Category Archives: Dave Mason

Dave Mason Discography

dave mason imageFew bands beyond The Beatles did as much to popularize psychedelic pop music in England as Traffic. Dave Mason played guitar and wrote a number of songs with Traffic, including the perennial favorite “Feelin’ Alright.” Yet after two landmark albums, Mason decided to leave the band to pursue music that was less overtly psychedelic. Following a brief stop with Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett’s band (the Eric Clapton parallels are sometimes eerie), Mason released his first solo album, Alone Together. Although well received by fans and critics, Mason confounded many with his next move, a collaboration with Mama Cass Elliott. That album was followed a series of unauthorized releases (Headkeeper, Dave Mason Is Alive!, etc.) as Mason sought to extricate himself from his contract with Blue Thumb.

Migrating to the greener pastures of Columbia Records, Mason began releasing middle-of-the-road rock records that sold respectably but yielded no big hits. That changed with the release of Let It Flow in 1977 and the smash hit, “We Just Disagree.” Just as quickly, Mason fell back to his former fortunes, and by 1981 had temporarily retired from the business. In 1987, Mason tried to revive his career with little success, and seemed destined for an early retirement when he was invited to join Fleetwood Mac in the 90s at the request of his friend, Mick Fleetwood. Since then, Mason has toured on his own and with former Traffic-mate Jim Capaldi (chronicled on The 40,000 Headmen Tour). In 2008, he released his first album of new material in two decades, 26 Letters 12 Notes.

Continue reading

Dave Mason: Alone Together (1970)

“The songs on Alone Together would have been on the next Traffic album, if I’d still been there. So I was approaching it the way I would have probably done if I’d still been with the band. It was not really any different; all I was doing was putting some acoustic guitar and electric guitar together.” – Dave Mason, in a 2015 interview.

Kronomyth 1.0: FREEMASON. Since exiting Traffic, Dave Mason seemed to be tailgating Eric Clapton. He appeared with George Harrison on the blockbuster All Things Must Pass sessions, joined Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett’s band and, together with the Bramletts and a familiar cast of L.A.-based session players (Jim Gordon, Carl Radle, Leon Russell, Rita Coolidge, etc.), recorded an album of mellow, earthy rock originals that audibly stepped away from the psychedelic excesses of his past. That’s not to take anything away from Alone Together, which is a classic example of Seventies rock that perfectly straddles the line between acoustic and electric rock. In fact, song for song, this is probably the best thing that Dave Mason has ever done. The prescient California rock of “Only You And I Know,” the brilliant jam at the end of “Look At You Look At Me,” the fragile “Sad And Deep As You,” and the biting “You Shouldn’t Have Took More Than You Gave” are all classic moments in the canon of Mason. Of course, Clapton was a better guitarist (than everyone) and, surprisingly, a better singer too; Mason rarely seems to reach the depths of pain and emotion that his lyrics would suggest although, here again, I find that his lyrics are frequently too self-referential (e.g., “Just A Song”) to strike a universal chord. Alone Together and John Barleycorn do share an affinity for earthier tones; as Welcome To The Canteen revealed, however, Traffic had little to add to Mason’s music at this stage. While the two albums clearly stand on their own, had Mason remained with Traffic and interleaved this material with Barleycorn, it would have been a brilliant double album. Of interest to collectors, the original Blue Thumb elpee release featured one of the earliest examples of colored vinyl (in this case, swirled together) and a diecut gatefold elpee cover that turned into a towering Mason when opened.

