Audio Remasterer: Maria Triana.
Liner Note Authors: Dave Mason; Bill Kopp.
At two CDs and 30 tracks, Real Gone's 2016 double-disc set The Columbia Years: The Definitive Anthology -- a physical version of 2015's digital-only The Essential Dave Mason -- The Columbia Years: The Definitive Anthology is the lengthiest collection of the solo work of the Traffic guitarist to date, but it's not necessarily the most comprehensive. It concentrates solely on the records he released on Columbia between 1973 and 1980. This does mean that there's nothing from his 1970 solo debut, Alone Together, which did have a hit in the form of "Only You Know and I Know." His biggest single, the 1977 soft rock standard "We Just Disagree," is here, along with all his other charting singles for the label: 1977's "So High (Rock Me Baby and Roll Me Away)," the 1978 singles "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?" and "Let It Go, Let It Flow," and 1980's yacht-disco excursion "Save Me," which also crossed over into the bottom reaches of the R&B charts. The rest of the compilation samples heavily from 1973's It's Like You Never Left, 1974's eponymous album, 1975's Split Coconut, the 1976 live album Certified Live, and 1977's Let It Flow, records that capture the evolution of an ambitious, curious prog rock musician navigating the shifting soft rock tides of the '70s. There are excesses in every direction -- sometimes the ballads get too sticky, sometimes the jams too slick -- but that's part of Mason's appeal: he liked to sample everything he fancied and this is a good sampler of all those interests. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine