Posts Tagged ‘Dave Mason’

This Dynamic broadcast recording from the band Traffic in 1972 featured Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi, Dave Mason, and Chris Wood who met at a nightclub the Opposite Lock in Aston, Birmingham in the mid-1960s. At the time Winwood was still performing with The Spencer Davis Group, but when he quit in April 1967, the quartet formed Traffic.

Traffic signed to Chris Blackwell’s Island Records, and their debut single “Paper Sun” became a UK hit in the summer of 1967. Further hit singles followed and their debut album, “Mr. Fantasy”, was successful in the UK. Dave Mason left the group by the time Mr. Fantasy was released, but re-joined for a few months in 1968, long enough to contribute to their second, eponymous album. The band however was discontinued following Winwood’s departure in early 69. He then formed the supergroup Blind Faith, which lasted less than a year, recording one album and undertaking one US tour. After the break-up of Blind Faith, Winwood began working on a solo recording, bringing in Wood and Capaldi to contribute, and the project eventually turned into a new Traffic album, “John Barleycorn Must Die”, their most successful record of all.

In 1971 the group released The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys (1971), a Top 10 American album but one which did not chart in the UK. They toured America in early 1972 to promote the LP, during which they performed an extraordinary concert at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium on 21st February, which was broadcast across FM radio along the West Coast, and is featured in its entirety . The quite superb performance includes cuts from their two finest albums.

recorded at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium in 1972, this concert seems to kick off with a somewhat spacey, mildly exploratory version of the title tune of the band’s then-current LP, “The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys”; Steve Winwood and Chris Wood get to stretch out nicely on this one, on piano and electric sax, respectively. “Light Up or Leave Me Alone” comes next, on which former drummer Jim Capaldi gets to do his white Sammy Davis, Jr. thing while Stevie offers up some wicked guitar licks. (Until his recent collaborations with Eric Clapton, many seemed to have forgotten what a fantastic guitarist he’s always been!) A straightforward yet tasty as can be rendition of “John Barleycorn” follows, featuring some terrific work by Chris on flute; “Rainmaker” makes for a perfect segueway after this one, highlighted by more lovely flute work from Chris and a rousing percussion interlude from Reebop Kwakubaah. The classic Traffic diptych of “Glad”/”Freedom Rider” comes next, accompanied by some psychedelic light FX, and then Stevie sings effortlessly and beautifully on “40,000 Headmen.” “Dear Mr. Fantasy” closes out this set in rousing fashion, featuring some more staggering guitar work from Winwood.

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In 1967, when the still-teenaged keyboardist Steve Winwood left the Spencer Davis Group (for whom he’d sung lead on hits like “Gimme Some Lovin'” and “I’m a Man”) to start a new band with guitarist Dave Mason, few observers thought their idea of blending pop, rock, and jazz would work. Immediately, though, Traffic scored giant hits with Winwood’s east-meets-west “Paper Sun” and Mason’s acid-jazzy “Hole in My Shoe”. Between those songs, the smoking-guitar driven title track, the swinging instrumental “Giving to You” and the haunting ballad, “No Face, No Name, No Number”, Traffic’s debut established both players as elite members of the new guard of late 60s British rock.

“I knew it wasn’t just a good piece or a good track for a record,” Traffic drummer and lyricist Jim Capaldi once said of their song “Dear Mr. Fantasy” the pseudo-title-cut from the band’s kaleidoscopic debut LP. “I knew it was going to be a real milestone-type piece.” His hunch was spot-on.

The British quartet never cracked the pop charts with the spiraling psych-rock song. (In fact, they never even issued it as a single.) But the six-minute long “Fantasy” was designed more as a deep, mind-expanding bong hit than a quick joint puff: Steve Winwood’s bluesy howl and the group’s live-in-the-room exploration tapped into the same jam-sprung freedom flourishing at that time from America’s West Coast.

