Dave Mason, the former Traffic co-founder and acclaimed solo artist delivers his first album in umpteen years (well, since 2008’s 26 Letters 12 Notes), Future’s Past a collection of old, and sometimes antique material from across the singer, songwriter, and guitarist’s five-decades-long (and counting) career. The thread that ties this disparate group of eight songs (only eight?) together is that Mason either had a hand in penning them (most with Traffic bandmates Steve Winwood and Jim Capaldi) or wrote them himself, the lone stand-outs being the obligatory Robert Johnson song and a cover of “Good 2 U” by Common Sense’s Nick Hernandez that Mason recorded on his previous album as well. While Future’s Past isn’t going to set the charts on fire, it’s a pretty good album overall. Of course, some of this material has withstood the test of time, Mason’s reading of Traffic’s “Dear Mr. Fantasy” building upon the original – less busy, perhaps, but with a more soulful tint to the performance, less proggy and more of a deep groove, with Joe Bonamassa adding a bit of six-string texture.
Mason’s “World In Changes,” from his 1970 debut album, is provided a languid reggae rhythm to go with his stuttered vocals, while “As Sad and Deep As You” offers some beautiful, exotic Spanish guitar and a classic rock vibe wide enough to drive a semi through. Johnson’s “Come On In My Kitchen” is modernized somewhat, but the Delta-bred hoodoo still shines through, and Mason’s vocals and fretwork alike are joyfully spot-on, supported by Bob Corritore’s wailing harmonica. The album’s only new track, “That’s Freedom,” is a brilliant rocker, an old hippie’s lament if you will with clever pop culture references and a dark underlying message. Mason’s voice hasn’t changed much since the 1960s, and it’s still the warm instrument it’s always been throughout the songs on Future’s Past. It’s Mason’s guitar that speaks the loudest here – bluesy, complex, invigorating, and imaginative. His fretwork has always been Mason’s most overlooked attribute, coming up as he did in an era that can boast of Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, et al. As shown by Future’s Past, Mason can still ride with the best of ‘em. Grade: B+ (Something Music, released May 13, 2014)
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