|A Toast To Panama Red|
|Studio album by|
|Genre||Rock, Progressive rock|
|Label||Regal Zonophone (UK), Columbia/EMI (Australia)|
|The Masters Apprentices chronology|
|Singles from A Toast To Panama Red|
A Toast To Panama Red is the fourth studio album by The Masters Apprentices, released in December 1971 on Regal Zonophone. It would be the group's final album until 1988's reunion album Do What You Wanna Do.
While touring Australia in early 1971, the group received word that EMI UK were pleased with the new album, and in February the label released "I'm Your Satisfier" as the first UK single. In April Choice Cuts was released in Australia to widespread acclaim, reaching #11 on the Go-Set Top 20 Album Charts. They made numerous TV appearances, including a three-song live set for the ABC's GTK which included a live-in-the-studio performance of "Future of Our Nation". In Melbourne they played a concert at the Town Hall, supported by Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs. When Choice Cuts was released in the UK it was well received by critics, but the band were still in Australia and short of money, they could do little to exploit their opportunities. As the tour dragged on, they began to falter, and endured ripoffs by unscrupulous promoters. They had reached another low ebb, with the chances of returning to UK now reduced, the band reluctantly decided to split up. On the verge of the break-up, EMI's John Halsall called from London to inform them that Choice Cuts was receiving glowing notices in the English music press, including a rave review in Melody Maker. He told them it was selling well in UK and starting to make an impression in Europe--the track "I'm Your Satisfier" had been released in France and had gone into the Top 10 there. Halsall urged them to return to London as soon as possible and that they would be able to record a new album there, so they hastily organised their return. They decided to take the boat rather than fly (to save money) so Wheatley again approached the Sitmar Line. To their delight, Sitmar offered them another complimentary trip and EMI agreed to finance another LP when they got to London.
They left for UK on 15 May 1971, this time aboard the Fairstar and accompanied by bass player Glenn Wheatley's girlfriend Alison, and singer Jim Keays' wife Vicky and their baby son James. Unfortunately, by the time they arrived in the UK, almost three months had passed since Halsall's phone call and interest was waning. Resigning themselves to the inevitable, they contacted EMI and set up the promised new recording, for three months ahead. They employed an outside PR agent, Jim Haswell, who managed to get some small reviews for them, but Wheatley was unable to find an agency that would book them, and although Ford insisted on keeping up the regime of regular rehearsals, they had no live work. At this point a new UK label Bronze--who had just signed Slade and Uriah Heep--made an approach to the band to become their third act. Although the group was hesitant, being still signed to EMI, they decided to use the offer as leverage in hopes of getting a better deal out of EMI. Wheatley delivered an ultimatum to EMI Australia, demanding that they either release the band from their contract or match Bronze's offer of £90,000 (or $180,000 in Australia). Predictably, EMI did neither, responding with an advance of $1000. Fearing legal repercussions, the band ruefully declined Bronze's offer, Keays' later opined that the best course of action would have been to "sign with Bronze and let the lawyers work it all out later."
Returning to Abbey Road in the autumn of 1971, the band were reunited with Jarratt and Brown, plus engineer (and Sgt Pepper's veteran) Richard Lush. Most of the new LP was recorded in Studio Two at the same time that John Lennon was making his John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band LP in Studio One and Keays vividly recalls the thrill of peeking in as Lennon was recording "Working Class Hero". This is most likely inaccurate as John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band was released in 1970. Keays might possibly be confusing this with his trip to Abbey Road the previous year. John Lennon's "Imagine" album was being recorded in 1971.
According to Wheatley, one of The Masters Apprentices' tracks, "Games We Play", was recorded at George Martin's Air Studios, with Martin himself conducting the children's choir which features on the second part of the track. The new album was titled A Toast to Panama Red, in homage to the Central American variety of marijuana.
Although Keays' recollections are more positive, Wheatley's own account of the album sessions is that they were an unhappy experience for him. He had a bad LSD trip the night before they went into the studio and began the recording in a negative frame of mind. Tensions mounted steadily during the recording and Wheatley did not play on some of the tracks, with his parts covered by Ford. According to Keays, Wheatley had been working part-time at a management agency over the previous few months and had insufficient time to rehearse because of his day job.
The LP was lauded as one of the best Australian progressive releases, but it was largely ignored at the time. Sales were hindered by the lurid cover, which even Keays later admitted was not an ideal choice, being as garish as Choice Cuts was tasteful. Designed and painted by Keays, it was evidently a dig at the UK, and featured a grotesque psychedelic caricature of a bulldog's head wearing a Union Jack eye patch, its ears are skewered by an arrow from which dangles a tag, emblazoned with the album's title.
The band played sporadic shows to support the album, which was well-reviewed in UK, but EMI Australia did little to assist them. Without such backing, it was clear by the end of 1971 that they were not going to achieve the success they had dreamt of.
In Australia, the lead single "Love Is" would failed to make any impact on the local charts. (the Kent Music Report lists it as reaching #89).
All songs written by Doug Ford and Jim Keays, except where noted.
|1.||"Answer Lies Beyond"||3:37|
|2.||"Beneath the Sun" (Doug Ford)||6:12|
|3.||"Games We Play - Part I"||7:00|
|4.||"Games We Play - Part II"||4:58|
|1.||"The Lesson So Listen"||3:09|
|3.||"Melodies Of St. Kilda"||2:44|
|5.||"Thyme To Rhyme"||2:45|