Continue reading

George Harrison: All Things Must Pass (1970)

all things must pass album coverThe Rolling Stone Record Guide of 1980 called this a “grand gesture,” and one was needed after the letdown of The Beatles’ breakup. None of the Fab Four had sketched out a roadmap for the future, McCartney opting to recycle ditties from the past, and All Things Must Pass became something of a beacon. Great works from John, Paul, even Ringo would follow, but it took George to call their bluff. Spread out across three albums (now two discs), All Things Must Pass confirmed what many already knew: George was a good songwriter just waiting for a patch of sun to call his own. No longer overshadowed by John and Paul, the quiet Beatle has a lot to say about the breakup, God, and (on the album of jams) his own guitar heroes. Phil Spector sometimes suffocates good ideas under too much varnish (“Wah-Wah,” “Awaiting On You All”), but more often elevates these acoustic songs into powerful statements (“My Sweet Lord,” “Beware of Darkness,” “Isn’t It A Pity”). With Bob Dylan contributing half of “I’d Have You Anytime” and “If Not For You” (given a more earnest reading on his own New Morning), it’s perhaps no surprise that All Things Must Pass sounds like a son of the Nashville skyline, all cool country charm when the mood strikes. You can imagine “Let It Down,” “Behind That Locked Door” and “All Things Must Pass” sharing a train ride with “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You.” Maybe it’s the pedal steel guitar or the fertile arrangements, maybe it’s the easy way these songs just roll along with an offhand genius. And then there’s the joy apparent on All Things Must Pass. It’s at the heart of songs like “What Is Life,” “My Sweet Lord” and “Awaiting On You All,” a sort of revival-meeting energy that sweeps you up. Toss in some songs that recall the solo work of John (“Beware of Darkness” in its demo version) and Paul (compare “Art of Dying” to “Mrs. Vanderbilt”) plus a few nods to The Beatles (“I Dig Love,” the second version of “Isn’t It A Pity”) and you may have the most substantive solo musical statement in all of Beatledom. The album of instrumental jams, while often overlooked, show Harrison, Eric Clapton and Dave Mason blowing off some steam in various settings. Of course, Jimi Hendrix left vaults full of stuff like this behind, so they’re best seen as a bonus disc of curiosities rather than a balanced contribution.

Continue reading

Dave Mason: “Waitin’ On You” (1971)

Kronomyth 1.4: IF DAVE DIDN’T, ERIC WOOD. It appears Blue Thumb waited a little while before pulling the trigger on a third single from Alone Together, “Waitin’ On You.” It’s a solid R&B track done in the style of the Stones/Faces with some great backing vocals and a killer organ. The B side is a calmer acoustic song, the likes of which you’ll find on all Dave Mason albums. Both songs are identical to the original album versions, so it’s not a particularly collectible single. I have to say, I’m baffled as to why Blue Thumb didn’t release “Shouldn’t Have Took More Than You Gave” or “Sad And Deep As You” as singles before this.

Continue reading

Graham Nash/David Crosby (1972)

CronNaMyth 1.0: 2 OUT OF 3 AIN’T HALF BAD. After the initial flurry of CS&N solo albums, none of which mercifully featured tin pan alley standards or 30 minutes of therapeutic wailing, Graham Nash and David Crosby decided to re-form as a duo with the support of a band of session players dubbed The Mighty Jitters: Craig Doerge (keyboards), Danny “Kootch” Kortchmar (guitar), Russell Kunkel (drums) and Leland Sklar (bass). The results on Graham Nash/David Crosby were good enough to sustain the pair’s commercial momentum, going gold soon after its release and generating two singles including the Top 40 “Immigration Man,” which could be seen as a cross between The Beatles’ “The Ballad of John & Yoko” (thematically) and “Taxman” (musically and especially in Greg Reeves’ insistent bass track). Rather than re-create the soaring harmonies of CS&N, however, this reunion essentially amounts to half of a solo album each from Crosby and Nash shuffled together. Nash’s contributions favor the Bob Dylan/Beatles sound set forward on earlier songs like “Our House” (in fact, “Strangers Room,” originally written in 1969, sounds like that song filtered through Traffic), while Crosby’s songs suggest a male Joni Mitchell: jazzy and mysterious and troubled. Over their careers, many of these songs would be counted among their best: “Southbound Train,” “Page 43,” “The Wall Song,” “Immigration Man,” “Strangers Room.” The financial motivation for such a merger can’t be discounted, yet Graham Nash/David Crosby remains one of the most gratifying extracurricular outings from the CS&N axis, a snapshot of two artists still at their peak. Crosby and Nash were happy enough with the result to repeat the experiment in the mid 70s and even tour together, though neither Wind On The Water nor Whistling Down The Wire matched the success of their first.

