Hot Platters: Alone Together - Dave Mason (Blue Thumb Records, 1970)

TRACK LIST

01.  Only You Know & I Know 

02.  Can’t Stop Worrying, Can’t Stop Loving 

03.  Waitin On You 

04.  Shouldn’t Have Took Me Than You Gave 

05.  World In Changes 

06.  Sad & Deep As You 

07.  Just A Song 

08.  Look At You, Look At Me

 

SESSION CREDITS

Dave Mason - guitar, vocals 
Delaney Bramlett - 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 

Production Credits

* Producer: Dave Mason, Tommy LiPuma 

Recording Engineers: Bruce Botnick, Douglas Botnick  Mixing: Al Schmitt 
Photography/Design: Barry Feinstein, Tom Wilkes

 

During the late 60's and the early 70's, Dave Mason, a member of the popular UK band Traffic, was very active on the rock music scene.  He would sit in with a wide variety of other rockers at the popular club, Steve Paul's The Scene.

"The man responsible for distracting Steve Winwood from The Spencer Davis Group’s more basic r’n’b/soul approach, while working as the band’s roadie, before becoming Traffic’s odd man in’n’out. He’s also the author of some of their biggest hits (Hole In My Shoe, Feelin’ Alright), as well as some of the quirkiest album tracks (House For Everyone, Utterly Simple…).  Before re-joining Traffic for the third time in ’71 for a tour and a live album, he produced Family’s debut LP, played on Hendrix’s version of … Watchtower and Harrison’s All Things Must Pass, toured with Delaney and Bonnie, and was in the initial line up of Derek and the Dominoes. It’s all Dave Mason. However, the reason for me writing this, is his time spent in the US at the turn of the decades, accompanied with an all-star line up, featuring among others Eric Clapton, Delaney & Bonnie, Rita Coolidge, Jim Keltner, Larry Knetchel, and Leon Russel." (pop diggers)

 

For a time, Mason was based in New York where he became friends with Jimi Hendrix and ended up doing some sessions on Hendrix's Electric Ladyland album (that's Mason playing acoustic guitar on Hendrix's masterful cover of Dylan's All Along The Watchtower).  Mason enjoyed interacting with a wide variety of musicians which ultimately led him to leave Traffic after the band's second album.

 

Recorded after Mason's departure from Traffic, Alone Together features all the earmarks of the early 1970's back-to-the-basics movement in rock music with many of the tracks sporting a grassroots guitar, bass & drums sound with a simple production featuring mostly unadorned vocals. Mason moves between good, concise pop styles found in Only You Know & I Know and Waitin On You and the extended jam workouts of Shouldn't Have Took More Than You Gave and Look At You, Look At Me. It all hangs together as one unit in the end and as I recall, when it was released in 1970, it gave Traffic's John Barleycorn album some competition

"In spite of Mason’s distinctively British dandy outfit gracing the cover art of Alone Together, the overall sound is rooted more into the American legacy, opening with the soulful Only You Know And I Know, sounding a bit like a sequel to Feelin’ Alright, and followed by an equally soulful country by way of The Band, heard in Can’t Stop Worrying, Can’t Stop Loving. The ones that kind of stick out to these ears, are World In Changes and Just A Song, making me think that after being stuck in the “traffic”, one of the latter days Weller’s next stops must’ve been this record as well."

 

Listening to the record today, the overwhelming musical influence of Mason's recent friendship with Delaney & Bonnie is quite apparent as the sidemen Mason chose for these sessions were currently playing with Delaney & Bonnie (Leon Russell, Carl Radle, Jim Keltner etc.) and reflects the type of music that duo was making at the time. After the initial success of the record, Mason's career seemed to slide a bit and the next several albums he released did not live up to the promise of his debut solo effort. 

ALONE TOGETHER ALBUM REVIEWS

"Wherever its music ranks in rock’s grand pantheon, there’s no debating that Alone Together is among the great visual experiences ever to land on a turntable. Dave Mason’s 1970 solo debut-with “solo” the key qualifier given his accomplishments to that point— featured on about a third of its copies striking “marble” vinyl, whose grays, whites, reds and browns swirled together hypnotically 33 1/3 times each minute. Packaged in a foldout sleeve designed to turn the record into a wall hanging, its presentation was emblematic of the album as a whole: thoughtful and vibrantly detailed, distinguished by impeccable craft. Co-produced by Mason and Tommy LiPuma, Alone Together reached #22 on the Billboard album chart, the highest placement among Mason’s 14 albums to make that chart between 1970-76.  

Mason’s knack for accessible, pop-leaning folk rock stood apart from the jazz/blues musical dialects of Steve Winwood and Jim Capaldi, which resulted in Traffic projects that felt less like collaborations than band members taking turns with their respective visions. Mason was largely out of the group by the time it pieced together Last Exit in 1969, and when Winwood departed later that year, Traffic came to a stop. Winwood, Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker formed Blind Faith, but after that supergroup flamed out in short order, Winwood’s next project evolved into a Traffic reunion, albeit without Mason. When Traffic’s John Barleycorn Must Die debuted in July 1970, Winwood/Capaldi influences were ascendant, but listeners fond of Mason’s compositions didn’t have to go without, as Alone Together had arrived one month earlier.  

