I don’t know who said it first, but I’ve heard one truism from many rock veterans: “Once, you went on the road to promote an album. Now, you make an album to promote a new tour.” I thought of this notion many times listening to Dave Mason’s new Future’s Past. More than any other release I’ve heard lately, it is clearly a collection of songs designed to supplement his road work in 2014.
For one matter, Mason’s new touring band is billed as Dave Mason’s Traffic Jam, although there are few overt connections to Mason’s most famous group. Rather, Mason says Future’s Past was built on songs his group has been playing live over the past seven years and most come from various stages of his career. Only one song, “That’s Freedom,” is new.
Three of the re-worked numbers debuted on Mason’s 2008 26 Letters 12 Notes, the last studio album Mason released before Future’s Past. They include “Good 2 U,” “How Do I Get To Heaven,” and the splendid instrumental, “El Toro (Spanish Blues).” From Mason’s 1970 debut solo album, Alone Together, we get a substantially re-arranged “World in Changes” and a beautiful, live version of “Sad and Deep as You.” “It’s a rare case,” Mason told me, “of a new version of a song being much better than the original.”
Most listeners will likely be most intrigued by the two Traffic revisions, “Dear Mr. Fantasy” and “You Can All Join In.” The latter makes sense as it was one of Mason’s own contributions to the band, but “Dear Mr. Fantasy?” After all, that one was penned by Steve Winwood, Chris Wood, and Jim Capaldi, a trio Mason was famously rarely simpatico with. When asked about this choice, Mason shrugs off talking about the old gang. “I do many songs written by other people,” he said. “‘We Just Disagree’ was written by Jim Krueger.” Whoever composed the original hit, Mason offers a bluesier reading of “Dear Mr. Fantasy,” stripping off the song’s psychedelic layering to show off what he can do now that he’s singing and playing lead guitar on a tune for which he was once the bass player.
Rounding out the nine-song set is the down-home Robert Johnson cover “Come On in My Kitchen,” where Mason gets both playful and down-and-dirty simultaneously. In short, this is a short collection of songs Mason clearly likes and are more-or-less road tested. Concert goers this year can assume they’ll be hearing them wherever Traffic Jam appears. Who’s in the band? The players on the album vary from track-to-track, and Mason isn’t talking about his traveling musicians. Well, seeing Dave Mason will be the point anyhow for ticket buyers and Future’s Past—along with all the other merchandise at the official website—are the souvenirs waiting for them.
For everyone else, Future’s Past is a pleasant enough assembly of tunes with some high-quality guitar licks, to put it mildly. The new “Dear Mr. Fantasy” is certainly worth hearing, even if its inclusion makes the whole “Traffic Jam” brand seem a tad opportunistic. It’s hard to imagine any Mason fan not being knocked out by the new “Sad and Deep as You.” So there are good reasons to fly with Future’s Past, especially if the music of Mason has been part of your own past.[amazon template=iframe image&chan=default&asin=B00J8JQ8NC]