Each of all the five songs on side two is a live recording of material Mason had recorded elsewhere. "Pearly Queen," a song that here is attributed to Mason and on the Traffic album is credited to Winwood and Capaldi, got itself a better treatment the first time around, simply because Winwood's vocal was funkier, grittier, more edged with irony. The song itself has enough propulsion in it that it doesn't need the extra added bit of soul that Winwood gives it, but then why not? Mason's interpretation here of "Feelin' Alright" is different from the one he delivered on Traffic. Then he sang with a whimpering, quaveringly insecure voice which, when joining the chorus, instantly picked up sarcastic strength. The change was always sudden and dramatic as Clark Kent leaping out of a broom closet dressed as Superman. In the present version, latin jazz rhythms open the song and right from the beginning all the way through, Mason sings with extroversion and authority. Now he even takes a supposedly humbled line like "Well, boy, you sure took me for one big ride," and turns it inside out to read like a gorgeous put-down. Whatever Chris Wood offered in the way of bluesy saxophone on the first version, Mark Jordan matches well with his jazz electric piano on this.
The other three songs on this side are all originally from Mason's Alone Together. In each case judgements of quality will have to be simply a matter of taster's choice. Between the two "World In Changes," I prefer the studio recording if for no other reason than the way Mason stutters one phrase, making it come out "I-I can't pretend." On the Alone Together's "Just A Song," you got a banjo and back-up chorus; here you get a jaunty organ and a barely audible but spontaneous laugh from Mason on the line "You're all I've ever done." In the two versions of "Can't Stop Worrying" you'll find two of the finest vocals Mason's ever recorded. To my mind the first version has the edge because I've grown in love with the expressive and pristine electric guitar lead, but there are those who'll find even more purity in the sound of Mason performing alone with just his acoustic.
The piano is the instrument which dominates and gives body and flavor to the best of the songs on the first side, all done in the studio. Pretty but a little tense, the ivories in a high register open the first one, "To Be Free," and are soon followed by the words from Mason's voice, which has been produced to stand up-front with all its natural texture left out in the open. When Mason signals "whoa yeah," the drums, bass, and Delaney & Bonnie-type chorus break in, Mark Jordon bounces his fingers down the keyboard faster than a Bruin dribbling downcourt for a basket, and Mason accentuates everything with a "come on, come on" here and a "woooo-hoooo" there. When the song closes though, it has not really resolved itself of the energy it set in motion, and you're left feeling a bit cheated.
The two most confusing songs on the album are "Here We Go Again," and the title track, "Headkeeper." "Here We Go Again" is the case of a song whose lyrics contradict everything that the music expresses, and vice versa. Standing on their own, the lyrics are Mason's bleakest: "After you've gone I'll die some/ After you've gone I'll feel blue.../ Night-time appears like a hole in the sky/ Follow me down to my room." Mason has set these lyrics to one of his most childlike melodies, and given it all a music-box sound. Having only the tone of the rest of the album to go on, I would guess that Mason is making fun of the high seriousness expressed by the words, rather than using the words to point out an idiot optimism in the music.
"Headkeeper" has its own sinister opening that lies somewhere between the opening of "40,000 Headmen" on Traffic, and Valerie Simpson's "Sinner Man." There's a "Magical Mystery Tour" piano break, a wailing banshee guitar, and one section in which the squeak of the organ completes an idea from the guitar, somewhat like when "Love Child," the Supremes would whisper "scorned by--" and Diana Ross would fill in loudly "Society."
"A Heartache, A Shadow, A Lifetime" is the song which never went anywhere when released as a single a few months ago. That's a shame, because it really is a gorgeous number. The piano part shines with a unique humanity and brilliance, modestly keeping silent until its turn, then bursting into life.
Maybe if Headkeeper had had two sides of new material rather than just one, Mason as an artist to our view would have been standing less like "a mist upon the shore." He never has been an easy one to figure out, in his public life or in his music. With Headkeeper he by no means has painted his masterpiece, but instead has left us with some fine sketches and life studies.
Mark Jordan's electric piano works and Mason's electric guitar solos are very sharp on the half-studio half-live Headkeeper, and a version of Mason's Traffic classic "Feelin' Alright" cooks.
'Alone Together' features 3 outstanding rock songs. Only one of these songs made it as a single on Billboard's Top 100, that being the opener, 'Only You Know and I Know', which peaked out at number 42 in 1970. It is surprising to me, however, that 'Waitin' On You' was not also released as a single. It feels more pop oriented, especially with the soulful backing singers, and has a more standard beat (guests on American Bandstand would agree). The closer on the album, 'Look At You Look At Me' dutifully rocks as well.
