EP 2003: Music for the Epicurean Harkener

EP 2003: Music for the Epicurean Harkener

5.0 1
by Mason Williams
Once upon a time, an instrumental entitled "Classical Gas" was a hit record for the multi-talented Mason Williams. Some 35 years later, the conditions have altered considerably for popular music. Instrumentals are almost never heard on mainstream radio in the early 2000s, unless it is an oldies station playing "Tequila" or, come to think of it, "Classical Gas."


Once upon a time, an instrumental entitled "Classical Gas" was a hit record for the multi-talented Mason Williams. Some 35 years later, the conditions have altered considerably for popular music. Instrumentals are almost never heard on mainstream radio in the early 2000s, unless it is an oldies station playing "Tequila" or, come to think of it, "Classical Gas." Williams is still around, as the title of EP 2003: Music for the Epicurean Harkener proclaims in a title both bold and strange. Since the mainstream music industry seems to have temporarily lost interest in his type of productions, Williams is now putting out his own recordings on the Snookum label. This EP consists of six tracks, runs a bit longer than 20 minutes, and can be best described as timeless musical magic. It certainly has taken time to put together, nonetheless, with recordings from as far back as the early '80s mingling with output from newer sessions, sometimes within the same piece. Observing Williams as a "one-hit wonder" puts things in a perspective that is really not the least bit helpful in terms of understanding his musical vision. The performer doesn't seem to have changed that much over the years, other than maturing and shifting focus toward working as a composer while not totally abandoning his activities as a player. He puts together meticulous and logical compositions in a variety of styles; one of the particular charms is that it is inevitably music that grows slowly on the listener. "Classical Gas" itself only took off after something like half a year of mild airplay. -- it harks back to an era when there was less manic, panicky control of the music industry, when music such as this was given a chance to catch on with the car radio crowd. Williams also had his hit in an era when there did not seem to be any limits set on what sort of musical instrument might be allowed the spotlight. The '60s may have been electric guitar nirvana, but a hit was just as likely to feature a piccolo trumpet, harpsichord, oboe, sitar, or theremin in the solo spot. On EP 2003, pieces such as "Large DeLuxe" and "Santa Fe Souvenir" feature the accordion playing of Frank Marocco, while other tracks ring brightly with the sounds of steel guitar, whistling, steel drum, flute, and mandolin. The production is flawless, the sound so clear that every single instrument jumps out and establishes star presence with even the slightest sound, not just whatever is in the solo spot. On both "Trade Winds" and "McCall," the snare drum sounds from veteran studio player Hal Blaine deserve special mention, delicious goat cheese served up on a crisp cracker. Williams seems to be deeply in love with music and musical instruments, and the way they can be used to create moods and atmosphere. This is not music that is about boundless exploration of an instrument and this is not a workshop in which the buffing wheel has been disconnected. Everything is so smooth and seamless that it could even turn some types of listeners off, in which case the best advice is to give it another chance since, as previously mentioned, the Williams musical charm builds up slowly. His melodies here are not the sort that immediately worm through the brain, yet upon repeated listening each tune is friendly and familiar, an engaging person you have met briefly but might have forgotten about. The presence of session masters such as Blaine, guitarist and producer Rick Cunha, and fiddler Byron Berline provides a continuum with the Los Angeles studio scene that is part of Williams' root structure, to be sure. While not everyone may need an explanation of the CD's subtitle, one will be provided just in case President George W. Bush is reading. An "epicurean harkener," the latter word a variation on "hearkener," would be someone who derives great pleasure from listening attentively. That would indeed be the audience for Williams, more specifically fans of exotica, lounge music, space age pop, film soundtracks, and the vintage country & western instrumental records created by artists such as guitarist Chet Atkins and pianist Floyd Cramer.

Product Details

Release Date:
Skookum Records

Related Subjects


Album Credits

Performance Credits

Mason Williams   Primary Artist,Acoustic Guitar,12-string Guitar,Classical Guitar
Andy Narell   Steel Drums
Frank Marocco   Accordion
Rick Cunha   Acoustic Guitar,Electric Guitar,12-string Guitar
Hal Blaine   Percussion,Drums
Byron Berline   Fiddle
Lenny Castro   Shaker
Joel Derouin   Violin
Art Ellis   Flute
Charles Everett   Violin
Peter Kent   Violin
Steve La Fever   Electric Bass
Greg Leisz   Dobro
Brian Leonard   Violin
Jerry Mills   Mandolin
Karie Prescott   Viola
Larry Steelman   Synthesizer Vibes
Don Whaley   Electric Bass
John Wittenberg   Violin
Dave Stone   Bass
Susan Chatman   Violin
Andy Narrell   Steel Drums
Edmund Stein   Violin
Eric Hamilton   Classical Guitar
Rudy Stein   Cello
Eve Butler   Violin
Bob Becker   Viola
Mark Schneider   Upright Bass
Dan Smith   Cello
Steve Richards   Cello
Michele Richards   Violin
Donald Ferrone   Bass
Mario de León   Violin
Matthew Funes   Viola

Technical Credits

Mason Williams   Composer,Liner Notes
Rick Cunha   Engineer,Audio Production
Capps   Arranger
Art Maddox   Arranger
Walter New   Engineer
Charles Paakkari   Engineer
Don Latarski   overdub engineer
Rob J   Engineer

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5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Playing Time – 21:51 -- Classical guitarist and composer Mason Williams has an impressive musical resume that includes 24 albums and 250 original songs. His best-known hit is “Classical Gas,” a triple winner at the 1968 Grammy Awards. He’s also an accomplished poet, author and artist. On this album, he’s hoping for another big hit, and he chose the “EP” format so as to not mix “apples and oranges.” His six musical compositions are crafted works as opposed to spontaneous expression forms. As Williams says, “I continue to work on and improve them. They evolve over the years and become what they are.” Some of the six on this album have been in the works for quite some time, not recorded and release until they’re just right. So if you are an epicure, one with refined tastes, listen attentively to these songs. You’ll understand that there are tints of the sixties popular music in them, but you’ll also grasp their potential in today’s music market. Each of the six pieces has a catchy melody that is memorable and impressionistic. None meanders too far from center, and the soothing result is a pleasurable aural experience. Highly arranged with a mix of instruments, synthesized sounds, and orchestral accompaniment, Mason Williams’ supporting cast includes about thirty artists. This is no small chore, and featured guests of special note include Art Maddox (arranger), Jerry Mills (mandolin), Larry Steelman (synthesizer), Greg Leisz (steel guitar), Eric Hamilton (classical guitar), Mark Schneider (upright electric bass), Frank Marocco (accordion),Rick Cunha (guitar), Hal Blaine (drums, percussion), Byron Berline (fiddle), and Art Ellis (flute). Although released on his own Skookum label, Williams would like these songs to receive wide distribution. His vision is inspirational while evoking a certain sense of tranquility. Some of these licks we’ve heard decades before, but others have great potential to strike gold as hits of this century and soothe the soul as we harken back to a less hectic day of yesteryear. At first, Frank Marocco’s accordion in “Large DeLuxe” and “Santa Fe Souvenir” reminded me of a film soundtrack from the 60s or 70s, but the instrument’s appealing voice actually grows on you. Mason even whistles the melody in “Trade Winds,” a bouncy tune that is full of zest and excitement, in a leisurely sort of way. Very relaxing indeed as I daydream of white sandy beaches, palm trees, luaus and pina coladas. Mason Williams’ music has a certain magnetism, and EP2003 presents the essence of a masterful composer and guitarist. (Joe Ross, Roseburg, OR.)