Masters of Reality Welcome To The Western Lodge

Remember when mothballs were candy? This lyric is just one of many eccentricities on this domestic version of a 1999 import from Chris Goss. It's the first release since 1997's spectacular live How High The Moon and the first studio effort since 1993's suffering Sunrise On The Sufferbus. As the venerable Kyuss producer returns to his own Monkey Studios this time around, he doesn't find long-time bassist Googe and drummer Vic "The Stick" Indrizzo; instead, Goss handles all guitars, with John Leamy on drums and keyboards. The album begins rather unpropitiously with "It's Sh*t," though the meaty "Moriah" could be Goss's version of Stone Temple Pilots' "Vasoline," since he worked with Weiland. Goss settles into classic MOR bluesy heaviness on "The Great Spelunker" (which now has a fuzzier production and a lengthened outro, as opposed to the cleaner, shorter import version), continuing a trend of processed vocals that detract from his magnificent pipes. "Time To Burn" also toes this line, probably from the influence of Earthlings contributor Dave Catching. But Catching then reappears on the stunning "Take A Shot At The Clown," a quiet tune that precedes one of the album's acoustic highlights, "Baby Mae," the only cut featuring Googe and Indrizzo in an absolutely amazing union of Pachabel's "Canon In D Major" with shades of ELP's "Lucky Man." "Why The Fly" is another scintillating cut of Goss's bluesy side. After the throwaway "Embers Day," "Annihilation of the Spirit" is a slow burner with Goss's guitar sounding as if it's rending fabric. "Calling Dr. Carrion" is worthless Casio-keyboard refuse and "Boymilk Waltz" is weird orchestration, but "Lover's Sky" is gentle and soulful. Ultimately, Welcome To The Western Lodge is a challenging listen, made logically easier after a couple of spins of STP's Purple. (Brownhouse)