July 1970 – Dave Mason Alone (Together with a Bunch of Friends)

July 1970: Dave Mason – Alone Together

There are individuals in my world of music interests whose names I heard or read often as a younger adult, who are considered to have made important contributions and are highly regarded musicians, songwriters, etc., yet when it came down to it I knew next to nothing about them or their work for a long time. Dave Mason was one of those artists. Even after I discovered Traffic for myself in the late 80’s and learned Mason was on their first few albums it still didn’t click. His best known Traffic song, Feelin’ Alright?, in my opinion is not in the same league as Joe Cocker’s cover. In my mind rightly or wrongly (o.k., wrongly), Traffic was Winwood, Capaldi, and Wood, period. Fully acknowledging my ignorance, Mason was the guy who sang 1977’s We Just Disagree, and that was about it. Yet there his name appeared in liner notes of albums by Jimi Hendrix, the Stones, Delaney & Bonnie, George Harrison, Crosby & Nash, and many others. It was a long time before I had my “ah-ha” moment with Mason, and it came a year or so ago when listening for the first time to his debut solo album Alone Together, released 50 years ago this month.

Roots Vinyl Guide

The instrumental tracks were of the somewhat standard fare for 1970, with rhythm section, keyboards, and mostly acoustic guitars and just the right touches of electric guitars on top. The best known track on the album is Only You Know and I Know, a song which Delaney & Bonnie covered. Highlights for me include the uptempo gospel influenced Waitin’ On You, the tasty acoustic guitar and keyboards of World in Changes, the acoustic guitar and piano combined on the wistful Sad and Deep as You, and the powerful closer Look at You Look at Me, which combines the best of most everything on the album onto its longest track at 7:38. My favorite track of all is Shouldn’t Have Took More Than You Gave, which closes out side one and, somewhat ironically, harkens back to Traffic. I realize I’ve just listed almost every track on the album, but yeah, it’s one of those releases. It sounds rather organic, straight forward and unfussy. It’s a solid rock album of its time, and it has aged very well.

Dave Mason – Wikipédia, a enciclopédia livre

There was much cross-pollenation on albums around this time among artists such as Delaney & Bonnie and George Harrison (on whose albums Mason appeared that same year), as well as Joe Cocker, Eric Clapton, and Leon Russell. Mason had help on this album with a list of well known musicians whose names popped up frequently around the turn of 1970’s, including drummers John Barbata, Jim Capaldi, Jim Gordon, and Jim Keltner. There were also contributions by Don Preston (Mothers of Invention, Plastic Ono Band) on keyboards, bassists Chris Ethridge (Flying Burrito Bros., Gene Clark, and many others), Larry Knechtel (see Wrecking Crew), and Carl Radle, as well as the aforementioned Delaney & Bonnie, Leon Russell and, of course, the then-ubiquitous vocalist/muse Rita Coolidge. But other than the Capaldi co-credit on the closing track, Mason was the sole songwriter. What set the better albums apart during the album rock explosion of the era was just the right batch of songs combined with just the right session players (on solo albums) and production. With Alone Together it all came together for Dave Mason. It was his peak. This one should’ve been on my shelf with those others all along.

Tracklist

Side One:

  1. Only You Know and I Know
  2. Can’t Stop Worrying, Can’t Stop Loving
  3. Waitin’ On You
  4. Shouldn’t Have Took More Than You Gave

Side Two:

  1. World in Changes
  2. Sad and Deep as You
  3. Just a Song
  4. Look at You Look at Me

-Stephen

https://www.allmusic.com/album/alone-together-mw0000193512

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alone_Together_(Dave_Mason_album)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/We_Just_Disagree

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dave_Mason#Discography

October ’68 – Another Traffic Jam

Traffic – Traffic

Today we’re revisiting an album that further put Traffic’s unique stamp on the rock music world in the late 1960’s.  In October of 1968 the band released its followup to their 1967’s debut Mr. Fantasy with a self-titled album which features two distinctly different songwriting styles brought together by the group’s excellent musicianship.

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(L-R) Chris Wood, Dave Mason, Steve Winwood, and Jim Capaldi

Band co-founder Dave Mason had left the band by the time their debut was released a year earlier due to artistic differences.  He was more interested in simpler folk-rock and pop compositions compared with the longer form, more jazz-oriented songs preferred by Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi, and Chris Wood.  Mason subsequently produced the debut album by Family (which included future Traffic bassist Ric Grech), but was invited back to Traffic in early ’68 in time to contribute to roughly half the tracks on their second LP.  As with Mr. Fantasy, by the time Traffic was released 50 years ago this month, Mason had once again departed the group.

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Traffic, produced by Jimmy Miller, received positive reviews upon release and is considered to have aged well.  Critics such as AllMusic’s William Ruhlmann seem to agree that the album achieved a nice balance between Mason’s contributions and the more complex tracks featuring Winwood’s keyboard based melodies, Wood’s reed instruments, and Capaldi’s “exotic” percussion.  He notes that Mason’s pop oriented songs like You Can All Join In, which leads off the record, and Feelin’ Alright are more commercially appealing, whereas the others’ compositions were more enjoyable for their musicianship, including Winwood’s soulful vocals.

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Despite the directional differences between Dave Mason and the others, this is a cohesive album with their songs mixed together as opposed to isolated on two sides.  There are a few highlights for me, beginning Mason’s bouncy You Can All Join In, which welcomes the listener in for what’s to follow.  Pearly Queen features Winwood at his multi-instrumentalist best on vocals, Hammond organ, lead guitar, and bass.  Winwood and Capaldi’s Forty Thousand Headmen is one of my favorite track due to Capaldi’s percussion and Woods’s hypnotic flute.  Cryin’ to be Heard might be the best example of what this original Traffic lineup sounded like as a cohesive unit, with its heavy drums and Winwood’s keyboards standing out.  Mason’s original Feelin’ Alright is also a good one, but I feel Joe Cocker recorded the definitive version.  Interestingly, of the five tracks not written by Dave Mason, he only appears on one, No Time to Live.

Tracklist:

Side One:

  1. You Can All Join In
  2. Pearly Queen
  3. Don’t Be Sad
  4. Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring
  5. Feelin’ Alright?

Side Two:

  1. Vagabond Virgin
  2. Forty Thousand Headmen
  3. Cryin’ to Be Heard
  4. No Time to Live
  5. Means to an End

-Stephen

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traffic_(Traffic_album)

https://www.allmusic.com/album/traffic-mw0000651445

http://ultimateclassicrock.com/traffic-second-album/