on August 21, 2013
OK. Let's tackle the elephant in the room: This is not the kind of music John is known for. Ok.
I'm tired of reading things like: This is "different" music than what John should be doing; John is supposed to be doing blues; Continuum is so much better; He's a hipster. Blah Blah Blah.
Yes, it's obvious John has taken a different approach to his music in his later years. However, let's be grown-ups and rate the music for music, not for what he used to play before. If you don't like this album (like a HUGE percentage of his fan base), then that is fine. However, different doesn't equal worse. Different is different; we should appreciate all kind's of music.
To be clear, I prefer John's Continuum or TRY phase A LOT more than this. Regardless, here is my review.
Music Production: 5/5
-John seems to be improving in his production of albums. He is able to reach a perfect level of warmth in his music, without going overboard and sounding too overproduced like a lot of artist do today.
-John has proven to be one of the best (if not the best) songwriters of his generation. Paradise Valley picks off where he left off with Born and Raised and continues to write wonderful lyrics. I found B&R to be his absolute best songwriting. While this is not up there with B&R (and some of his older music), most of the songs on this album are written wonderfully.
Musical Arrangements/Style: 4/5
-This is a tricky subject. While some would argue this album is very monotonous, I believe it is really good for the style he is going for. Again, while I prefer some of his masterful arrangements (like Something's Missing or Clarity), I think these arrangements are beautiful.
Musical Performance: 5/5
Many people will argue John is being lazy with his guitar playing, but I would argue the contrary. I think John understands he is more of a blues player. For this reason, other guitarist and musicians who are better acquainted with this style of music are brought in to perform many guitar parts. Any more solos, or even bigger solos, would not go well with this style of music. John understands this and finds the perfect balance. Silence speaks more than notes.
-While I love Frank Ocean, I thought his role in this album was very out of place. I did not enjoy his contributions.
-There wasn't one outstanding song in this album. I would argue Badge and Gun, or I Will Be Found were the best songs. However, there wasn't that one incredible song like all of his other albums have had.
I respect John for moving away from his blues comfort zone and trying new music he enjoys, regardless if a lot of fans won't like it.
This album is a great example of "Less equals more".
There are other things in music than long, difficult solos.
Enjoy this album for what it is: A heartfelt album by a wonderful musician.
on August 30, 2013
I understand people wanting endless sequels to Mayer's Continuum album. I loved that cd, and it's when I started to realize John's considerable talent. That said, Mayer is way too talented and creative to do the same record over and over again. It takes a lot of guts to make non-commercial albums that almost certainly will never be embraced by the masses. John Mayer did it with Born and Raised, and he's done it again with Paradise Valley. I respect him tremendously for following his heart, rather than strictly pursuing commercial success. At first listen, I wasn't sure if I'd like this as much as Born and Raised, and I resisted doing a review until I spent a fair amount of time with the album. I can honestly say that it's growing on me more each day. There's a little bit of everything here: radio friendly - Wildfire, Paper Doll, and Who You Love. A country number called "You're no one 'Til Someone Lets You Down." A nod to JJ Cale with a cover of his classic song "Call Me the Breeze." But the real heart of the album are the five more introspective, Born and Raised type songs: "Dear Marie", "Waitin' On The Day", "I Will Be Found", "Badge and Gun", and "On the Way Home". They show tremendous depth and maturity. In my opinion, there's only one mis-step here, and that's the second "Wildfire" filler track. I feel it disrupts the flow of the album. Despite this very minor issue, Paradise Valley is a keeper. It's an album that grows on you and hooks you more with each listen. In this age of commercialized musical garbage, I'm thankful to know there are still true singer/songwriter performing artists out there. John Mayer continues to expand his musical horizons, and I definitely recommend this high quality piece of work.