Continue reading

Dave Mason: It’s Like You Never Left (1973)

Kronomyth 5.0: SHANGHAIED NOODLES. Honestly, in some ways, it’s like he never left Blue Thumb. Dave Mason’s first album for Columbia Records features many of the same musicians from his earlier sessions and even includes a new version of “Head Keeper,” the title track from his last studio album. And the album again failed to generate a hit single. (Some things will never change.) What makes the record interesting are a couple of high-profile cameos (George Harrison adds his distinctive lead guitar to “If You’ve Got Love,” Stevie Wonder plays harmonica on “The Lonely One”) and a new batch of acoustic and electric rock songs that includes “Misty Morning Stranger” (which bears a striking resemblance to Steve Miller Band’s “Jungle Love,” a song that guitarist Greg Douglass actually demo’d for Mason before he joined SMB) and two songs that feature mostly Mason multitracking himself: “Maybe” and “Silent Partner.” Yet with each new album, it was becoming increasingly clear that Mason would never attain the status of an Eric Clapton, George Harrison or Steve Miller, despite using many of the same players (Jim Keltner, Carl Radle, Lonnie Turner). Instead, Mason could be counted on to muck about in the middle field of 70s music—electric rock, acoustic folk, flirtations with reggae and disco—with mildly pleasing results. Of course, that would describe more than a few Clapton and Harrison albums too, but somehow their legend (and a well-placed hit or two) made those albums a more compelling purchase. It’s Like You Never Left is a solid enough effort that continues the slight decline from his auspicious Alone Together and is recommended to those who wish to delve a little deeper into his solo catalog. Oh, and the Kronomyth (the what?) refers to Noodles the Cat, pressed into service on the album’s cover.

Continue reading

The Best of Dave Mason (1974)

Kronomyth 5.5: THUMB NERVE. This is the first of many, many shameless, needless Dave Mason compilations. After a short and tenuous relationship, Mason bolted Blue Thumb for the greener pastures of Columbia. Blue Thumb had already released two albums without Mason’s permission (Headkeeper, Alive), so what was left but to package up the best bits from his two-and-a-half studio albums with the label as a premature greatest hits record? Sandwiched in between his first and second studio albums with Columbia, The Best of Dave Mason collected four tracks from his first album (Alone Together), two from his second album with Mama Cass and three from the studio half of Headkeeper. Generally, these kinds of compilations contain the tentative early material that history has forgotten, but not so here. In fact, Blue Thumb’s The Best of Dave Mason does contain a lot of his best work: “Walk To The Point,” “Only You And I Know,” “Shouldn’t Have Took More Than You Gave,” “To Be Free,” “Look At You, Look At Me.” Honestly, you could make the case that the best of Mason’s post-Thumb output could be confined to a couple of tracks from Let It Flow (“We Just Disagree,” “Let It Go, Let It Flow”); tack those two tracks onto these nine, toss in a couple of tracks from his other Columbia albums and you’ve got a perfectly respectable career compilation. Mind you, I’ve never encountered a respectable Mason compilation, and the slightly altered Dave Mason At His Best, which Blue Thumb released the following year, certainly wouldn’t fit that description. If you really want the best of Mason, buy Alone Together, Let It Flow and the first two Traffic albums.

