Friday, May 18, 2012

Dave Mason -- "Feelin' Alright" (1968)

Don't get too lost in all I say
Though at the time I really felt that way
But that was then -- now it's today

Dave Mason took the words right out of my mouth.  Actually, he didn't -- but those lines sound like they could have been written about 2 or 3 lines.  

You should keep them in mind every time your read a post that is more than a day or two old.  At the time I wrote that post, I really felt that way.  But that was then -- and now, of course, it's today.

Dave Mason in 1974
I wish I knew what Dave Mason had in mind when he wrote this song 40-plus years ago.  I guess I could have stood up in the middle of his recent show in Washington, DC, raised my hand, and asked him.

Or maybe I'll just ask my new friend Tony Patler -- he's Mason's keyboard player -- to ask ol' Dave what the lyrics mean.  Tony's the guy who comped me two free tickets to that Mason show.

I asked the hot (age-adjusted) French girlfriend to go with me, but she disappointed me.  Comme c'est ├ža.  (The French have no clue when it comes to good music, of course, so it's just as well she didn't come with me -- it would have been pearls before pourceaux.)

"Feelin' Alright" appeared on Traffic's eponymous second album, which was released in 1968.  Mason co-founded Traffic, but ended up becoming the odd man out.  

Dave Mason today
Traffic's first album, Mr. Fantasy, was somewhat schizophrenic.  It featured three songs written solely by Mason -- he was the lead vocalist on all three -- and half a dozen songs co-written by the band's other members (Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi, and -- most of the time -- Chris Wood).  Mason left the band after that album had been recorded.

He rejoined them in time to be part of Traffic's second album, The songwriting credits on that album were split almost evenly between Mason (who handled lead vocals on all of his songs) and Winwood-Capaldi -- Winwood handled lead vocals on all those songs.  (Mason and Capaldi did team up to co-write one song.)  By the time that album hit the stores, Mason had left the group once more.

"Feelin' Alright" is my favorite among the Mason songs on those two albums, and it has been covered a lot.  It was the first track on Three Dog Night's 1969 Suitable for Framing album, which I owned before I ever heard Traffic -- so Three Dog Night's version is the one I first became familiar with.  (I played that album to death in high school.)

The 5th Dimension, Grand Funk Railroad, Lou Rawls, Rare Earth, the Ohio Players, and many others covered the song.  There's a live version of "Feelin' Alright" on the soundtrack of the Jackson 5's TV special, Goin' Back to Indiana.

But the cover version that everyone remembers is Joe Cocker's.  Here's Cocker's performance of the song from the movie Mad Dogs and Englishman.  He and Leon Russell make quite a pair.

Mason closed his live show with "Feelin' Alright."  He made it clear that it was his song, not Joe Cocker's, although his band's arrangement of the song owed more to Cocker than to the original Traffic version.  (According to Mason, he wrote the song on the small Greek island of Hydra, where he lived on feta cheese and retsina for about ten days while visiting singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen.)

The rest of the evening's performance was equally tight and satisfying.  Mason, Patler, et al., are old pros, and they know what they are doing when they take the stage.

Here's the original "Feelin' Alright":

Click here to buy a copy from Amazon: 

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