DAVE MASON-IT’S LIKE YOU NEVER LEFT.

DAVE MASON-IT’S LIKE YOU NEVER LEFT.

There aren’t many musicians who’ve played with everyone from Jimi Hendrix, Fleetwood Mac, Eric Clapton, David Crosby, George Harrison, Joe Walsh, Graham Nash and Paul McCartney. Dave Mason did. He played on numerous classic albums. This includes Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland, the Rolling Stones’ Beggar’s Banquet and George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass. Dave also cofounded pioneering British rock band Traffic. After leaving Traffic in 1969, Dave embarked upon a successful solo career. 

His debut album was 1970s Alone Together. Three years later, in 1973, Dave released It’s Like You Never Left. It featured a glittering all-star cast and was one the best albums of Dave’s solo career. It’s Like You Never Left has just been rereleased by BGO Records, and showcases the talents of one of the legends of British music, David Mason.

Dave Mason cofounded Traffic in April 1967. Looking back, it’s like a British supergroup. The originally lineup featured Dave, Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi and Chris Wood. This was the lineup that released Traffic’s first three albums, which were released between 1967 and 1969. 

Traffic’s debut was Mr. Fantasy. It was released eight months after Traffic were founded. Mr. Fantasy was released in December 1967. It reached number eight in the UK. Over the Atlantic, Mr. Fantasy was released as Heaven Is in Your Mind and reached number eighty-eight in the US Billboard 200 charts. The two singles that were released from Mr. Fantasy and Heaven Is in Your Mind were Paper Sun and Hole In My. Paper Sun reached number five in the UK and number ninety-four in the US Billboard 100. Hole In My Show gave Traffic the biggest hit of their career, when it reached number two in the UK. Considering this was Traffic’s debut album, they’d come a long way in a short time.

After the release of Mr. Fantasy, Traffic looked like joining the rock’s major league. They started out as a psychedelic rock band, influenced by The Beatles, but gradually, decided to diversify musically. Just like so many late-sixties bands, Traffic were keen to explore sonic possibilities. This didn’t go down well with all the members. Indeed, all wasn’t well within Traffic.

Following the release of Mr. Fantasy, Dave quit Traffic. The reason given was “artistic differences.” For Traffic this was a huge blow. Dave wasn’t lost to music. He produced Family’s debut album Music In A Doll’s House. However, midway through the recording of their sophomore album Traffic, Dave rejoined Traffic. He put his artistic differences aside and Traffic was released in October 1968.

On its release, Traffic was the album the broke Traffic in America. It reached number seventeen in the US Billboard 200 and number nine in the UK. That was as good as things got for Traffic featuring Dave Mason.

Just seven months after the release of Traffic, Last Exit was released in May 1969. It was essentially a selection of unreleased tracks. Although the album cover featured the four members of Traffic, Dave didn’t play on most of the songs. He wrote Just For You, and cowrote Shanghai Noodle Factor and Something’s Got a Hold of My Toe. Dave played guitar on Just for You and Something’s Got a Hold of My Toe. He also delivered the lead vocal on Just for You. Last Exit wasn’t a commercial success in the UK. It failed to chart. Across the Atlantic, Last Exit reached number nineteen in the US Billboard 200. Last Exit proved to be aptly named, as it was Dave’s Traffic swan-song. 

After Last Exit, Dave embarked upon his solo career. He was also busy playing on albums by the biggest names in music. In 1968, Dave played on Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland and the Rolling Stones’ Beggar’s Banquet. Then in 1970, as Dave’s solo career began, he played on George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass. Dave also toured with Delaney and Bonnie and Friends. This was an all-star band featuring Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Greg and Daune Allman, Leon Russell, Rita Coolidge, King Curtis and Bobby Whitlock. Somehow, Dave also managed to find the time to record his debut album Along Together.

Alone Together saw Dave joined by the great and good of music. Many of the artists who toured with Delaney and Bonnie and Friends joined Dave. This included Eric Clapton, Leon Russell and Rita Coolidge. Jim Capaldi of Traffic, and legendary American session drummer Jim Keltner joined Dave. With such an illustrious cast of guest musicians, it’s no surprise that Alone Together was critically acclaimed and commercially successful. It reached number twenty-two in the US Billboard 200. Dave’s solo career had picked up where he left off with Traffic. 

After the commercial success of his debut solo album, Dave released a collaboration with Cass Ellitot. Dave had been introduced to Mama Cass by a mutual friend. Mama Cass, like Dave was pursuing a solo career. She’d released two solo albums. However, both she and Dave put their solo career on hold and released an album together. Both of them missed being part of a group and collaborating with others. So they began work on Dave Mason and Cass Elliot.

