1 Album, 3 Recordings: Alone Together – Dave Mason April 29 2016, 0 Comments

dave mason turntable mat

Dave Mason, one of the founding members of Traffic, was omnipresent in the late 1960’s.  He played on Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland, the Rolling Stones’ Beggars Banquet and George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass.

A quick aside – Mason joined the European tour of Delaney and Bonnie along with Eric Clapton and George Harrison. Rhino Records released a four cd box set of this tour (Amazon $198) that contains some amazing guitar interplay.

It is not surprising then, that when Dave Mason put together his first solo album the record company (Blue Thumb) gave it the deluxe treatment. The cover was a tri fold that was 36” fully opened. I have to admit seeing a rather large picture of Mason in a top hat was a little disconcerting. But the star of the show was the record itself – a swirling multi colored disc upon which the stylus appeared to be floating. It became known as the marble record although there were many other less flattering names as well. To obtain the effect Blue Thumb was forced to use virgin vinyl which was unusual on US pressed albums. It was the quietest record available at the time.

I imagine the parent company, ABC, was disappointed in sales but hopefully they derived some satisfaction from the fact that Alone Together remains the 24th greatest rock album ever. I must note that it failed to be included on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Rock Albums list, but what do they know…

So, let’s compare the sound quality of the original marble record with the cd version (converted to apple lossless on my computer) and also with the 180 gram remastered vinyl .

With all the supposed care that was put into the original record, I was surprised to find that the sound of the digital version was superior. The record was thin and two dimensional. It lacked the clarity that was the hallmark of the compact disc copy.

I always forget that what we listen to as music is the result of decisions that are sales and profit based. Fortunately in today’s marketplace, money can be made selling remastered versions of yesterday’s music on 180 gram vinyl. Which brings me to the third copy of Alone Together.(Why did I have to buy this album three times?)

Not all remasters are improvements. The latest Jackson Browne Late for the Sky iteration jumps out as a failed attempt to improve the sound. But Alone Together is done right. Bass seems to go a full octave deeper with each note of the bass guitar delineated. I think imaging and soundstage are more difficult to get right than frequency response and this record images wonderfully. Mason’s vocals are properly spaced within the instrumentation and the music is beautifully balanced.

There is not a weak cut on the album but highlights include Only You Know and I Know, Can’t Stop Worrying, and World in Changes. The haunting guitar solo that closes out the record at the end of Look at You Look at Me floats in space. I think I owned Alone Together for two years before I found out that it was Eric Clapton not Dave Mason playing it.

Even more amazing is that, as of this posting on April 29, 2016 Elusive Disc is selling the remastered vinyl version for $9.99.  If you do not own it yet, stop what you are doing and buy it now.

Ben