Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Dave Mason

  • Alone Together [Blue Thumb, 1970] B
  • Headkeeper [Blue Thumb, 1972] C
  • Dave Mason Is Alive [Blue Thumb, 1973] C-
  • It's Like You Never Left [Columbia, 1973] C
  • The Best of Dave Mason [Blue Thumb, 1974] C-
  • Dave Mason at His Best [ABC, 1975] D+
  • Very Best of Dave Mason [ABC, 1978] B-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Alone Together [Blue Thumb, 1970]
I know, the real heavy in Traffic, great songwriter, poor Stevie is lost without him, Delaney & Bonnie on tour, rakka-rakka-rakka. I love "Feelin' Alright" myself. But I've never wondered for a second what it means, and only when the music is as elemental as "Feelin' Alright" can such questions be overlooked. I mean, songs have words. This is both complex and likable-to-catchy, with a unique light feel that begins with the way Mason doubles on acoustic and electric. But he doesn't have the poetic gift that might justify his withdrawal from "games of reason" in the immodestly entitled "Just a Song." Songs have words. B

Headkeeper [Blue Thumb, 1972]
A year and a half and three abortive collaborations later--this guy is a love expert?--he's back on the market with five new studio songs and five old live ones, two from Traffic and three from Alone Together. He claims this is his label's idea. Should have stayed with Mama Cass. Or better still, brother Derek. C

Dave Mason Is Alive [Blue Thumb, 1973]
The playing is predictable, the discography incredible: one new song, five from Alone Together (one also available in yet another live version on Headkeeper), and one from the Traffic days (ditto). With love form Blue Thumb Records, or so they claim. C-

It's Like You Never Left [Columbia, 1973]
Once again Mason, whose music has all but disappeared amid corporate machinations over the past few years, can offer new material in finished studio versions, and I bet he's genuinely happy about it. The vague romantic dolor of his songs, after all, is a professional gimmick rather than a personal commitment, and the welcome-back-folks title probably expresses his very deepest feelings. But for me it's like I was never here in the first place. C

The Best of Dave Mason [Blue Thumb, 1974]
Pretty hard to do a nine-song compilation on a guy who recorded only sixteen songs for you, especially when the eight best--not counting two live remakes of old hits--are already on one album. Valiantly, Blue Thumb has selected one tune from Dave Mason Is Alive and four from Headkeeper in addition to the four good ones from guess where. And I bet it'll fool some people. C-

Dave Mason at His Best [ABC, 1975]
Q: Given ABC/Blue Thumb's limited options, how much can this best-of differ from last year's? A: Well, it replaces "Walk to the Point" with the title tune from Headkeeper. Q: Why? D+

Very Best of Dave Mason [ABC, 1978]
ABC has finally compiled a Dave Mason album as good as Alone Together by the simple expedient of omitting only the worst and longest of Alone Together's eight songs (two of which have now appeared on five of Mason's six ABC/Blue Thumb albums), adding the two live Traffic-originated tracks, and sticking on one from Headkeeper. Engaging throughout, especially compared to his Columbia stuff, and true to Mason's place in history. With his gentle, multipercussive impetus, warm but basically characterless vocals, skillful hooks, and dippy lyrics, the man is the father of California rock-pop. Loggins & Messina, the Doobie Brothers, Pabo Cruise, every folkie who ever tried to swing a little, where would any of them be without Dave? Docked for wellspringing. B-