Fittingly, since much of Traffic’s early repertoire reveled in whimsy, “Dear Mr. Fantasy” originated from a doodle. “I’d drawn this character playing a guitar, with puppet hands instead of his own hands,” Capaldi recalled in a video interview celebrating the 50th anniversary of Mr. Fantasyin 2017. “I wrote a letter next to it: ‘Dear Mr. Fantasy, play us a tune.'”

At the time, the band Capaldi, Winwood, multi-instrumentalists Dave Mason and Chris Wood were holed up at Sheepcote Farm, a rural cottage in Berkshire, England, owned by baronet Sir William Pigott-Brown, a friend of Island Records founder Chris Blackwell. Experimenting with weed and LSD, and living among the filth of their own dirty dishes and laundry, the young men cooked up much of Mr. Fantasy at this ragged sanctuary.

“There was no running water, there was a well and no electricity,” said WinwoodBlackwell took the gamekeeper’s cottage down the lane so he could make sure we rehearsed and wrote material. It was a place where we could make as much row as we liked – and we certainly did.”

During one ordinary vice-filled afternoon, “Fantasy” emerged.

“I was asleep upstairs in the cottage, and I heard this nice little bass line going and some guitar,” Capaldi said “I woke up, went down — we’d jam all time of the day, and we’d all take breaks, do whatever.”

“[I] found that they’d written a song around the words and drawing I’d done, I was completely knocked out by it. Chris wrote that great bass line. We added some more words later and worked out a bigger arrangement too.”

“Dear Mr. Fantasy” “was done on impulse with practically nothing worked out, because it was almost jammed,” Winwood told Rolling Stone in 1969. “The initial spirit of the whole thing was captured on record — which is very rare. That was one of the things, because it’s not specifically an outstanding melody or an outstanding chord sequence or anything. It’s basically quite simple. They’re very simple lyrics and they’re repeated three times. … It wasn’t half so strong after we’d done it. It was time that gave it a lot of meaning.”

Armed with a batch of songs that sprawled from psych to blues to soul to Beatlesque Indian nods, Traffic eventually moved to London’s Olympic Studios with producer Jimmy Miller, with whom Winwood had collaborated as part of his previous band, the Spencer Davis Group.

Miller was crucial in capturing the song’s free-flowing vibe on tape, which they only achieved after scrapping the traditional recording booths and tracking as a live four-piece: Winwood on electric guitar and vocals, Mason on bass, Wood on organ and Capaldi on drums. A surprise fifth member was Miller, who augmented the groove by rushing from the control room to lay down some extra percussion.

“We were in the middle of a take and there’s a part where the tempo changes it jumps and I look around, and Jimmy Miller’s not in the control room,” by the side of engineer Eddie Kramer. “The next thing I see out of the corner of my eye is Jimmy hauling ass across the room, running full tilt. He jumps up on the riser, picks up a pair of maracas and gets them to double the tempo! That, to me, was the most remarkable piece of production assistance I’d ever seen. They were shocked to see him out there, exhorting them to double the tempo. Their eyes kind of lit up. It was amazing.”

“Fantasy” thrives on that anything-can-happen energy: Capaldi’s thumping kick drum accents and tumbling fills, the double-time grooves, Winwood’s Jimi Hendrix-like solo, that tempo-shifting finale. From 1967 onward, it became a staple of Traffic’s live show performed more than any other song in their catalog.

And kindred spirits followed suit onstage. Grateful Dead introduced a faithful cover in 1984, a showcase for keyboardist-singer Brent Mydland, and continued to perform it up through 1990. (Jerry Garcia even joined Traffic for a version during their 1994 reunion tour, documented on the live set The Last Great Traffic Jam.) Several other rock legends have paid tribute, including Hendrix, Crosby, Stills & Nash, mid-’90s Fleetwood Mac (featuring a briefly tenured Mason), Peter Frampton and Eric Clapton (alongside Winwood).

“Dear Mr. Fantasy” “was done on impulse with practically nothing worked out, because it was almost jammed,” Winwood told Rolling Stone in 1969. “The initial spirit of the whole thing was captured on record — which is very rare. That was one of the things, because it’s not specifically an outstanding melody or an outstanding chord sequence or anything. It’s basically quite simple. They’re very simple lyrics and they’re repeated three times. … It wasn’t half so strong after we’d done it. It was time that gave it a lot of meaning.”