Continue reading

Dave Mason (1974)

Kronomyth 6.0. I’M A GROVER NOT A FIGHTER. On this album, the parallels between Dave Mason and a certain blues icon can no longer be ignored. I’m talking, of course, about Grover. Oh, sorry, that would be a blue icon. I meant to say Eric Clapton. Both Mason and Clapton made middle-of-the-road rock records in the mid Seventies using a mix of original material and covers that looked like a Ringo Starr record without the long guest list (e.g., “Get Ahold On Love,” Sam Cooke’s “Bring It On Home To Me”). Columbia also seems to have wisely cut its losses by replacing the star-studded casts of the past with a steady lineup (here billed as the Dave Mason Band) featuring Mike Finnigan, Bob Glaub, Rick Jaeger and guitarist Jim Krueger. As bands go, they’re a solid group, with Krueger even taking a few solos and Mason flexing his vocal muscles a little more than usual (perhaps because he didn’t have to worry about multitracking the voice and guitar parts this time). Despite charting better than his last record (one of the great mysteries of the universe, that), Mason’s second album for Columbia still didn’t contain a hit single, and this at a time when Eric Clapton was scoring hits with “Willie And The Hand Jive” and “Swing Low Sweet Chariot.” Personally, I liked It’s Like You Never Left a little more, but there are some solid album tracks on here including “Relation Ships” (and this would be a good time to note that song titles are not Mason’s forte), “It Can’t Make Any Difference To Me” and “You Can’t Take It When You Go.” There are signs on Dave Mason that suggest he was running out of creative steam, from the number of covers (three) to the decision to recycle his past on “Every Woman” and “All Along The Watchtower.” Or maybe I just have pogonophobia, since some people really seem to like this album.

Continue reading

Dave Mason: Split Coconut (1975)

split coconut album coverKronomyth 7.0: TROPICALIFORNIA ROCK. Dave Mason continued to maintain a high profile despite his lack of a hit single. He graced the cover of Guitar Player Magazine (October 1975), rested comfortably in the US Top 40 with his new album (Split Coconut) and went out on tour with the latest version of the Dave Mason Band. The tropical album cover and two island-themed opening tracks are a tease, however; Split Coconut is simply a continuation of the music that Mason had been making all along. It’s a professional affair from beginning to end, with some updated keyboard sounds (courtesy of Mark Jordan and Jay Winding, in what appears to be a mid-session keyboard chair change) and an extra infusion of funk (“Split Coconut,” “Save Your Love”). If Mason seems to have settled into a groove as far as making solo records, longtime listeners will settle into the same groove soon enough. “Save Your Love,” “Two Guitar Lovers” (written by singer Maureen Gray, who had performed with George Harrison, John Lennon and Eric Clapton), an island-tinged cover of Buddy Holly’s “Crying, Waiting & Hoping” and the freebirdin’ “Long Lost Friend” are all solid songs. The rest of the record is the same sort of generic guitar rock you’ll find on most of Mason’s mid-Seventies records. I realize that “generic” is a dismissive word, and I don’t mean to dismiss the man’s effort; instead, the sensation on these records is that Mason is more or less trying to write the same kind of song ten different times, and so you don’t encounter the range of styles that you might on a George Harrison or Eric Clapton record. His workmanlike approach to songwriting also means that nothing on here is a work of art so much as well-crafted product. Splitting hairs, I suppose, since you either like Dave Mason or you don’t, with love and hate being rare reactions.

Continue reading

Dave Mason: Let It Flow (1977)

Kronomyth 9.0: THE SOUND OF ONE-HAND CLAPTON. Dave Mason has always struck me as a poor man’s Clapton. In fairness, Clapton was a poor version of himself most of the time too. 1977’s Slowhand, however, was an excellent record; Let It Flow merely alright. Compare “Let It Flow” to “Lay Down Sally,” “We Just Disagree” to “Wonderful Tonight,” “So High” to “Cocaine.” Thusly, we suck the air from one of Dave Mason’s most lofty achievements. Somebody at Columbia Records had to be smoking some pretty strong stuff to pick “So High” as the first single; after a few weeks, it disappeared like a puff of smoke. “We Just Disagree” and “Let It Flow” had more staying power, and will likely forever be preserved in the Mason jar of greatest hits. The rest of the record is a mix of soft rock, light funk and mildly psychedelic adventures; nothing that will rock your world, but no reason to cry either. Like a veteran ballplayer who hits .275 and drives in 80 RBIs, Mason always seems to play just well enough to justify his place on Columbia’s rock & roll roster. With each year, the 60s mythology that made the man grows dimmer while his middle-of-the-road paunch grows softer. More alarming, Mason was beginning to lean on others to write his songs and play his instrument (guitar). Lead guitarist Jim Krueger contributes the excellent “We Just Disagree” and flickering moments of electric fury, but the cost is a diluted Dave Mason album. Eric Clapton and George Harrison could get by with a little help from their friends because their legend loomed so large; Mason’s legend needs to re-inflate itself with each album. Let It Flow stays afloat, but the leaking of air was beginning to leave critics visibly deflated with each new Mason album.

