Unlike Frampton Comes Alive, recorded at different venues, Certified Live was recorded at one location, the Universal Amphitheatre, resulting in very little variation in the sound from track to track. The variation in the sound from side to side is the kind of variation we hear on virtually every pressing we play, since no two sides of a record ever really sound exactly the same.
We like our ’70s Rock Records to be rich and full; that’s what live Rock Concerts have always sounded like to us and we see no reason to revise our biases now. It’s what good analog does effortlessly and what even the best digital finds difficult to achieve.
A common problem with many of the sides we played was strain or congestion in the loudest passages. Another was sound that’s too “clean.”
It’s not hard to figure out what the best pressings do well that the average ones struggle with.
The Shootout Winning sides are simply bigger, fuller, more clear, more present, more transparent, more punchy, and have more space and energy than the other pressings we played. A couple of minutes in on any side and you know if it has The Big Sound or not. We’re happy to report these four sides are some of the biggest and liveliest we heard.
I’ve actually seen Dave Mason twice in the last five years or so; he tours relentlessly and always puts on a good show. Check him out if he comes to your town. Remarkably he plays these songs nowadays about as well as he ever did, which is very well indeed.
Show Me Some Affection
All Along the Watchtower
Take It to the Limit
Give Me a Reason
Sad and Deep as You
World in Changes
Goin’ Down Slow
Look at You, Look at Me
Only You Know and I Know
Bring It on Home to Me
Gimme Some Lovin’
Through relentless touring in the mid-1970s, Dave Mason built up a concert audience that didn’t necessarily translate into a record-buying audience, and this double-live album, released at a time when double-live albums were all the rage (remember Frampton Comes Alive?), was intended to address that problem. (Jim Krueger even contributed some Frampton-style “voicebox” guitar to “Goin’ Down Slow.”)
It did demonstrate that Mason had a tight touring band and a repertoire of rock ‘n’ roll standards to draw from, as well as such interesting acquisitions as the Eagles’ “Take It To The Limit” and the Spencer Davis Group’s “Gimme Some Lovin ‘,” and while it didn’t achieve the career breakthrough intended, it did give Mason time to craft the studio album that would achieve that breakthrough.
Certified Live is a perfect throw-back to that special time when concerts were just jammin’ music, that never seemed to stop. Remember when bands would kick your ass for 2 hours, take a break, and come back and kick your ass for another hour? This album reminds you of that era. Dave Mason’s original work is transcendent, but his covers are great too. “Show me Some Affection” and “Along the Watchtower” nearly drive me off the road, as Mason’s bell-like electric guitar work simply soars.
There’s an outstanding acoustic interlude featuring Mason’s rich and absorbing 12 string, as well as his signiture vocal “Growl”. “Take it to the Limit” and “Gimme a Reason” are standouts here. A great treat is the 4 part harmony on Sam Cook’s “Bring it on Home”. And finally, 30 years later, I can’t stop “Goin’ Down Slow” from popping back into my head all the time. Mike Finnegan takes out the back wall on this blues foundation-shaker.
Mason toured and recorded for several fantastic years with this great band made up of Jim Kruegar on guitar, Mike Finnegan on keyboard, Gerald Johnson on base, and Rick Jaeger on drums. These pros are tight but natural, technically excellent but fluid. In the concerts I saw on that tour they really seemed to enjoy playing together, and that feeling is captured in Certified Live.