  • Steve Winwood – guitar, lead vocal
  • Dave Mason – bass guitar, harmonica, backing vocal
  • Chris Wood – organ, backing vocal
  • Jim Capaldi – drums, backing vocal
  • Jimmy Miller – maracas

Traffic / The Studio Albums 1967-1974

This 6LP vinyl box set due in May, Universal Music are set to release a new Traffic vinyl box set, the snazzily titled, The Studio Albums 1967–1974.
The six-LP set collects together the Island-released Mr Fantasy, Traffic, John Barleycorn Must Die, Shoot Out At The Fantasy Factory, The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys and When The Eagle Flies. 1969 odds ‘n’ sods compilation Last Exit isn’t included.

Traffic were originally formed in 1967 when Steve Winwood fled the Spencer Davis Group at the ripe old age of 18, and joined drummer/singer Jim Capaldi, singer/guitarist Dave Mason and reed player Chris Wood. The quartet soon rented a cottage out in rural Berkshire to ‘get their heads together in the country’.

While the group were quickly successful with the singles ‘Paper Sun’ and ‘Hole In My Shoe’, they were more at home on the album format, and also enjoyed considerable success within the U.S., scoring four consecutive top ten albums from 1970 to 1974.

The Studio Albums 1967-1974 is released 17th May 2019.

The LPs have been remastered from the original tapes and presented in their original and highly collectable ‘first’ Island pressing form (gatefold sleeves, pink eye labels etc). The set also includes a related and rare facsimile promo poster for each album.

Image of Traffic 'First Exit' blue vinyl LP

Steve Winwood formed Traffic with Jim Capaldi, Dave Mason, and Chris Wood in 1967. In the spirit of the times, the group was intended to be a cooperative, with the members living together in a country cottage in Berkshire and collaborating on their songs. Signed to Island Records their single “Paper Sun,” peaked in the U.K. Top Five in July 1967 and also spent several weeks in the lower reaches of the charts in America. Traffic toured Europe in the summer of ’67 and the live recording that comprises this album was made for radio broadcast in Sweden at Radiohuset, Stockholm on September. 12th, 1967. It has been newly mastered for vinyl and pressed on blue vinyl.

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• Restored and newly mastered audio
• Historic live radio broadcast available for the first time on LP
• Includes the hits ‘Paper Sun’ and ‘Hole In My Show’
• Complete live show from 1967
• Limited edition blue vinyl

Image of Traffic 'First Exit' blue vinyl LP

TRACK LISTING
1. Giving To You [live] / 2. Smiling Phases [live] / 3. Coloured Rain [live] / 4. Hole In My Shoe [live] / 5. Feelin’ Good [live] / 6. Paper Sun [live] / 7. Dear Mr Fantasy [live]

bumpers up front

“Bumpers” was a double sampler album from Island Records, released in Europe and Australasia in 1970; there were minor variations in track listings within Europe but the Australian release was fundamentally different. The title refers to the training shoes which can be seen on the front of the album cover but there may also be a less obvious reference to the meaning “unusually large, abundant or excellent”.

The album is left to present itself; there are no sleeve notes, the gatefold interior consists of a photograph showing publicity shots of the featured acts attached to the bole of a tree, without any identification. This image is flanked by the track listings, but even there, the information given is unreliable. Unlike its predecessors You Can All Join In and Nice Enough To Eat, there are no credits for cover art (the cover art was by Tony Wright, his first sleeve for Island), photography or design. The impression is left that the album’s production was rushed, presumably to leave enough lead-time to promote the albums featured. The English version of the album came out in two pressings, one with the pink label and “i” logo, the other with the label displaying a palm motif on a white background and a pink rim, each version with some minor variations in the production of individual tracks.