Although Dave and Mama Cass were given equal billing, on Dave Mason and Cass Elliot, Dave wrote five songs and cowrote two other tracks. This included Something to Make You Happy, which Dave and Mama Cass cowrote. When recording began, it was more like a Dave Mason solo album. He sang all the lead vocals. Mama Cass was left singing backing vocals. However, Dave Mason and Cass Elliot sold well. 

Released in March 1971, Dave Mason and Cass Elliot reached number forty-nine in the US Billboard 200 charts. No wonder. It was very much of its time, tapping in to the West Coast sound. Country rock with a bluesy hue, it proved more popular in America than in the UK. That was the case with Dave’s solo career, which was on hold.

Dave was signed to Blue Thumb Records. However, in 1972, just as he was about to record his sophomore album Headkeeper, Dave entered into a dispute with Blue Thumb Records. Given he was Blue Thumb Records’ most successful artist, he wanted an improved contract. A standoff ensued. However, Blue Thumb Records realised that Dave needed to release another album. So, they released Headkeeper.

Headkeeper was a mixture of tracks recorded in Sunset Sound Studios, Hollywood and live at the Troubadour in Los Angeles. Released in 1972, Headkeeper reached number fifty-one in the US Billboard 200 charts. It proved to be Dave’s final album for Blue Thumb Records. After this, he signed to Columbia.

Dave’s major label debut was It’s Like You Never Left. It’s a collection of ten tracks. Nine were written by Dave. He cowrote Side Tracked with Rick Jaegar, Mark Jordan and Lonnie Turner, who were part of Dave’s all-star backing band.

Recording of It’s Like You Never Left took place at the Record Plant and Sunset Sound in LA, plus CBS Studios in San Francisco. Dave’s band included some top musicians. The rhythm section included drummers Jim Keltner and Rick Jaegar, bassists Chuck Rainey, Carl Radle, Charles Fletcher, Greg Reeves and Lonnie Turner, while George Harrison played guitar. They were joined by pianist and organist Mark Jordan, Stevie Wonder on harmonica, Rocky on congas and Mark Cecil on Moog. A horn section and backing vocalists were brought onboard. Among the backing vocalists were Kathleen Saroyan, Clydie King, Julie Tillman, Maxine Willard and  John Batdorf. Dave played guitar and Moog bass synth on what was, his third solo album, It’s Like You Never Left.

On its release in 1973, It’s Like You Never Left was Dave’s first new solo album since 1970. This was a long time not to release a new album. His previous album Headkeeper, was compiled and released by Blue Thumb Records. At that time, Blue Thumb Records and Dave were locked in a   during a lengthy and bitter legal dispute. That was the past. It’s Like You Never Left was the future. It was released to widespread critical acclaim and eached number fifty in the US Billboard 200 charts. With a little from his friends, Dave’s comeback album was a success. You’ll realise why when I tell you about It’s Like You Never Left.

Baby… Please opens It’s Like You Never Left. Guitars are strummed while drums provide the heartbeat. Soon, a blistering guitar solo is unleashed. That’s the signal for the band to kick loose. Rick Jaeger’s drums and Chuck Rainey’s bass dive the arrangement along at breakneck speed. Dave unleashes a needy, soul-baring vocal. Soulful harmonies sweep in. They’re the perfect foil for the desperation and heartbreak in Dave’s vocal as the West Coast sound and RM Rock combines seamlessly. 

 Every Woman marks a change in sound. There’s a much more understated sound. That’s because the band unplug. Just gently strummed guitars accompany Dave and Graham Nash’s tender, heartfelt vocals. There’s a nod to C.S.N.Y. on this beautiful paean.

If You’ve Got Love has an early seventies West Coast sound. Crystalline guitars set the scene for Dave’s vocal. It’s a mixture of tenderness and sincerity, as his all-star band drive the arrangement along. Just like Baby… Please, the bass is prominent in the mix. This time, Carl Radle plays bass. He matches Jim Keltner every step of the way. Along with the Hammond organ and chiming guitars, they provide the perfect backdrop for Dave. Later, Dave’s vocal becomes joyous. It grows in power and confidence he sings call and response. Soaring, sweeping gospel tinged harmonies answer his call. By then, this hook-laden track has taken on a joyous, celebratory sound. 

Maybe sees another change in sound. It’s just guitars and bass that accompany Dave’s hopeful, heartfelt vocal. Later, there’s a sense of urgency in his vocal as he tries to rescue his failing relationship.

