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.
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.
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.
- Only You Know and I Know
- Can’t Stop Worrying, Can’t Stop Loving
- Waitin’ On You
- Shouldn’t Have Took More Than You Gave
- World in Changes
- Sad and Deep as You
- Just a Song
- Look at You Look at Me