In the late sixties British record labels started to release a selection of their artists’ material on records known as samplers. These were not intended as anthologies or compilations – the purpose was to allow listeners the opportunity to sample a range of acts at a reduced price, showcasing in particular those for whom there was not a conventional singles market and hence little opportunity for radio airplay in the UK. Columbia’s ‘The Rock Machine Turns You On’ and Liberty Records ‘Gutbucket’ .   Island Records produced a series of gems from ‘Nice Enough to Eat’ and ‘You Can All Join In’ in 1969, to ‘Bumpers’ in 1970 and ‘El Pea’ in 1971. ‘Bumpers’ was, as it’s name would suggest, the pick of the crop, with an eclectic yet cohesive collection of music across two 33rpm vinyl discs. Priced at actually 29/11 cover price . The album came out in two pressings, one with the pink label and “i” logo, the other with the label displaying a palm motif on a white background and a pink rim.

Side One

  1. “Every Mother’s Son”  – Traffic (from John Barleycorn Must Die (ILPS 9116)) (7:06)
  2. “Love”  – Bronco (from Bronco (ILPS 9134))  (4:42)
  3. “I Am the Walrus”  – Spooky Tooth (from The Last Puff (ILPS 9117)) (6:20)
  4. “Jesus, Buddha, Moses, Gauranga”  – Quintessence (Live version of track, not released elsewhere at the time, but available as ‘bonus’ track on CD version of album Quintessence (REPUK 1016) (5:15)

Side Two

  1. “Thunderbuck Ram” – Mott the Hoople (from Mad Shadows (ILPS 9119) (4:50)
  2. “Nothing To Say”  – Jethro Tull (from Benefit (ILPS 9123)) (5:10)
  3. “Going Back West”  – Jimmy Cliff (from Jimmy Cliff (ILPS 9133)) (5:32)
  4. “Send Your Son To Die” – Blodwyn Pig (from Getting To This (ILPS 9122)) (4:35)
  5. “Little Woman”  – Dave Mason (no source listed)  (2:30)

Side Three

  1. “Go Out And Get It”  – John & Beverley Martyn (from Stormbringer! (ILPS 9113)) (3:15)
  2. “Cadence & Cascade” – King Crimson (from In the Wake of Poseidon (ILPS 9127)) (4:30)
  3. “Reaching Out On All Sides”  – If (from If (ILPS 9129)) (5:35)
  4. “Oh I Wept”  – Free (from Fire and Water (ILSP 9120)) (4:25)
  5. “Hazey Jane” – Nick Drake (from his album to be released Autumn ’70) (4:28)

Side Four

  1. “Walk Awhile”  – Fairport Convention (from Full House (ILPS 9130)) (4:00)
  2. “Maybe You’re Right”  – Cat Stevens (from Mona Bone Jakon (ILPS 9118)) (3:00)
  3. “Island”  – Renaissance (from Renaissance (ILPS 9114)) (5:57)
  4. “The Sea”  – Fotheringay (from Fotheringay (ILPS 9125)) (5:25)
  5. “Take Me To Your Leader”  –Clouds (intended to be on their Chrysalis album to be released Autumn ’70) (2:55)

 

 

Steve Winwood formed Traffic with Jim Capaldi, Dave Mason, and Chris Wood in 1967. In the spirit of the times, the group was intended to be a cooperative, with the members living together in a country cottage in Berkshire and collaborating on their songs. Signed to Island Records their single “Paper Sun,” peaked in the U.K. Top Five in July 1967 and also spent several weeks in the lower reaches of the charts in America. Traffic recorded two sessions for Saturday Club and Top Gear shows in 1967. Session 1 first aired October 1967 while Session 2 first aired December 1967 recorded for the BBC Top Gear programme. Both are released here for the first time. Traffic also toured Europe and the live recording that comprises part two of this album was also made for radio broadcast, this time in Sweden at Radiohuset, Stockholm on September. 12th, 1967

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traffic

John Peel’s legendary status is defined by the vast amount of bands and artists he championed. His urge to “hear something he hadn’t heard before” led to a relentless search through demo tapes sent in to his radio show from songwriters and musicians looking for a break. His conviction in not following conventional programming formats, and offering his listeners an alternative to daytime pop pap would ensure that his relevance to broadcasting would remain vital right up to his untimely death in 2004. Chris Wood’s Flute playing is amazing on this. Their BBC Sessions deserve to be officially released! As does the Copenhagen ’67 Concert.

