One Track Mind: Dave Mason, “Dear Mr. Fantasy” from Future’s Past (2014)

Dave Mason has returned, after too long away, to his birthright in Traffic — but, interestingly, not from the typical nostaglic perspective. Instead, he’s reworked “Dear Mr. Fantasy” as a searing blues rumination, steering the psychedelic Traffic classic in a completely different direction.

Mason, of course, made important contributions to the first two Traffic albums, both 1967’s Mr. Fantasy and the group’s eponymous 1968 followup, before striking out on his own. But other than a memorable 1971 tour, which produced Welcome to the Canteen, he’s typically gone his own way — while the already-very-famous Steve Winwood continued on with Traffic in various incarnations through 1975. When Winwood and Jim Capaldi reunited in 1994, it was without either the late Chris Wood or Mason.

Not that Mason hasn’t been busy. He rode the success of his original Traffic favorite “Feelin’ Alright,” memorably covered by Joe Cocker, into a separate career that included the No. 12 1977 hit “We Just Disagree” and a mid-1990s stint in Fleetwood Mac. Along the way, he also sat in with the Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney, among others. Still, there remained a bit of unfinished business, it seemed.

Today, Mason is touring a well-received show featuring not only some of his best-known compositions with Traffic but also newly reconfigured songs written by his former bandmates, like “Dear Mr. Fantasy.” The results, part of the aptly titled forthcoming Future’s Past (due on May 13, 2014), underscore what Mason brought to Traffic, and also what their music still has to offer those who are unself-conscious about pulling it apart. In so doing, Mason has plumbed new depths of meaning, finding something brand new in something very old.

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Nick DeRiso

Over a 30-year career, Nick DeRiso has also explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz, Ultimate Classic Rock and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.