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It's Like You Never Left
Dave Mason

Columbia KC 31721
Released: October 1973
Chart Peak: #50
Weeks Charted: 28

Dave MasonThat first authentic follow-up to Alone Together finally exists. But while his skills as a musician are as noticeable as before, Dave Mason seems to have completely run out of things to say. This is a crucial point because in the past Mason's songs gave credence and direction to his vocal and instrumental performances. His early songs were realistic one-to-one expressions of uncertainty and agitation. Mason sang the meekly stated lyrics in a bewildered voice, but impassioned instrumental work (centered around his electric lead and acoustic rhythm guitars) forced out their underlying emotions.

Dave Mason - It's Like You Never Left
Original album advertising art.
Click image for larger view.
This can't be said for the material on It's Like You Never Left. From reading the lyrics, it seems that Mason's inspiration went exclusively into the rhyming of words, without much thought about their meaning. Take this, the opening verse of the first song on the album, "Baby...Please": "I think I'll lose an hour or two/With you beside the water/Don't lose time in bringing me/That good thing that you ought to." To complete the rhyme, Mason has to pronounce those last two words in a decidedly unorthodox way -- something like "order." The album is filled with silly lines and strained rhymes like these.

While the musicianship on the album -- particularly in Mason's acoustic guitar work, Graham Nash's two backing vocals, and a bleating Stevie Wonder harp -- is what you'd expect from the pros, the music remains oddly thin and unpersuasive. Part of the problem stems from Mason's arrangements. Alone Together had keyboardmen Leon Russell, Larry Knetchel and John Simon to enrich the sound, and Mason's touring band had Mark Jordan playing electric piano in impressively close order with Dave's guitar. Jordan is on only three of the nine songs here (there's also a throwaway instrumental). The rest are either guitar-bass-drum configurations or acoustic ballads.

The sound is for the most part so flat that it seems dead. This flatness does nothing for Mason's voice, which is ordinarily tuneful and quietly affecting. WIthout some acoustic filling out (which he's always gotten before, both on record and onstage), his voice seems bland. He sounds best on "Every Woman" and "Maybe," the first of which has an echoed vocal, the other, Graham Nash. Mason's electric guitar also lacks the fire it once possessed -- although this is probably more an emotional lack than a sonic problem. The album's best song and most compelling track performance-wise, "Head Keeper," is an older tune that was done at least as well earlier, on the disowned LP of the same name.

While it's far from unlistenable, Mason's new album is thoroughly mediocre. Uninspired material and performances combined with a thin, flat sound have resulted in music that verges on sterility. The album is a major disappointment from a once-exceptional artist. I hope he rediscovers what he's lost.

- Bud Scoppa, Rolling Stone, 1/17/74.

Bonus Reviews!

Well... the jacket has this back-lighted photograph of Dave Mason playing a fancy guitar, the thing one really notices being his right forearm -- which looks just like my right forearm. Even has that little extra curve on the top, which in my case resulted from endless summers of "turning the ball over," trying to throw a screwball. Now, I don't know why I never paid attention to this swell musician and wonderful human being before, but it is obvious that Dave's technical skill blah blah blah, sensitivity blah blah blah, depth of insight blah blah blah.... The point of this, for those who must have points in these things, is that objectively, if it exists at all, can be shattered by the damndest things.

I still think it is fair for me, even me, to say that this is Mason's best work since he left Traffic and probably his best work on record. One may not find any cosmic answers or even very substantive questions in the lyrics, but they won't embarrass anybody, and the melodies are better than average. Mason's vocals are not distinctive, but they're smooth and competent. If we stopped there the album would be listenable and mildly pleasurable, and only slightly more so when we allow for Graham Nash's harmony vocals on three songs -- but stopping there would leave out the best part: Dave's guitar playing. It's clean, so clean and smooth that nobody will mind his borrowing a lick from Harrison or Clapton or somebody now and then. The acoustic picking, especially in such cuts as "Maybe" and "Silent Partner," is just elegant, just elegant. It's that little extra curve, you see, on the top of the forearm that does the trick.

- Noel Coppage, Stereo Review, 3/74.

Mason is perhaps one of the most creative forces, lyrically, musically and vocally, in pop today. He is at best with purely acoustic material such as the beautiful "Every Woman" and "Maybe," but can also rock with the best as on "Silent Partner." Singer, writer, arranger, producer -- he does it all.

- Billboard, 1973.

Nothing crotch-shaking, just a typical Dave Mason album -- a lazily put together collection of mediocre tunes, including some remakes of things he's done before. He hasn't done anything impressive since his first solo LP, and his best remembered work will be his songs on the second Traffic album. So what else is new, Dave?

- Jon Tiven, Circus Raves, 4/74.

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

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

 Reader's Comments

sosplanetearth

Dave Mason became one of my favorite artists back in the early seventies, when some friends were playing him on an eight track tape player, on a road trip to go surfing. This is one of my favorite albums of his. Some of these critics are idiots. I like all of his albums up to split coconut, and after that I lose interest. His lamest song was his biggest hit. I can't stand listening to that overplayed piece of fluff, so uncharacteristic of his phenomenal style and talent. Taken the time to find, mystic traveler, two guitar lovers, harmony and melody, silent partner, seasons, etc. All time, all world epic master pieces! I'll never get sick of his good stuff...

superseventies (Moderator)

I agree this one is far and away his best studio album. I also own Split Coconut, and Headkeeper. A best-of compilation called "The Very Best of Dave Mason" was released on vinyl by ABC Records that's also great, unfortunately it was never put out on CD. It has the best stuff from his Blue Thumb albums (and the tracklisting is different from the MCA "Very Best Of"). I burned a CD with the ABC "Very Best Of" tracks, and also included "Show Me Some Affection, "You Can't Take It When You Go," "So High," "We Just Disagree" and "Let It Go, Let It Flow."

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