The year is 1970. Delaney Bramlett and his wife Bonnie have been playing their version of southern rock, soul and blues to a worldwide audience. The musicians backing them on the tour are a combination of superstars and young artists looking to make their mark on the music scene. The legends include guitarists Eric Clapton and George Harrison. Some of the other sidemen who will soon become household names are Rita Coolidge, Bobby Keys, Jim Gordon, Carl Radle and Bobby Whitlock.
Also appearing at occasional stops was guitarist Dave Mason. Mason was one of the founders of the band Traffic. However, his idea of what the group should be, clashed with bandmate Steve Winwood. That led to Mason moving on and establishing his own solo career.
The bond established between the artists on the tour led them to call on each other to help when they wanted to make their own albums. 1970 was a productive year for these musicians. They performed on Clapton's first solo album and also on Harrison's classic triple record "All Things Must Pass." Whitlock, Radle and Gordon joined Clapton to form Derek and the Dominoes.
When Dave Mason decided it was time for his solo album debut, he went into the studio with many of these same artists. The result was his classic record, "Alone Together." In the fifty years since its release, Mason has recorded fourteen other studio albums. Although three of them reached gold record status and another went platinum, none of them have had the impact of his first album.
While the original is not a perfect record, most of the songs have held up well over the five decades since its release. However, Mason was not satisfied. He felt he needed to revisit the record and update the songs. In an interview, he explained why:
"The main reason I wanted to reimagine this album was that I was never quite satisfied with how my vocals sounded. I like the songs and I like the performances but I was so young and it was my first solo album. The older I got the more the vocals bothered me and so I finally thought that I would sing the songs the way I first imagined them when I wrote them. It's a more accurate representation of what I think I sound like. And, of course, with the years comes a maturity and knowing in my voice that I think gives the songs an all new depth. It may have taken me 50 years, but I am now truly satisfied with all of the songs and I really count this as one of my most satisfying artistic achievements."
"Alone Together Again" was released the last weekend in November. So how did the project work out?
Mason was correct about the vocals. Surprisingly, his voice does sound fuller and stronger, even after fifty years of constant touring and aging. Technically, the new album sounds better than the original. That makes sense because technology has changed for the better in the last fifty years. My problem with the album is the new arrangements. If the main issue for the redo was the vocals, why not just redo the vocals? Why change what was already better than very good?
Yes, this was an opportunity for Dave to put his stamp on these songs with his current touring band, but as good as these musicians are, they aren't Leon Russell, Jim Keltner, Jim Gordon, Rita Coolidge, etc. I know it was impossible to bring all of them back since some of them have died. I know I can also be accused of living in the past and thinking that nothing could possibly be better...and it wouldn't be the first time, but this time I think I'm right. The only song on "Again" that I think lives up to the original is "Only You Know And I Know." If that's the case, then what's really the point?
If you loved the original "Alone Together", you'll most likely have mixed feelings about the new album. It's almost like hearing a cover version of a song that you love. It's sweet to hear the songs, but nothing can be better than the first one.
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