Thursday, September 18, 2008

Dave Mason "Alone Together" (music)

Alone together Dave Mason (guitar, vocals), backed by an all-star cast of musicians.

Back when I was in college in the early 70s, Dave Mason's album Alone Together was a favorite of a friend of mine. One day, he took it out to play it and someone who had never seen it before took one look at the LP and blurted, "That record is moldy."

That was one of the album's claims to fame.  Mason recorded this album after leaving Traffic, and someone got the idea to put it out on colored vinyl.  Not one color, but multiple colors, a weird mixture of gray and brown and beige*. I know the first few times I listened I was so fascinated by watching it spin that  didn't really hear the music.

Eventually, though I did, and discovered one of rock's classics.

Mason was a fine songwriter even with Traffic, but he was happier finally getting out on his own and not having to compete with Steve Winwood. He got together a group of well-known musicians, probably people he met while touring with Delaney and Bonnie. This included them, but people like Eric Clapton, Jim Gordon, Carl Radle, Chris Ethridge, Leon Russell, Jim Capaldi, Jim Keltner, John Simon, Rita Coolidge, and many more.  If the names don't all mean anything to you, they did back then -- remnants of Derek and the Dominoes, Mad Dogs and Englishmen, and many others.  It was something of a British collective of musicians who moved around and helped each other out.

But it Mason's show.  The best known cut was his "Only You Know and I Know," a song he recorded about the same time when touring with Delaney and Bonnie and Friends.  "Shouldn't Have Took More than You Gave" is an explanation of a breakup, and other standouts include "Waitin' On You," "World in Changes," "Sad and Deep as You," and "Look at You, Look at Me."**

There isn't a weak cut on the album.  Mason's singing is fine, and the songs are catchy and emotionally strong.

The album was a minor hit, getting up to 22 on the Billboard charts. But Mason's next project hurt his street cred:  a collaboration of Mama Cass Elliott.  The Mamas and the Papas weren't as cool as Eric Clapton and Leon Russell, and, though the album was a good one, it didn't sell -- too much Mason for Elliott's fans, and too much Mama Cass for everyone else. 

Mason continued (and still seems to be working).  He had a minor hit single with "We Just Disagree," in 1977.  But Alone Together remains not only his most notable album, but a classic that bears rediscovery.

Of course, the CD will be silver, not moldy***. 

*There's no particular reason for vinyl records to be black; some used other colors from time to time.  But the main reason for sticking to black was technical:  if you changed colors, you had to clean the equipment so that it wouldn't pick up colors from the previous album. 

** Mason had a thing for long song titles.

*** In the late 70s, I was in a record store and they pulled out a copy of the album to play for the customers.  I pointed.  "It's black!" I said. The clerk said only the first pressing was multicolor, but I knew different -- I picked out mine in a cutout bin.


Anonymous said...

I found a this album in a collection I have and the record is a mix of pink and brown. The album is in great condition and the cover as well. I was wondering if you knew the value of this album to a collector. It is a very special album to be sure. Get back to me at thanks.

Unknown said...

Don't forget that his song "Rock me Baby and Roll Me Away" made it to the the top 30. He actually had a lot of minor hits, didn't he? It just never had songs that consistently broke the top five or even top 10. I always felt it "Let it Go, Let it Flow" was a very good album. I used to listen to it often in the 70s. In fact, I still listen to it sometimes on YouTube.