Monday, February 10, 2014

Dave Mason - "Alone Together/Headkeeper"

Dave Mason, does the name sound familiar? If not do not worry, Mason is an unassuming rock guitarist and songwriter.  He was most active during the late 1960s and through the 1970s though he continued to record and release albums through the 1980s and more sparingly but all the way into the first decade of the 2000s.  Mason has a decent following and he has had hit songs that will be instantly familiar to many a listener ("Feelin' Alright" is his composition, first performed as a member of Traffic) his most famous song is "We Just Disagree" (written by friend Jim Krueger) a big hit in 1977 and still getting radio play.

Born in England, Mason is a very adept guitarist but never gained the popularity (or reached the innovation) of contemporaries like Clapton, Hendrix, and George Harrison.  He first gained notice as a founding member of Traffic with Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi, and Chris Wood.  But Mason was not a team player while the other three worked as a composing unit Mason worked solo.  Mason left the group in 1968 after the release of their second album.  He went to work as a session guitarist for Jimi Hendrix's "Electric Ladyland" album most notably playing on Hendrix's version of "All Along the Watchtower."  He toured with Delaney and Bonnie and Friends appearing on their album "On Tour with Eric Clapton."  After that he was a session guitarist on George Harrison's epic "All Things Must Pass" album.

Shortly after working with Harrison, Mason completed and released his debut album 1970's "Alone Together." With backup from Jim Capaldi, Rita Coolidge, Leon Russell, Jim Gordon, Carl Radle, Jim Keltner and Delaney and Bonnie.  This started Mason solo career with such promise, all eight tracks are solid.  Opening with the semi-hit "Only You know and I know." There are nice banjo and acoustic numbers like "Just a Song" and "World in Changes."  The piano ballad "Sad and Deep as You." "Shouldn't have took More than you Gave" and "Look at you Look at Me" are more rock oriented and sound like Mason's work with Traffic. "Waitin' on you" is gospel styled obviously influenced by Delaney and Bonnie. "Can't Stop the Worrying, Can't Stop loving" is pure smooth pop.

After a second album that was a partial duet with Mama Cass Elliot.  Mason started recording his third album but got into a contract dispute with his record label.  The label took the five tracks that Mason had completed for his third album and paired it with five tracks recorded live (I believe at the Troubadour) and called the album "Headkeeper."  The record company released the compiled album without Mason's permission and Mason publicly denounced it.  Despite the controversy the live tracks are well performed but are not very different from the studio versions, however the studio tracks are some of the best of Mason's career. "To Be Free" with its great piano lines is gorgeous and ends with a Stephen Stills-esque choral movement. "Here we Go Again" with its chiming guitars, mandolins, and hand claps is one of Mason's catchiest compositions. "A Heartache, a Shadow, a lifetime" is wonderful pop. They find Mason expanding and capitalizing on the promise of his debut album.

In 2005 Mason released these two records on one CD set, for record buyers in England.  Available as a reasonably priced import from Amazon and other sources this is a great record and some of Mason's finest work.  There is a foldout booklet that is a bit short but still interesting.  If you are interested in Mason's work, a fan of Delaney and Bonnie's "On Tour" or Eric Clapton's solo debut this is a great addition to your collection. I'm glad I own it.

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