The Masters Apprentices

From Mustangs to Masters: First Year Apprentice

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On the surface, From Mustangs to Masters sounds mighty appealing: a collection of 21 previously unreleased April 1966 demos by the Masters Apprentices, one of Australia's finest '60s rock bands. As it precedes their first official studio recording session by about six months, it's a previously hidden missing link in their evolution. Through no fault of the compilers, however, it's not as satisfying as it is enticing. First, the sound quality isn't too good -- which is understandable enough, as it was done on a two-track reel-to-reel recorder at one of the band's practice sessions. Second, although the band made their mark with fine original material as soon as they began releasing records for real, at the point these tracks were laid down, their repertoire consisted almost entirely of covers. So what you hear is very much the sound of a good but average, derivative, punky British R&B band, heavy on covers of classics by the likes of Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley, as well as a few versions of early originals by the Rolling Stones and Them. In fact, there are just two Masters Apprentices originals here, the Bo Diddley-esque "Wild Wild Party" and the slow instrumental "John Street Blues." There are, too, no songs by Mick Bower, whose unusual moody compositions would be the group's greatest assets in their early days. Make no mistake, the band do sound fairly good here -- if the fidelity was better, it would be on par with the better recordings by the early sub-Rolling Stones British R&B bands. And it's certainly well-packaged, with a most interesting 32-page booklet documenting the band's early years, from their mid-'60s origins as an instrumental combo through the release of their first single at the end of 1966.