UPDATE: It is now October 6th. Having had this album for roughly six weeks now, I wanted to update my review. I have come to admire this body of work even more. The only negative for me remains "Wildfire" (track 8). I feel it disrupts the flow of the album, and just doesn't fit with the other songs. Only my opinion, but I feel it detracts from this otherwise great album. Now the updated positives, which are many. These songs have a maturity and depth that is very refreshing. Many of the songs are on the mellow side to be sure, but they are in now way boring or lifeless. They are instead reflective; John is obviously growing as a person and (hopefully) leaving behind his shallower existence, in favor of a simpler, more authentic life. And it shows in these songs. The other thing I wanted to touch on was the maturity in his playing. I love a blazing, bluesy guitar solo like the next person, but the sign of a maturing guitarist is one who does more with less. Mayer's guitar playing on the album is definitely subtle, but that subtleness makes it all the more powerful. Almost every song has some kind of guitar hook that is very memorable. I've listened to this album for six weeks, and I continue to anticipate the smallest of guitar licks/fills. It's a case of a little equalling a lot. Much as I loved Born & Raised, I think Paradise Valley is surpassing it, and I never expected that. After Continuum, I too wanted to see more of the bluesy' John. After these last two albums, I can honestly say that's not the case any more. That's just one facet of Mayer, but it's way too confining for such a talented musician. I admire him as an artist, and for following his heart, all the while knowing that commercially, he won't reap the reward$ that he would if had repackaged Continuum five different times. Done like a true artist. Good for you John Mayer!
I am among those who believe that "Born and Raised" was one of John Mayer's greatest achievements. Introspective lyrics, thoughtful singing, nicely played singer songwriter music. But I now guess that those introspection motivations have been purged from his system, as "Paradise Valley" plays the same sort of lite-folk rock, but without the emotional substance. Sure, he still plays guitar like the whizz-kid he was when his first album dropped 10 years ago (!), and he shoulders the mantle of early eighties Eric Clapton quite well. However, Clapton's albums in the early eighties were light-weight. So is "Paradise Valley."
It does indicate that the folk-pop of "Born and Raised" was no fluke, and many of the songs here sound delightful on first passing. "Wildfire" really does that "Slowhand" thing better than about anyone short of Eric himself, or even how it neatly references the style of Jerry Garcia, and it's hard to go wrong when you pick a song from the late JJ Cale as your cover-version ("Call Me The Breeze," ironically first popularized by Lynyrd Skynyrd). He goes for some of that introspection on "Dear Marie," but the lyric is more like a self-directed pity party. Same goes for "Paper Doll," his response to Taylor Swift's "Dear John." Although I love the line about "22 girls in one." It's all cushioned in the 70's style that defined the likes of Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor as kingpins of mellow country rock, right down the the pedal steel in the clever "You're No-one Till Someone Lets You Down."
There are still a couple of unpredictable moments here that, oddly enough, come from the invited guests. Hip-hop artist Frank Ocean does a brief reprise of "Wildfire" that recasts the album's opening gambit as a soulful interlude. The other of "Paradise Valley's" hidden surprises comes courtesy of Katy Perry, who drops the over the top pop chanteuse act long enough to deliver a nuanced and effective duet on "Who You Love." Given Perry's flair for confectionery pop without a drop of subtlety, coming off as a genuine romantic singer will shock both her critics and those who may question Mayer's instincts.
That's not enough to save "Paradise Valley" from being something of a letdown. I doubt if Mayer has run out of things to try, as "Paradise Valley" is as different as "Continuum" was to "Heavier Things" or for that matter, the blues/pop balance of "Battle Studies." It's more of a refinement of "Born and Raised" instead of a growth from it, so "Paradise Valley" sounds just fine without exceeding Mayer's previous or better albums.
on December 5, 2013
Christmas came a little early to the Patterson house, with the arrival of a precious gift I've been waiting for all year. I'm not talking about our daughter Amanda's return from the Middle East--though we're grateful for that, too. No, I'm talking about the release of John Mayer's new album, "Paradise Valley".
Since my husband Brad's unspeakable accident, I have been left with certain needs--for companionship, understanding and emotional fulfillment. And who better to supply that than John Mayer? With his pound-puppy eyes, breathy voice, and probing poetry--well, don't get me started! So for Christmas, I decided to treat myself to John's new album.