The album derives substantial benefit from well-positioned guests. The formality of structure in the stout, mid-tempo Shouldn’t Have Took More Than You Gave is loosened by Leon Russell’s drizzle of piano, which gilds the song with flavorful character. It’s a triumph of design, with its arrangement providing an inviting atmosphere into which the chorus of Rita Coolidge and Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett nestles comfortably. The overall song is clinical yet easy to embrace, expansive without turning showy.  

Whether vocal or instrumental, Mason takes the same approach: mannered, yet undeniably effective. Against the ballad backdrop of “Sad and Deep as You,” his singing is deliberate, yet robust even at its most poised. His contemplative “World in Changes” is cool and simple, rock at its most thoughtful, even as he hoots loudly through its ascending closing swirl of organ, guitars and drums.  

A partner for Mason years before and for decades after Traffic, Capaldi appears on the set, including the pair’s co-written Look at You Look at Me. With Capaldi’s drums establishing a propulsive gait and Russell’s piano as sturdy punctuation amid a wash of sonic colors, the whole is as wild as Mason gets, and even then it’s not so much about energy as making pieces coalesce. Expertly manicured, it is among the most professional, groomed rock ever created, with every hair in place.  

A top-shelf roster of session players including drummer Jim Keltner and bass player Carl Radle is mixed and matched across different tunes (it’s enjoyable to guess who did what given that the album did not include track-by-track credits), but all find their place in immaculately crafted pieces. The billowing pulse of Just a Song is richly decorated by multiple instruments and voices, all of which coalesce into a singular whole. Electric piano dances in from the right and gritty electric guitar swoops from the left as Mason lands in the center of Waitin’ on You, anchoring a tune that oozes the unlikely pairing of ebullience and polish. His acoustic guitar playing is inevitably enticing, and when paired with the shape-defining drums of Can’t Stop Worrying, Can’t Stop Loving, yields an assured, easygoing rock ballad. On an album of so many individual pieces, overarching design is driven expertly by Mason’s vision.  

The enduring appeal of the record is easy to hear in its signature cut, Only You Know and I Know. It’s the type of tune for which the term “classic rock” deserved to be invented, a blueprint for assembling an ideal rock structure. Rousing and sprightly, it drapes an assured vocal over a simple-sounding confluence of acoustic and electric guitars that fit like puzzle pieces, while an insistent backbeat adds only what is needed.  The whole is an exercise in holistic rock remarkable for its definition and design, which charted as high as #42, and remains one of Mason’s best-known songs. It’s an appropriate calling card for a project distinguished by meticulous performances and attractive arrangements, which offers rewards for the ear as colorful as any mixed into its decorative vinyl." (Best Classic Bands)

"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 cowrote with Traffic’s drummer, Jim Capaldi, who also plays on it with his trademark tight sound....It’s quintessential 1970s rock…and that’s no bad thing." (udiscovermusic.com)

 

 "About 30% of the records were produced in so-called marble vinyl,[citation needed] a swirled mix of pink, brown and beige, rather than the usual black vinyl. The original record jacket is a tri-fold with a half-pocket on the inside to hold the record (originally issued without a paper inner sleeve). The top of the tri-fold has a die-cut image of Mason in a top hat, collaged behind a rocky outcrop, and there is a small die-cut hole at the top to permit the jacket to be hung on the wall as a poster." (Wikipedia)

Ah, the actual vinyl album of Alone Together was bizarre and reflected the still popular psychedelic artwork of the 60's. When Alone Together  was released in its original vinyl form, the picture above captures how the physical appearance of the actual vinyl album to us record buyers back in the day.  The first production run had the album looking like a swirling mess (the running joke around my college dorm was that Mason’s record looked like someone had thrown up on the record thus it was forever known among us as “the vomit album"!)  One can picture anthropologists in the future looking at the image of this vinyl mess and scratching their foreheads.  “Hmmm, this might definitely indicate drug use among the sixties rock counterculture after all….”

 

LISTEN TO THE ALBUM

 


MSR SINGLES BAR

 


BACK TO ALL POSTS

 

2 comments

  • Brian O’Connor
    Brian O’Connor Baldwin
    Hello John . I hope you and Loretta are doing well. Crazy times! Great Dave Mason piece! Had tickets for his March show with John Mayall at Westbury but alas show postponed until?? . I had an eight track of a Dave Mason show from the Calderone in the mid seventies that I attended. Was very depressed when the tape broke. Stay safe! Hope to see you soon!!

    Hello John . I hope you and Loretta are doing well. Crazy times! Great Dave Mason piece! Had tickets for his March show with John Mayall at Westbury but alas show postponed until?? . I had an eight track of a Dave Mason show from the Calderone in the mid seventies that I attended. Was very depressed when the tape broke. Stay safe! Hope to see you soon!!

  • Mind Smoke Records
    Mind Smoke Records
    Thanks for posting a comment Brian...stay safe!

    Thanks for posting a comment Brian...stay safe!

Add comment