WHEN PEOPLE THINK OF CLASSIC ROCK they think of the usual suspects: Hendrix, the Stones, the Beatles. Perhaps bands like Fleetwood Mac, Crosby, Stills and Nash or Traffic come to mind. At one time or another Dave Mason, who'll be in town this Saturday night at Resorts, has played with members of all of the above.
A co-founder of the UK band Traffic in the late '60s, whose original line-up also featured Steve Winwood, Chris Wood and Jim Capaldi, Mason, a native of Worcester, England, has had the opportunity to play with a multitude of legendary artists over the years. Mid-way through Traffic's prime, Mason exited the band and went on to a successful solo career, putting out now-classic albums such as Alone Together (how about that psychedelic cream-colored vinyl?), Split Coconut, Let It Flow and Mariposa De Oro. Aside from his solo efforts, Mason lent his guitar playing to a number of Rock 101 essential projects including George Harrison's All Things Must Past, Paul McCartney's Venus and Mars and Jimi Hendrix's Electric Ladyland to name just a few.
"There are great parts about all of the stuff -- the solo stuff, Traffic, working with Hendrix, getting to play with people even if it was just briefly. There's been a number of them," said Mason in an interview last week for AC Weekly.
Over Mason's prolific career, one of his most touted roles as a sideman is a 1968 appearance playing on Hendrix's historic Electric Ladyland. More specifically, Hendrix and Mason had been hanging out listening to Bob Dylan's just-released album John Wesley Harding, which included a little song called "All Along Watchtower." Soon after, the two friends were in the studio cutting the track.
"[Hendrix] just dug that song and said we've got to record [it]," recalls Mason. "We both heard it for the first time that night."
Record the song they did. Featuring Mason on acoustic guitar, "All Along the Watchtower" became one of Hendrix's greatest recorded moments and highlight of his third studio album. Even it's author Bob Dylan has gravitated to Hendrix's version over the years in concert. It's a song Mason has kept in his live set through the years. So, has he ever gotten any feedback from Dylan?
"No," Mason laughs. "The only thing Dylan ever said to me once was, 'Man, that one song you wrote was probably one of the greatest songs ever.'"
What was the song? "Every Woman" from Mason's 1973 outing It's Like You Never Left, an album that featured Harrison and Stevie Wonder.
Mason and Traffic co-founder Winwood haven't seen eye to eye as far as a Traffic reunion goes. Mason calls the Traffic "reunion" tour that was scheduled to kick off later this year in San Francisco "another bogus Traffic reunion." The dates have recently been cancelled due to illness on the part of founding member Capaldi.
"As far as he's concerned that's his band," Mason says of his former bandmate Winwood. "Even though I wrote half the songs on the first two albums."
When the UK band was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame this spring, Mason didn't even perform with the other members. And even though fans would love to see a reunion tour happen with original members (Chris Wood passed away in 1993 from liver failure), it doesn't look like it'll happen any time soon.
"You'll have to ask Steve Winwood why," Mason replies. "He's the guy that's not going to let that happen. And it's sad and unfortunate because people [want it to happen]."
Mason has recently completed a new studio album, which he is excited about. Rather than dealing with a major record label, Mason plans to release the album, tentatively titled Alone Together Again, via his new improved website slated to be re-launched this fall at Davemasonband.com.
Aside from taking his band on the road, Mason is currently in the middle of several other projects. In January he launched a line of electric guitars which is starting to take off (RKSguitars.com); in September he begins filming an independent movie on Martha's Vineyard; and in West Orange, NJ, he's involved in planning an alternative health care and surgery center.
"We're just in the beginning of acquiring some buildings and working on that," adds Mason.
But for now, it's all about the road. "I have to keep my band working," says Mason. Expect to hear music from throughout Mason's long and winding career including Traffic jams like "Feelin' Alright" and "Dear Mr. Fantasy," solo hits such as "World in Changes" and "We Just Disagree" and possibly even some new material.
"As long as [the audience] walks out feeling better than when they walked in, that's all there is," says Mason.
Dave Mason performs at Resorts on Saturday, Aug. 28 at 9pm. Tickets are $30. Call Ticketmaster at 1-800-736-1420 or visit the Resorts VIP Services Desk.
Interview the classic rock band's Gary Pihl.
"It just blazed. But it was freezing cold and pissing down rain and we played until we were going to get electrocuted and we had to stop."
“I’ve got a band that needs to live. And they need to pay bills. You know artists like myself no longer sell any records because radio is a disaster. They don’t play anything new. Radio is still the most powerful way to get yourself out there. But there are no more DJs. It’s all programmed and there’s just no surprises anymore.”
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