Dave Mason | Alone Together Again | (self-released)
3 out of 5 stars
There aren’t many artists who can celebrate the 50th anniversary of their signature albums, let alone those still musically vital enough to re-record them. So this track by track do-over of Dave Mason’s debut solo release from 1970– five decades after the original– is an anomaly, at least in that respect.
Ex-Traffic founder and later soft/yacht rock star (“We Just Disagree,” “Every Woman”) Mason has gone all-in on this project. He not only reproduced each of the eight tracks on the rootsy Alone Together in spiffy new studio versions with mostly the same arrangements and instrumentation, but simulated the original album cover and graphics (albeit with current pictures) and even the marble colored vinyl—now printed on the CD surface– that was so unique, even mind blowing, at the time.
The first question to ask is the most logical; why bother? Mason explains in the press notes that he was never satisfied with the vocals of his 24 year old self on the original studio recording. For reasons that remain unclear, he thinks his voice has improved at 74 (perhaps he should have tried when he was in thirties or forties), but his musical chops haven’t diminished. He’s still active on the road and has the right to give it a shot. If not him, who else?
Of course the all-star cast from the first sessions which included the Delaney & Bonnie gang (Leon Russell and his friends) are not involved, a major shortcoming. There’s nothing wrong with Mason’s current group, but trying to recreate the congenial atmosphere of the 1970 vibe is impossible. While the 2020 model sounds crisper, as you would expect with 50 years of improved technology, the ambiance of those storied sessions cannot be duplicated. Even when Mason replicates the wild wah-wah solo in the standout “Shouldn’t Have Took More Than You Gave,” it’s missing the edge of the fifty year old one that still sounds revelatory. And shifting “World in Changes,” just fine in its initial blues/soul style, to a modified reggae beat doesn’t do that song any favors.
On the plus side, none of Alone Together’s now classic songs have aged. And if these fresh interpretations bring overdue recognition to Mason’s somewhat forgotten singer/songwriter tour de force, then it’s worth his time and effort to revisit, if perhaps not reinvent, it with this less than carbon copy.
Everyone is working their hardest here but ultimately you just can’t catch 1970’s lightning in 2020’s bottle.