His sessions would become an important outlet for new listeners to sample live selections from fledgling and established artists. Many of these recordings have been released to the public, some remain in the vaults. Here is a continuing history of all the sessions, starting in 1967 for his “Top Gear” show right up to the final recording in October 2004.

December 11th 1967: Traffic John Peel Session Studio – 201 Piccadilly, Studio 1

Tracklist:

Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush
Heaven Is On Your Mind
No Face No Name No Number
Dealer
Hope I Never Find Me There

The Band:

Jim Capaldi – drums, acoustic guitar, lead vocals, Dave Mason – electric guitar, bass, vocals Steve Winwood – electric guitar, keyboards, vocals Chris Wood – flute. percussion ,

reDiscover ‘Alone Together’

Over the years there have been many records that have been given the tag, “lost classic” or “forgotten masterpiece”, and perhaps many of them are. But I like to think that this Dave Mason album released in June 1970 in America is one such Classic.
Dave had left Traffic and gone to the West Coast where he had met producer Tommy LiPuma who signed him to his, Blue Thumb Records – a label whose smattering of releases since 1968 included Captain Beefheart’s Strictly Personal, Aynsley Dunbar’s Retaliation and W.C. Fields’s, Anyone Who Hates Dogs and Children Can’t Be All Bad.

Dave Mason’s reputation was such that he attracted some of the best musicians around including some from Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishman band. There’s Leon Russell, drummer, Jim Keltner, guitarist, Don Preston and singers Claudia Linnear and Rita Coolidge. Drummer, Jim Gordon and bass player Carl Radle, were also in the Cocker band and they, soon after recording “Alone Together”, become the Derek and the Dominos’ rhythm section; Larry Knechtel who played the piano on Bridge Over Troubled Waters also plays bass on Mason’s album. You get the picture, it really was the best musicians that could be assembled in 1970.

Recording was at Sunset Sound and Elektra Recording Studio with Bruce and Doug Botnick handling the engineering and Tommy LiPuma and Dave himself acting as producers; Al Schmitt did the mixing. We namecheck them because it’s the ‘sound’ of this record that is one of its strengths. It really did ‘play’ better than so many records at the time.

dave_mason-alone_together(1)

Aside from the brilliant musicianship what shines though on this record is Dave Mason’s song writing, there is not a dud among the eight tracks. The album opens with ‘Only you Know and I Know’, which could so easily have been a track from Mad Dogs – it has all the trademarks. ‘Can’t Stop Worrying, Can’t Stop Loving’ is the musical polar opposite from the groove of the opener. It is a delicate ballad that features Dave’s plaintive vocals; so often over-shadowed in Traffic by Stevie Winwood.

Waitin’ On You’ is back in the groove with some funky electric piano from Leon Russell. Side one of the original record closes with the stately, towering, ‘Shouldn’t Have Took More Than You Gave’ that is one of the real stand out tracks; it features Mason’s brilliant wah-wah guitar – the best since Eric Clapton’s ‘Tales of Brave Ulysses’, Leon Russell’s piano is just as superb.

 

‘Sad and Deep as You’ opens the second side and is another reflective song from Dave and it again shows that he’s no slouch in the vocal department. ‘World In Changes’ is a great song, acoustic layered guitars build under Dave’s vocal and the track brings out the best in the musicians – so tight and together. Russell’s organ underpins the whole track and he’s allowed a great solo towards the end of the song.

