Mariposa de Oro (or, "the golden butterfly")
running_man | Chesterfield Twp., MI | 09/10/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"In the 1960's and 1970's, Dave Mason didn't make a single bad album. He did make one killer recording, 'Alone Together', and a number of mediocre discs, of which 1978's 'Mariposa de Oro' is one. While 1970's 'Alone Together' featured the perfect mix of gritty, churning rock and delicate ballads, most of Dave's subsequent releases were overly polished and never found an alternative to the soft-rock sound. Some of these albums were better than others (1971's 'Headkeeper' and 1975's 'Split Coconut' have a nice sound to them), and a few generated decent hits for Dave ('Let It Flow' and 'We Just Disagree'), but 'Mariposa de Oro' must be relegated to the bottom half of Dave's catalog. You know you're a soft-rocker when the only single released from your most recent album is your cover of a Shirelles hit from the 1960's (Gerry Goffin & Carole King's 'Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow'), and it only scales the charts to number thirty-nine. To Dave's credit, he does seem to recognize that the album as a whole is a bit of a sleeper, and tries to energize the package with numerous sharp electric guitar solo's, but they are just too few and far between, and too innocuous, to render the disc anything other than pop-lite.
But again, that doesn't mean this is a bad disc. The tracks are quite obviously painstakingly nurtured, and if anything come off as too polished, and too formulaic. Many of the songs feature lush vocal harmonies and layered instrumentation, incorporating everything from acoustic and electric guitars to harps, strings, horns and sythesizers. That description pretty much sums up 'All Gotta Go Sometime', 'Warm Desire', 'Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow', 'Share Your Love', 'Bird On the Wind', 'So Good To Be Home', and the closer, 'No Doubt About It'. By the time that closer comes around, you suspect Dave must have something new up his sleeve, but it's not to be. Adding just a bit of diversity are the a capella cover of the Percy Sledge hit, 'Warm and Tender Love' (featuring Stephen Stills on vocal harmonies), the funky opener, 'Don't It Make You Wonder' (sounding a bit like the Marshall Tucker Band, until the chorus chimes in...), and the second track, 'Searchin' (For a Feeling)', with its catchy, slow-rocking melody. Dave is certainly "searching for something deep inside", as the lyrics proclaim, but seldom finding 'it'. In fact, Dave is relying on the songwriting talents of not only Goffin & King on this disc, but also Jim Krueger, who contributed 'The Words', which became a staple in many of Dave Mason's concert tours. Jerry Williams songwriting talents are also on extended display as he shares three co-writes with Mason and pens two songs individually. Nevertheless, the lyrics seldom move beyond cliche-ish, with offerings such as "sooner or later you'll find, we all gotta go sometime", "nothing ventured, nothing gained", and "I'm livin' on a hope and a dream". Other familiar names handle the instrumentation, with Gerald Johnson on bass, Michael Finnigan on keyboards, Rick Jaeger on drums, and Ron Greene on percussion.
'Mariposa de Oro' probably never sold many CD's, and is currently out-of-print. The last CD version I saw advertised on eBay eventually brought $188. That's a bit too rich for my blood, especially for such a lean recording, so I used a cassette copy that I had dubbed to CD for this review. Such is the plight of many desirable yet obscure recordings from the '60's through the '80's, such as Laura Nyro's 'Nested' and Gil Scott-Heron's 'Bridges'. You may be able to find a few of these tracks on a Dave Mason compliation, as well as some on live Dave Mason recordings, and that may be the wiser choice rather than pursuing the original studio versions, unless you are a dedicated, died-in-the-wool Dave Mason fan. Pleasant enough, but not compelling. Three stars."