasn't sure what to expect going in, but I can definitely see myself giving it another listen. 7/10

Chris Downie: While there is no better time to revisit this album, in light of Ginger Baker's recent passing, to do so for sentimental reasons, or to see his contribution as the focal point of the album, would do a great disservice to what is a fine album by a fine band, who sadly never got their fair due in the UK and Ireland.

While some will see such a 'left turn' album as the archetypal sophomore slump, it was more a victim of the zeitgeist, an album that simply didn't fit in with the rock trends of its time. However, like all good albums, the truest test is time itself and this one stands up very well indeed.

Brett Deighton: Another album I had never played before. Although some of the songs didn’t really get me, overall I was pleasantly surprised. V.H.V. and Ants In The Kitchen were highlights for me. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the drumming is what grabbed my attention.

Brian Carr: I vaguely remember when this one was released considering it was smack dab in the middle of my music retail days, but don’t remember hearing it other than possibly catching She Got Me on the radio a handful of times.

What a cool album! Pretty laid back in tone with nice playing and good songs. I heard the Jack Bruce-vocal influence occasionally, but I found myself preferring Goss’s voice to JB. Actually, it reminded me enough of Dave Grohl that I wondered if this was one of his many side projects, but that wouldn’t be possible since SotS was released prior to Nirvana’s abrupt ending.

Masters of Reality’s Sunrise on the Sufferbus is another example of the best part of this club: finding an album that you hadn’t yet discovered and liking it.

Roland Bearne: I'd heard of these guys but never prioritised listening or buying mainly because anything with a "stoner" tag didn't encourage me to reach for headphones or my wallet! As it turns out, a very pleasant listen. I enjoyed it. 

Non evolving structures had me zoning out a bit at times but I guess that's the stock in trade. What elevated the whole experience is the sheer "swing" with which Baker plays. He elevates the whole experience to another level imbuing the songs with heart and musicality in unique fashion I suspect without his involvement this would have been album for true fans only and not have garnered the interest it enjoys. 

Without him I suspect I might have been erring towards a 5. Baker very nearly hauls that up to an 8 A solid 7 with a 9 for drumming alone.

Final Score: 7.47 ⁄10 (128 votes cast, with a total score of 957)

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