Magic was in the air in 1970 and it certainly reached Los Angeles' Sunset Sound, where Dave Mason, along with an array of new friends and some of the top session musicians around, recorded Alone Together.
Though only 24 years old, Mason had plenty of experience under his belt. The multi-instrumentalist made a name for himself as part of Traffic, penning some of their best crossover material ("Hole in My Shoe," "Feelin' Alright?"). He also participated in sessions with The Rolling Stones (playing the Indian instruments on "Street Fighting Man") and Jimi Hendrix (it's Dave's acoustic guitar on Jimi's iconic cover of "All Along the Watchtower.") Following Traffic's split, Mason headed out to California, armed with an acoustic and plenty of top-rate songs. "Only You Know and I Know," "World in Changes," "Look At You, Look At Me," "Shouldn't Have Took More Than You Gave," and "Sad and Deep As You" would all find a place on the ensuing album and remain in Mason's setlist to the present day. The songs remain indelible, and his debut remains a classic, with its eye-catching, iconic album art and first-of-its-kind marble vinyl. Yet, through the years, Mason has honed these songs, never playing them quite the same way twice, adjusting the arrangements and perfecting his delivery all the while. Now he's taken these songs into the studio once more.
Fifty years since the original recording hit shops, Dave Mason today releases Alone Together Again, which sees the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee revisit the entire eight-song album with his touring band and special guests like Jonathan McEuen, Gretchen Rhodes, and John McFee of The Doobie Brothers. The results are wholly original and fantastic all the way through, down to the reprised marbled CD face and the updated album artwork.
The Second Disc caught up with Dave Mason via email to chat about the project, beginning with how the idea came about to re-record his beloved album.
"I had always been somewhat dissatisfied with my vocals [on the original]," Mason reflects. "I actually started this as a project for my own amusement some 10 years ago," as an experiment to see what could happen. Each of the tracks was recorded over those intervening ten years, with a majority cut at Lakehouse Studios in Asbury Park in March 2016. "Certain songs, in my mind, came out with better arrangements and my voice had acquired a certain maturity in all the songs on the new album."
To see the world of changes between Mason in 1970 and Mason in 2020 is something special. For as great as the original album is, you can sense that this was a new world for him. In 1970, Mason was 7,000 miles from his first home. He was still new to America, and found himself working in one of Hollywood's iconic studios, in a room full of session players who were learning his songs for the first time. The whole experience was unfamiliar, and it shows at times. In 2020, he's joined by a band that's been onstage with him for over a decade, along with close friends and collaborators who share his spirit. Their arrangements are well-practiced. His voice has aged like a fine wine and his playing is as soulful and articulate as ever. In short, this experiment works.
Fans who have seen Dave Mason on the road will be familiar with many of the arrangements. "Only You Know and I Know" (with guest vocals by Gretchen Rhodes), a fiery "Look At You Look At Me," and an increasingly relevant "Shouldn't Have Took More Than You Gave" are imbued with the excitement of any live show. In fact, "Sad and Deep As You" is a live recording, a stunning version from an XM Studios session in 2004 with a new guitar part by Jason Roller added on. Yet, Alone Together Again is at its most interesting when Dave changes things up.
On "Can't Stop Worrying, Can't Stop Loving," Mason eschews the solo, 12-string-led arrangement that's been a staple of his shows in favor of a country-inspired reading. Subtle melodic changes, beautiful harmonies, bluesy guitar lines, and a gorgeous pedal steel part make this a highlight of the set that's equal parts familiar and bristling with energy.
But it's a Caribbean-tinged reimagining that really stands out. "I had been playing around with some of the songs, and this arrangement of 'World In Changes' started to emerge," Dave says about his wild remake. "I have always loved reggae since it was always around in England. Like Joe Cocker doing 'Feeling Alright?' - which is so different from the original version I did with Traffic - I thought that this was a cool contemporary version of the original arrangement, but the sentiment is timeless."
Mason has also updated the album artwork, keeping some of the most iconic aspects, but updating them for 2020. "[There] was some effort made on actually trying to find the exact spot" of the Barry Feinstein-directed original photo session, Dave recalls, but in the end Chris Jensen designed a new package that the artist feels "echoes the original." It's not just the rocks on the front cover that get reprised, however. Mason's team have designed a tri-fold package that evokes the original down to the hole in his hat (perfect for pinning to your wall next to the original). The multicolored sunburst vinyl is also given a tip of the hat as each CD features the marble effect on its face. Mason tells us a vinyl edition is on the way at a later date: "Just like the original multi-colored album, each record will be different."
Take a look inside Alone Together Again with this unboxing video:
"Change - change is coming!" Mason chants on the new version of "World in Changes," but while Alone Together might be a revision, he also recognizes the importance of the original album, its place in rock history, and in the hearts of his longtime fans. "I don't see Alone Together Again as a replacement," he confirms. "This was more of a personal project. I, of course, hope others will love it, and maybe [it will] find some new fans along the way...The sentiments that are in the songs are somewhat timeless. So they resonate just the same."
On Alone Together Again, Dave Mason turns around with a look back at his iconic debut and delivers the goods. The new album is available today on BMG/Shelter Music. You can find it on CD, and through digital download and streaming music providers. A marble vinyl edition will be available at a later date, so stay tuned to TSD for further updates! To celebrate the album's release, Mason will host an online release party on Facebook Live with special guest Bonnie Bramlett today at 4PM Pacific / 7PM Eastern. Tune in for stories, music and more. You might even hear about his next project, a memoir tentatively titled Only You Know and I Know, due in 2021!
You can order your copy of Alone Together right here at Dave Mason's online shop.