The penultimate track, ‘Just A Song’ is redolent of The Band and the beginnings of Americana, with its banjo motif and the gospel infused backing vocals from Bonnie Bramlett, Claudia, Rita and co. The album’s closer is arguably its best track, ‘Look at You Look at Me,’ a song Mason cowrote with Traffic’s drummer, Jim Capaldi, who also plays on it with his trademark tight sound. This is one of those songs that you can play to people and they will instantly ‘get it’. It’s quintessential 1970s rock…and that’s no bad thing.
When the album came out Billboard said, “Mason with help from friends Jim Capaldi and Leon Russell proves his mastery of the rock idiom once and for all. The lyric content and music content of every song catches the senses of the listener and creates excitement.” That sorta nails it, but this is an album that will take repeated listenings, trust us, we’ve been playing regularly for 45 years. It also reminds us that 8 songs does make an album, less can so often be more. Alone Together is perfection. As a little footnote, when the original LP came out it was a masterful piece of packaging, designed and photographed by Barry Feinstein and Tom Wilkes. Housed in a triple gatefold sleeve, a die cut triple fold-out picture jacket, with Dave’s head and top hat popping up when you opened the record. A number were pressed with marbled vinyl. It was impossible to see the grooves and it made it appear that the needle was floating above the record

All songs written and composed by Dave Mason, except where indicated.

1. “Only You Know and I Know” 0:00
2. “Can’t Stop Worrying, Can’t Stop Loving” 4:05
3. “Waitin’ on You” 7:09
4. “Shouldn’t Have Took More Than You Gave” 10:11
5. “World in Changes” 16:11
6. “Sad and Deep as You” 20:46
7. “Just a Song” 24:19
8. “Look at You Look at Me” (Dave Mason, Jim Capaldi) 27:20
Credits and personnel Dave Mason – guitar, vocals Bonnie Bramlett – vocals Leon Russell – keyboards Carl Radle – bass Chris Ethridge – bass Larry Knechtel – bass Jim Capaldi – drums Jim Gordon – drums Jim Keltner – drums Michael DeTemple – guitar Don Preston – keyboards John Simon – keyboards John Barbata – drums Rita Coolidge – vocals Mike Coolidge – vocals Claudia Lennear – vocals Lou Cooper – vocals Bob Norwood – vocals Jack Storti – vocals

Production Dave Mason, Tommy LiPuma – producer Bruce Botnick, Douglas Botnick – recording engineer Al Schmitt – mixing Barry Feinstein, Tom Wilkes – photography/design

On this date in 1967, Traffic released their debut album ‘Mr. Fantasy’. 

The second half of 1967 is memorable for many landmarks in the annals of pop history, but one that’s sometimes a little underplayed is the remarkable arrival of a new British rock force called Traffic.

In the space of less than six months, the band racked up no fewer than three top ten hits in the UK with ‘Paper Sun,’ ‘Hole In My Shoe’ and ‘Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush.’ Then, exactly 48 years ago on the countdown on 30th December, 1967, they rounded off the year in style by charting with their first album, Mr. Fantasy.

Beneath the surface of what appeared to be a new driving force in creative British pop, all was less than harmonious, because by the time the album appeared, Dave Mason was about to split with his colleagues Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi and Chris Wood. He returned to the fold in time for their self-titled follow-up of 1968.

Paper Sun

“Dave Quits, But Traffic Keeps Moving’ was the Melody Maker’s headline in its 16 December issue. “It’s because there are things I want to do and for me to do them while still in the group would hang the others up,” he told the paper’s Chris Welch. “The best thing to do is leave. I decided ages ago.” Almost immediately, he started producing the debut album by Family, Music In A Doll’s House, which came out the following July.

Nevertheless, Mason still had three solo compositions on Mr. Fantasy, in the form of ‘House For Everyone,’ ‘Utterly Simple’ and ‘Hope I Never Find Me There.’ He also had a co-write on the closing ‘Giving To You,’ with all six remaining tracks credited to the Winwood/Capaldi/Wood triumvirate. As a notable example of the way that the singles and album markets were now splitting in two, the album didn’t contain any of Traffic’s hit singles.

Mr. Fantasy opened on the chart at No. 38, as The Beatles‘ Sgt.Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band continued at No. 1, in what turned out to be the penultimate week at the summit for that particular classic. The Traffic album then faltered at No. 40 before rallying in the new year to spend two weeks at No. 17, and then hitting a No. 16 peak in early February. In the US, a different version of the album, with alternative sequencing and the notable addition of ‘Smiling Phases,’ hit No. 88. Bigger achievements were in store for Traffic on both sides of the Atlantic.