The remainder of the songs on the CD are plaintive odes to love. Especially appealing are 'Shouldn't Have Took More Than You Gave', featuring Mason on a wonderfully expressive wah-pedal guitar throughout, and 'Sad and Deep As You', which just sounds so sad and so deep you'll swear tears are going to short out your CD player. These two songs, in addition to the aforementioned rock numbers, form the core of elite songs on 'Alone Together', but don't undersell the supporting cast. 'Just a Song' and 'Can't Stop Worrying, Can't Stop Loving' continue the relationship-based theme, but on a brighter tempo. Whoever Mason was hooking up with at the time of these compositions touched off emotive spasms that resonate throughout the album. Authenticity jumps off the disc.
The 'weakest' song on the album, and I certainly use that term in a relative sense, is 'World In Changes', but this song remains a staple of Mason concerts, last appearing on his live CD recorded with Jim Capaldi in 1999. The only other weakness to this CD is the complete absence of any liner notes. You're going to be left in the dark regarding who is contributing to this masterpiece. Other sources on the Internet list such stellar performers as Delaney and Bonnie, Leon Russel, Jim Keltner, and Jim Gordon in the supporting cast. I hope it is only an oversight that MCA intends to correct, because each and every musician involved here deserves credit for their contributions, and it would be fascinating to have some historic details regarding the production of this set. I'd ask for lyrics, which should be as much a staple as the jewel case, but I don't want to knock any record company clowns (as Neil Young calls them) off their La-Z-Boys.
This is a gem that should be in the collection of every lover of classic rock and roll. It wasn't really pioneering in any respect... I don't believe it changed the way anyone looked at music... but it is the pinnacle of a fine songwriters songwriting career... Mason's Mona Lisa.
Number two: "Dave MasonReleased: November 1974
Chart Peak:# 25
Weeks on Chart 25
At this time, after hearing album number one, I was a full bore lifelong Dave Mason fan. His version of "All Along The Watchtower" absolutely blows all of them away, Jimi, Bob and whoever takes second place. This is one of the tightest bands on the planet with Jim Krueger on guitars, Mike Finnegan on keyboards and Dr. Rick Jaeger on drums. "Show Me Some Affection" is about as good as it gets with "Relation Ships" one of his best ever. Song for song, this may be the best Dave Mason album, but his redoing of "Every Woman" (a song that did not need to be redone, it was perfect the first time) knocks it down one notch. "Harmony and Melody" is tops but his rendition of "Bring It On Home To Me" is unesscessary.The 'Dave Mason' disc is unique in that it marks the beginning of the Jim Krueger era in Mason's career. Krueger became a fixture on Mason's works during the 1970's and 80's, occasionally penning a tune or vocals, and lending a great deal of exquisite guitar playing. Krueger may be a better guitarist than Mason in a technical sense, but Mason has a style and feel that is all his own, and it's missing on tracks such as 'Harmony & Melody' where Dave defers the lead to Krueger. If you have not been enlightened to Mr. Mason, this is probably the CD you should find.
Number one: "It's Like You Never Left"Released November 1973
Chart Peak #50
Weeks on Chart 28
Mason is a master of the soft, acoustic ballad, also highlighted on ''It's Like You Never Left'. 'Baby...Please' starts the CD with a great groove and featuring great harmony vocals from Graham Nash and David Crosby. The short version of 'Every Woman' ( featuring Graham Nash on back up vocals), a song featuring an appealing George Harrison-like slide guitar sound ('If You've Got Love'). The closer from this album (the jazz-fusion title track) features Dave at his best 'Headkeeper' again features Graham Nash and some decent lead guitar chops from Mason, and 'The Lonely One' simmers like an offspring of 'Shouldn't Have Took More Than You Gave', and features a unique harmonica from Stevie Wonder, an instrument not often heard on Dave Mason recordings. Many of the remaining tracks, including 'Maybe', 'Silent Partner', blend into the soft-rock sonic landscape, and offer distinction lyrically. At times the lyrics are simply confusing, such as on 'Silent Partner' where we are confronted with "Paranoia is the voyeur", or simply empty, such as on 'Misty Morning Stranger' when Mason admits, "It's hard to explain what I'm feeling". 'Misty Morning Stranger' offers the diversion of a brassy foundation and electric guitar finish, while 'Side Tracked' is unique as a bluesy electric jam, The entirety of 'It's Like You Never Left' was penned by Mason. This CD was out at a time when I needed it more than any other piece of music that I can recall. The original was a little muddy but this disc and "Dave Mason" are now available in a two for one package and his been lovingly remastered to sound awesome.