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Published: 2016/03/11
by Larson Sutton

Dave Mason
The Columbia Years The Definitive Anthology

This two-disc, 30-song anthology of Dave Mason’s work between 1973-1980 for the legendary Columbia label is a virtual grab-bag of styles and tastes. Embracing forays into country, funk, pre-disco boogie, reggae, and California-lite, the onetime Traffic member leaves no opportunity to ride a genre wave untested. Some interesting covers, like “Take it to the Limit” and “All Along the Watchtower,” reveal an experimental side where Mason applies quite a bit of musical license in attempts to take ownership of a classic. He succeeds in some places, and falls a little short in others, as on a slightly detached “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow.”

Consistent throughout is the presence of his provocative guitar playing. Solos often are open-ended workouts, not bridges between sections. Despite the genre-hopping, his phrasing and tone seem to always find their place, best exemplified on the pseudo-instrumental “Split Coconut.” Some of the all-timers are here, culled from a live set, with “Feelin’ Alright” dressed in funky garb while “Only You Know and I Know” retains most of its original flair. The chart-topper “We Just Disagree” anchors a second disc that closes as his Columbia requirement was turning the corner into the ‘80s.

Fittingly, a duet with Michael Jackson, on break from an early Thriller session, is a rather peppy signpost of pop’s oncoming transition that sits as the penultimate track on the set. Jackson all but steals “Save Me”, and soon would capture the world, as MJ plays cutting counterpart to Mason’s earthy ‘70s groove. Oddly, this song is probably best at explaining the appeal of this entire collection; even those quite familiar with Dave Mason are still capable of being curiously, if not pleasantly, surprised.

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