Traffic Make Their Album Debut

reDiscover ‘Alone Together’

Over the years there have been many records that have been given the tag, “lost classic” or “forgotten masterpiece”, and perhaps many of them are. But we like to think that this Dave Mason album released in June 1970 is the real deal.
Dave Mason had left Traffic and gone to the West Coast where he had met producer Tommy LiPuma who signed him to his, Blue Thumb Records – a label whose smattering of releases since 1968 included Captain Beefheart’s Strictly Personal, Aynsley Dunbar’s Retaliation and W.C. Fields’s, Anyone Who Hates Dogs and Children Can’t Be All Bad.

Dave Mason’s reputation was such that he attracted some of the best musicians around including some from Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishman band. There’s Leon Russell, drummer, Jim Keltner, guitarist, Don Preston and singers Claudia Linnear and Rita Coolidge. Drummer, Jim Gordon and bass player Carl Radle, were also in the Cocker band and they, soon after recording Alone Together, become the Derek and the Dominos’ rhythm section; Larry Knechtel who played the piano on Bridge Over Troubled Waters also plays bass on Mason’s album. You get the picture, it really was the best musicians that could be assembled in 1970.

Recording was at Sunset Sound and Elektra Recording Studio with Bruce and Doug Botnick handling the engineering and Tommy LiPuma and Dave himself acting as producers; Al Schmitt did the mixing. We namecheck them because it’s the ‘sound’ of this record that is one of its strengths. It really did ‘play’ better than so many records at the time.

Aside from the brilliant musicianship what shines though on this record is Dave Mason’s song writing, there is not a dud among the eight tracks. The album opens with ‘Only you Know and I Know’, which could so easily have been a track from Mad Dogs – it has all the trademarks. ‘Can’t Stop Worrying, Can’t Stop Loving’ is the musical polar opposite from the groove of the opener. It is a delicate ballad that features Dave’s plaintive vocals; so often over-shadowed in Traffic by Stevie Winwood.

‘Waitin’ On You’ is back in the groove with some funky electric piano from Leon Russell. Side one of the original record closes with the stately, towering, ‘Shouldn’t Have Took More Than You Gave’ that is one of the real stand out tracks; it features Mason’s brilliant wah-wah guitar – the best since Eric Clapton’s ‘Tales of Brave Ulysses’, Leon Russell’s piano is just as superb.

‘Sad and Deep as You’ opens the second side and is another reflective song from Dave and it again shows that he’s no slouch in the vocal department. ‘World In Changes’ is a great song, acoustic layered guitars build under Dave’s vocal and the track brings out the best in the musicians – so tight and together. Russell’s organ underpins the whole track and he’s allowed a great solo towards the end of the song.

The penultimate track, ‘Just A Song’ is redolent of The Band and the beginnings of Americana, with its banjo motif and the gospel infused backing vocals from Bonnie Bramlett, Claudia, Rita and co. The album’s closer is arguably its best track, ‘Look at You Look at Me,’ a song Mason co wrote with Traffic’s drummer, Jim Capaldi, who also plays on it with his trademark tight sound. This is one of those songs that you can play to people and they will instantly ‘get it’. It’s quintessential 1970s rock…and that’s no bad thing.
When the album came out Billboard said, “Mason with help from friends Jim Capaldi and Leon Russell proves his mastery of the rock idiom once and for all. The lyric content and music content of every song catches the senses of the listener and creates excitement.” That sorta nails it, but this is an album that will take repeated listenings, trust us, we’ve been playing regularly for 45 years. It also reminds us that 8 songs does make an album, less can so often be more. Alone Together is perfection.

alonetogether2

As a little footnote, when the original LP came out it was a masterful piece of packaging, designed and photographed by Barry Feinstein and Tom Wilkes. Housed in a triple gatefold sleeve, a die cut triple fold-out picture jacket, with Dave’s head and top hat popping up when you opened the record. A number were pressed with marbled vinyl. It was impossible to see the grooves and it made it appear that the needle was floating above the record.