Mason Williams

The Mason Williams Phonograph Record

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AllMusic Review by

Producer Mike Post and composer Mason Williams packed all sorts of experiments into this half-hour listening experience called The Mason Williams Phonograph Record, and though there are some interesting moments from the clever singer, it is the instrumental masterpiece "Classical Gas" that displays the highest level of creativity. The 45-rpm was a number one adult contemporary hit in the summer of 1968 while the award-winning artist was writing for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. It won Grammys in 1968 for composition, performance, and Mike Post's arrangement, and maybe because of its huge popularity, it feels out of place in the context of this concept disc. The 27 seconds of folksy banter that make up "Life Song" or the "Old MacDonald Had a Farm" riff that is all 30 seconds of "Dylan Thomas" are disposable bridges between musical elements that matter, the closing instrumental "Sunflower" -- part of a film project where the songwriter "set up cameras in the desert" to capture "the largest flower ever done" -- a skywriting airplane drawing underneath the rising sun. Stan Cornyn's always difficult liner notes explain it, but not as well as the photo of the plane on the back cover. "Wanderlove" emulates Simon & Garfunkel's "Hazy Shade of Winter" without the flamenco guitar -- the artist saved that for "Classical Gas" -- and it appears the folksinging duo was a major inspiration to him in the development of this project. Al Capps' arrangement of "Baroque-a-Nova" is noteworthy --- sounding like the Bob Crewe Generation on speed, and a candidate for a much better segue after the hit than the downer that is "Long Time Blues." A politically incorrect "The Prince's Panties" is another excessive track, showing that Warner Bros. Seven Arts allowed the team many indulgences. It paid off as there are a couple of gems and one diamond found when sifting through The Mason Williams Phonograph Record.

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