Continue reading

Stephen Stills: Thoroughfare Gap (1978)

Kronomyth 9.0: DISCO JOCKEY. This is as close as Stephen Stills has come to making a disco album, which is probably enough to seal its fate as an also-ran in his catalog. Yet behind the string arrangements, punchy rhythms and backing vocals (which feature the up-and-coming Andy Gibb) is the usual strong songwriting from Stephen. In fact, I might give Thoroughfare Gap the nod over his other Columbia records, which is as good as a wink to a blind horse. “Can’t Get No Booty” is the funniest song Stills has ever recorded (okay, so it’s a short list) and should have been a hit, especially given the success Joe Walsh was having with “Life’s Been Good.” On most of the record, Stills strikes a good balance between high-gloss production and guitar-driven rock (e.g., “What’s The Game,” “Lowdown”). He mixes it up with the usual polyglot pop (“Woman Lleva,” “Beaucoup Yumbo”), adds a nice acoustic number (“Thoroughfare Gap”) and even includes a couple (admittedly inferior) covers, “Midnight Rider” and “Not Fade Away.” Honestly, I didn’t expect much after the last few Stills albums, and the picture of him in a jockey’s uniform (a look that no one, not even Prince, could pull off) didn’t bode well. I was pleasantly surprised, then, to find that the music on Thoroughfare Gap wasn’t a case of Stills trying to work outside of his idiom, but rather to adapt his idiom to contemporary influences. Unfortunately, Columbia didn’t pick up his contract and Stills went silent during his pending divorce, resurfacing several years latter under the protective glyph of CSN.

Continue reading

Dave Mason: Ultimate Collection (1999)

Kronomyth 16.3: HAVEN’T WE ULTIMATE BEFORE? Hip-O Records has released some excellent compilations over the years and this isn’t one of them. The double-disc Gold treatment showered on Pete Townshend—now that’s how it should be done. Instead, Ultimate Collection lingers too long at Alone Together, ignores important singles like “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” and “Save Me,” and digs into Traffic’s tomb for three tracks. The Traffic stop doesn’t bother me so much as, say, putting a Who song on a Townshend compilation (which Hip-O wisely avoided on the aforementioned Gold), because the early Traffic albums were essentially combined solo albums by Mason and Winwood. I’m sure the world wouldn’t end if a Dave Mason compilation didn’t contain “Feelin’ Alright” either. The most egregious error anyway is the inclusion of “Two Hearts” at the end. Maybe the temptation to reconcile Mason with his past was too strong, but the title track from his 1987 album ends the disc on a sour and disjointed note. Mason is further confined by chronology on Ultimate Collection; I think the disc would have benefited by spreading the early, sweet stuff around. Working a song like “Baby… Please” or “Satin Red And Black Velvet Woman” sooner into the mix would have shaken things up nicely and, as was the case with Townshend’s Gold, added some much-needed contrast to his earlier tracks. No complaints with the liner notes (William Ruhlmann is alright in these parts) or the generous 17-track helping from a single platter. Ultimately, though, this is just another in a long line of underwhelming Dave Mason collections, one that inexplicably ignores entire albums like Old Crest, Split Coconut and Mariposa (Some Assembly really isn’t required).

Continue reading