This review was originally posted on the first Toorak Times web site where publications ceased on that site in March 2017. The old site will be permanently closed in 2020 and these reviews are being re-published in order to preserve them on the current Toorak Times/Tagg site.
This is number thirty seven in the series of albums I’m featuring as part of an on-going retrospective of vinyl albums in my personal collection.
The series is called, “Cream of The Crate”, and they represent vinyl albums that I believe are of significant musical value, either because of their rarity, because they represent the best of a style or styles of music or because their is something unique about the group or the music.
The Masters Apprentices were variously described as what the Rascals meant to America, and even the Stones to Britain. Big claims that can still be debated today. What cannot denied, is the impact they made upon the Australian music scene.
The album, “Masterpiece” was released by EMI in 1970 and a re-release came out years later.
However, what I prize about my copy, is that it is one of the rare genuine copies that was actually produced by the World Record Club (W.R.C – S5141), that came out with the green record label and the gold pattern on the cover.
A re-release later on saw it come out in a black and white cover.
In fact Googling this album title and this pressing will bring up the following comment. “Rare limited edition mail-order only release, for World Record Club members”.
Rare or otherwise, the album is a curious mixture of pop, what could pass for bubblegum and some raging good music!
The lineup consisted of:
Doug Ford– lead guitar, acoustic guitar, banjo, vocal
Glenn Wheatley– bass, tambourine, marraccas, vocals
Colin Burgess– drums, percussion, vocal
Jim Keays – vocal, percussion
Chiffons – backing vocals 5:10 Man
Gavin Webb – bass guitar
Peter Tilbrook – guitars, bass
|A2||Who Do You Think You Are||3:07|
|A3||Barefoot When I Saw Her||3:58|
|A4||St. John’s Wood||2:00|
|A6||A Dog, A Siren & Memories||3:11|
|B4||Piece Of Me||2:15|
|B6||How I Love You||3:07|
In reviewing this album, Ian McFarlane wrote in the now defunct “Freedom Train” – “Musically, several of the tracks, such as Titanic , How I Love You , St John’s Wood and Barefoot When I Saw Her – stand out, but others such as Captivating Voice , Masterpiece and Isabella are pretentious.
In my opinion, two tracks Linda Linda and Piece Of Me are just plain bad.
Part of the problem lays in the fact that the band are concerned with making the obligatory profound musical statement (the first side had all the tracks segued into one another in the manner of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s, each linked by a short orchestral piece). As a result the album comes over as all solemn and self consciously arty, and is totally overblown.“
What I find strange is not that McFarlane was so over the top with his review (pretentious even?), but that he left out two of the best tracks on the album in his review.
5:10 Man is a genuine red hot track. It was a statement of how the alternate scene at the time saw those who wanted a foot in both ‘camps’, the so called ‘straight scene’ and, the ‘alternate’ scene.
What makes it red hot in my mind, or rather to my ears, is the composition of the track and the energy with which it is played. In my mind a classic Masters track of energetic, high classic rock and, I don’t mind if you classify it as pop!
I disagree with McFarlane that Linda, Linda is just plain bad.
Yes it could almost sit within the bubblegum genre, but when I think back at some of the bubblegum tracks of the period (like ‘Yummy, yummy,yummy, I got love in my tummy!), but it stands out, it it begs to be heard!
Maybe McFarlane simply didn’t like the ‘megaphone’ approach to the track, which was the Masters attempt to emulate the sound of the 1930’s, a’ la’ Rudy Vallee.
Whatever, listening now it actually is quite infectious, so it gets a tick from me.
Personally, I would have put the track Isabella into the plain bad category, “Masterpiece” by name, but not by nature.
Look there is nothing wrong with the playing on this track, but it really is not much more than a warm up 12 bars, with some good guitar work.
Then other track McFarlane left out is “A Dog, a Siren and Memories“. Yes, it’s a bloody tear jerker, a ballad, but it has good harmonies and a good string section and some nice acoustic guitar work.
A Dog, a Siren and Memories
I also agree with McFarlane about St Johns Wood. On one hand, like Linda Linda, it could be classified as a ‘bubblegum/pop’ type track, but it is infectious, well constructed, well played and very well sung.
St Johns Wood
This particular pressing I have been reviewing does bring a pretty dollar.
I found two copies for sale, one for just on Au$100.00 (plus postage), and the other for $179.00Au (plus postage). If the pressing is not important to you, there are copies of the re-pressing with the alternative cover, for about Au$30.00.
There is little doubt that the Master Apprentices (who would eventually grow up to become the Masters) were a great Aussie band.
They had their genesis in Adelaide but their popularity really soared when they came to the East Coast. Were they among the really greats? Well, they never had a #1 hit, IF that is a measurement.
Personally, I look back at them with great fondness, with tracks like “Living in a Child’s Dream“, “Elevator Man“, “5:10 Man“, “It’s Because I Love You“, “Think About Tomorrow Today” and “Turn Up Your Radio“.
It can be argued even without a #1 – they paid their dues.
They came second to the Groop in the Hoadleys Battle of the Sounds in 1967. Yet for all their hard work, and changes in line-up, it can also be argued that they actually rate definitely toward the top of the second rung of great Australian bands, behind groups such as the Easybeats and the Twilights – who deserved to be in the top level.
Despite all this, a collection of Australian music is utterly incomplete without a Masters Apprentice’s album.
Sadly Jim Keyes passed away from pneumonia in 2014, after a long battle with melanoma’s.
There are no shortage of video’s on Youtube to choose from but not many from this album.
So I have included the one live track of music from Masterpiece I could find, and, it’s the best track. I have also included one of their most classic tracks of all times recorded in 1970 and released one year later.
It’s Because I Love You
Previous Cream of The Crate Albums:
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