Archive for Traffic

Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: Dave Mason & Cass Elliott

Posted in Lost Classics! with tags , , , on January 29, 2011 by 30daysout

Continuing our month’s worth of duet albums (ending on the weekend before Valentine’s Day), we listen today to the unlikely pairing of former Traffic guitarist/singer Dave Mason and Cass Elliott, of the Mamas and the Papas.  Released in 1971, Dave Mason & Cass Elliott serves as a followup to Mason’s solo debut, Alone Together (1970).  Elliott had released a couple solo LPs in the late 1960s but when she cut this album with Mason the Mamas and the Papas were still an active group.

Mason is, of course, the odd man out in Traffic, the guy who wrote such pop-rock classics as “Feelin’ Alright” and “Hole In My Shoe” to balance out the jazz-rock-blues influence of Steve Winwood.  He co-founded the group, left after its first album, participated only in part of the recording of the second album, then the group broke up.  Traffic re-formed in 1970 without Mason, because he was on his way as a solo artist.  Mason was also known for appearing on recordings by other artists, such as Jimi Hendrix (“All Along The Watchtower”), George Harrison (All Things Must Pass) and Graham Nash-David Crosby (“Immigration Man”).

Mason met Elliott through a mutual friend, and both artists sought out the collaborative atmosphere of recording with a group.  Because it was originally planned as a Dave Mason solo work, Dave Mason & Cass Elliott isn’t really a true “duet” album – Mason writes most of the songs and sings most of the leads with Elliott merely chiming in with background vocals.  She does get a few “spotlight” vocals, most notably “Here We Go Again,” which she wrote with Bryan Garo.  Cass also co-wrote, with Mason, “Something To Make You Happy,” which would become the lead single off the album.

This is a good example of the solid work that the era’s superstars excelled in.  Relaxed without sounding forced, mellow without being too wimpy, Dave Mason & Cass Elliott is a class work from both artists.  Mason wrote some of his best songs for this album, and Elliott’s unselfish work on vocals help produce a very listenable album.  I’ve seen reviews that describe this as “bland and predictable,” which was the criticism for much of Mason’s later solo work, but I think Dave Mason & Cass Elliott is a nice, breezy 1970s West Coast middle-of-the-road rock album.

Elliott would continue her solo career with more albums, television appearances and the occasional acting gig.  In 1974, she had just performed a series of sold-out shows when she died in her sleep of a heart attack.  She was 32.  Mason would continue his solo career with moderate success, including the Top 20 hit “We Just Disagree” in 1977.  He joined Fleetwood Mac briefly in the 1990s and continues to perform live shows and record sporadically today.

MP3: “To Be Free”

MP3: “Something To Make You Happy”

MP3: “Here We Go Again”

MP3: “Glittering Facade”

Check the other duets we’ve spun in recent weeks

Live: Eric Clapton & Steve Winwood, Houston

Posted in Review with tags , , , , on June 25, 2009 by 30daysout

WinwoodWith just a handful of shows left on their current tour, 60s rock gods Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood turned in a sometimes surprising show in Houston’s Toyota Center on June 24.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was that the show seemed to spotlight Winwood a bit more, with Clapton taking a secondary role more often than not.  Now let’s put that into perspective – Clapton didn’t address the audience and he didn’t perform many of the more famous numbers associated with his career, but he let his guitar do the talking.  And it was eloquent indeed.

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Review: “Live From Madison Square Garden,” Eric Clapton & Steve Winwood

Posted in Review with tags , , , on May 21, 2009 by 30daysout

Front

Two rock legends in a sold-out series of shows from New York City?  If that sounds even remotely interesting, then Live From Madison Square Garden is for you.  There’s something comforting about the presence of Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood on the concert trail – maybe it’s just that the old guys can get up there and give the young folks a good run too.

Because this is kinda a reunion of the two superstars from the short-lived 1960s supergroup Blind Faith, you get a handful of those numbers (“Can’t Find My Way Home,” “Had To Cry Today,” etc.) as well as some choice numbers from Winwood’s Traffic days (“Pearly Queen,” “Dear Mr. Fantasy”) and some nice Clapton solo choices (“After Midnight,” “Cocaine”). 

This stuff rocks – still – and Clapton plays like a man possessed.  His blues showcases, including “Double Trouble” and the Robert Johnson acoustic chestnut “Rambling On My Mind” both feature astonishing guitar work and are the best cuts here.  This is one of the best sounding live albums I’ve heard in a while: vocals and guitars (Winwood’s no slouch, either) are crisply recorded and right up front, and it’s all served up on a bed of tasty Hammond organ from Winwood.  If we have to relive the 1960s, this is certainly the way to do it.  (This concert is also available on DVD, with some extra tunes.)

MP3: “Double Trouble”

Eric Clapton official website

Steve Winwood official website

Review: “Nine Lives,” Steve Winwood

Posted in Review with tags , , on May 1, 2008 by 30daysout

Steve Winwood is one of the most respected of rock’s elder statesmen.  Since emerging in 1965 as the teenaged lead singer of the Spencer Davis Group through his work with Traffic and Blind Faith to his solo success in the 1980s, Winwood’s music epitomizes the work of a supreme craftsman.  On the new Nine Lives, you get more of this but it may not be as interesting as some of Winwood’s past work.  The nine songs here are put in a sort of extended jam setting – much like the tunes on those old Traffic albums – and it works about half the time.  “Fly,” propelled by a smooth sax line, uses its mellow groove to produce a soulful highlight.  “I’m Not Drowning” flirts with acoustic blues and the album’s centerpiece, “Dirty City” is a straightforward rock tune with a dirty guitar solo from guest Eric Clapton.   That song crystallizes the bridge between Traffic’s sound and Winwood today, and even though it’s an echo from the past, it’s a highly listenable one.

MP3: Dirty City (with Eric Clapton)

Steve Winwood official website