Head Keeper sees Dave and his kick loose from the get-go. The arrangement gallops along. Searing, scorching and quivering rocky guitars are unleashed. Meanwhile, the rhythm section drive the arrangement along. Dave’s vocal is a powerful and urgent. This suits the lyrics, about the all-seeing “seeker.” Adding the finishing touches are harmonies and some blistering guitar licks. They add to the drama and theatre of this track.

A lone piano opens Misty Morning Stranger. It’s joined by stabs of horns and rocky guitars. Then when Dave’s vocal enters, again, it’s a mixture of power and urgency. Soon, it settles down and becomes soulful. Behind him, his band veer between dramatic and understated. When it becomes understated, this allows Dave’s vocal to take centre-stage. After that, his vocal is carried along by the band. Tempo changes, stabs of horns, hypnotic piano chords and a barnstorming crystalline guitar solo play their part in what’s one of the highlights of It’s Like You Never Left.

Silent Partner marks another change of direction musically. Dave seems to draw inspiration from a  variety of sources. Folk, rock and even Caribbean music seem to have influenced Dave. Urgently, he strums his guitar, before launching into the lyrics. His vocal is urgent, but soulful as he sings about the “Silent Partner whose taken hold.” Later Dave sings:“when you can’t see past your nose?” Succinctly, Dave articulates how a drug addict feels. All that matters is their next fix. It’s a powerful track.

Side Tracked has a lovely laid-back sound. A crystalline guitar solo takes centre-stage, while the rhythm section and keyboards combine. They jam for just over three minutes, showcasing their combined talents. Stealing the show is Dave’s guitar playing. It’s his best on It’s Like You Never Left. This results in a beautiful mellow, instrumental.

As the rhythm section open The Lonely One, Stevie Wonder tenderly plays harmonica. This sets the scene for Dave’s wistful vocal. Flourishes of piano and brief bursts of harmonica accompany him. So do washes of Hammond organ and sweeping harmonies. All the time, the rhythm section provide the heartbeat. When all this is combined, it’s the perfect backdrop for a heartbroken Dave. His pain and hurt seems real. It’s as if he’s lived, loved and survived to tell the tale.

Closing It’s Like You Never Left is the title-track. It’s a rocky track, where the band kick loose from the opening bars. A pounding rhythm section, scorching guitars and dramatic harmonies provide the backdrop for Dave’s soul-searching vocal. Again, it’s a song about the break up of a relationship. Just like the relationship, the song is a roller-coaster ride. Sudden changes in tempo, injections of dramatic harmonies and blistering guitar solos are used. Somehow, it work…just. However, by the end of the track you’re spent, exhausted and exhilarated, by the constant twists and turns of this roller coaster of a track. 

Three years after the release of his debut album Alone Together, Dave Mason returned with It’s Like You Never Left. It featured ten tracks where Dave is accompanied by an all-star cast. The result was an eclectic album, where we hear the many sides of Dave Mason. 

During It’s Like You Never Left, Dave takes detours via blues, country, folk, rock, soul and the West Coast sound. One minute Dave’s delivering a tender, understated track like Every Woman, the next he’s kicking loose on the joyous and celebratory If You’ve Got Love. Then there’s the title-track. It’s a roller-coaster ride, full of sudden changes. Somehow, Dave who produced It’s Like You Never Left manages to make the track work. Whether he’s kicking loose or dropping the tempo and delivering a soul-baring relationship song, Dave Mason is always captivating. Part of the reason for this, is his lyrics.

Dave’s songs tell stories. Many of his songs are about relationships. There’s tales of love, love lost and loneliness. Many of the songs sound personal. It’s as if they’re a window into Dave’s soul. Then on Silent Partner, Dave tackles the subject or drug addiction, and specifically, cocaine addiction. It was, after all, the rock star’s drug of choice during the seventies. Just like the rest of the songs on  It’s Like You Never Left, Silent Partner tells a story. Dave Mason, you see, is a born storyteller. His songs have a cinematic quality. Pictures and scenarios unfold and take shape before your eyes, during Dave Mason’s comeback album  It’s Like You Never Left.

After a gap of three years, Dave Mason returned with It’s Like You Never Left which has just been rereleased by BGO Records. It’s Like You Never Left was a welcome return to form from Dave Mason. He’d been away far too long. The dispute with Blue Thumb Records didn’t help. Now signed to Columbia, Dave Mason had returned with It’s Like You Never Left. This was an album that came close to rivalling Dave’s debut Alone Together. However, Alone Together remains the highlight of Dave Mason’s solo career. Coming a very close second is It’s Like You Never Left, which showcases the multitalented Dave Mason.

DAVE MASON-IT’S LIKE YOU NEVER LEFT.

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