He was a co-founder of the English psychedelic/folk rock band Traffic, playing on their first two albums, the second of which is particularly recommended to fans of ‘60s rock.
He also contributed to the recording of Jimi Hendrix’s masterful cover of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower,” toured with Delaney & Bonnie and Friends along with Eric Clapton and George Harrison, and appeared on Harrison’s first album, All Things Must Pass. Amazingly, all of this happened before he even turned 25. He, of course, went on to have a notable solo career, which was highlighted at the concert along with some choice cuts from his Traffic days.
The evening started off with an enjoyable mini-set by Jonathan McEuen (guitar/vocals) and Alvino Bennett (drums), capped by a cool acoustic cover of Prince’s “Kiss,” with convincing falsetto from McEuen. McEuen and Bennett stayed on for the rest of the evening.
When Mason joined in, he started by saying that it was nice to be playing at the Granada Theatre, which is only 45 minutes from his home in Ojai. He then quipped that it was “nice to be anywhere after all this time.”
Mason kicked it off with “World in Changes,” the first of several songs from his solo masterwork, Alone Together. It was immediately clear that Mason’s voice has not diminished with the years. His guitar playing throughout the evening, however, was mostly limited to strumming a 12-string acoustic guitar, a disappointment given his tasty soloing over the years, although it must be said that McEuen filled in nicely with lots of fancy fretwork.
Next up was a string of great Traffic songs: the surreal “Forty Thousand Headmen,” “Dear Mr. Fantasy” in a slower, more bluesy arrangement than the original version, and the playful “You Can All Join In.”
Around this point, an audience member called out a request for “All Along the Watchtower,” which Mason himself also covered in 1974, but he deflected this by saying that there would be “a little foreplay first.”
Mason continued with more solo material, including his hit “We Just Disagree,” which got a big reaction from the audience, and new songs “Good 2 U,” “How Do I Get to Heaven” with lyrics written by his late Traffic bandmate Jim Capaldi and music by Mason, and “Ain’t Your Legs Tired Baby.”
There was also a blazing instrumental called “Cannonball Rag,” with some downright smokin’ guitar from McCuen.
The main set ended with a funky version of “Feelin’ Alright,” a two-chord song that is best known for the cover version by Joe Cocker (although I always preferred the more strummy Traffic original).
Mason began the encore by telling of moving to America in 1969, where the only person he knew was Gram Parsons, who let him sleep on his couch for a month. Hey, that’s almost as cool as recording with Hendrix. He then talked about playing with Delaney & Bonnie, who had a hit with his catchy song “Only You Know and I Know,” which led off the encore.
Mason then told of getting “to spend some good time with Hendrix,” commenting that he almost took over Noel Redding’s place in Hendrix’s band before the plan was stopped by management. This story led into a great version of “All Along the Watchtower,” providing the concert’s climax.
At one point in the show, Mason joked that McEuen was “not even born when I did my early stuff.” That may be true, but Mason’s songs (and his voice) still hold up decades after they were written, with the acoustic format and McEuen’s and Bennett’s contributions giving an interesting and enjoyable new spin on some beloved classics.
World in Changes
Forty Thousand Headmen (Traffic song)
Dear Mr. Fantasy (Traffic song)
You Can All Join In (Traffic song)
Can’t Stop Worrying, Can’t Stop Loving
We Just Disagree
Sad and Deep as You
Good 2 U
Let It Go, Let It Flow
How Do I Get to Heaven
Ain’t Your Legs Tired Baby
Feelin’ Alright (Traffic song)
Only You Know and I Know
All Along the Watchtower (Bob Dylan/Jimi Hendrix song)
— Jeff Moehlis is a Noozhawk contributing writer and a professor of mechanical engineering at UCSB. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his web site, music-illuminati.com. The opinions expressed are his own.