Now ladies, I'll bet a lot of you feel the same way I do about John Mayer--maybe more than some of you would care to admit! Sad to say, most men just don't get it. I think some of them are downright threatened--as ridiculous as that is. For instance, Brad is an amateur musician, and if it were up to him, he'd provide 100% of my musical entertainment for the rest of my life. But as much as I love our John Denver sing-alongs, sometimes you just want to sit back, press play and enjoy the work of professionals. Ladies, you know what I'm talking about! And that's when I reach for John Mayer.
I know I'm not alone in this. But we gals are often forced to enjoy our John Mayer in secret, in those stolen moments at home. Like the other day, while I was shining our front door's brass handle--tedious work, but not when I do it with John. Or take my dear friend Lizette. She lives with her husband and their three sons on a ranch in Virginia, raising chickens and squash. About the only place she can find to enjoy John is in the chicken coop, as she prepares the family supper. So whether it's me polishing my knob, or Lizette choking her chicken, John Mayer is a pleasure we women have to enjoy alone.
As crazy as it sounds, I actually keep my stash of John Mayer tucked away in the back of a closet. I only have about five albums (including Continuum, which I never get sick of), but Lizette is a fanatic. She's got a box full of all sorts of John Mayer-- live albums, bootlegs, things she downloaded off the internet and even bought used off of Craigslist. Frankly, I think it's excessive. She loves the variety, but if her husband ever finds that box, she's going to have some explaining to do!
Anyway, we are not talking about bootlegs today, ladies. We are talking about John's brand spanking new album, "Paradise Valley". So let's get down to it.
Yes, it's called "Paradise Valley" for a reason. That's a place where John has spent plenty of time, if you know what I'm talking about. I'm referring of course to his ranch in Montana, where he retreats when the pressures of stardom prove too much to bear. The picture on the cover is of him on that ranch, wearing a hat, with his dog. On the back, the dog is wearing the hat! What a wonderful glimpse into life in Paradise Valley. It's like an invitation to spend a whole hour with John Mayer--an invitation I could not resist.
But since buying the record on a quick run into the city, it had been sitting in the back of the closet, unopened, waiting for the right moment. The other day, with Brad off to work and Amanda in therapy, I snuck it out. I felt more than a little naughty as I grabbed that secret CD and settled in for some serious me time.
Now, I have a ritual whenever I listen to a one of John's records for the first time. Before I slide in the CD, I lock the door, draw the blinds and take out a box of Kleenex. That probably sounds totally bananas to you men out there, but I'll bet the ladies can relate!
Then with a trembling finger, I hit play.
Things got off to a frisky start with "Wildfire," a gospel-tinged finger-snapper that had me grinning with anticipation. "You look fine, fine, fine/Put your feet up next to mine/We can watch that water line get higher and higher." I could almost feel John's well-muscled calves and the warm, rising water beneath us, as John's fingers ran playfully up and down his fret board. There was no doubt where this was going.
I felt a little flushed by the start of the next track, "Dear Marie." Suddenly John was serious, pining for a lost love, an unfillable space in his heart that haunts him still. His fingers still worked away, but I could hear the hurt in his voice. This was a man who needed to be cradled, and I could tell pretty soon I'd be reaching for a Kleenex.
The next song, "Waiting on the Day" busted the floodgates wide open. Here John just confesses all his needs and dreams, and gals, I lost it. It was only ten minutes into the album, but my whole body was shaking. I grabbed that tissue box in the nick of time and filled three hankies with my hot, throbbing tears.
Suddenly there was a loud knock on the front door--it was Brad and Amanda! I must have jumped three feet in the air, and had the overwhelming sense that what I was doing was wrong, wrong, wrong--shameful and wrong. The sheer terror of being caught on the couch, in that moment of self-indulgent release, surrounded by balls of used tissues--it's every mom's worst nightmare!
"Just a minute!" I yelled. I threw a magazine over the CD case and stuffed the Kleenex under the couch, then leapt over the coffee table and turned off the stereo just as Brad and Amanda pushed the door open.
"What's going on?" Brad asked, as Amanda glared at me through her mascara.
"Nothing," I said, trying to catch my breath, wondering if I'd wiped all the tears. The two of them stared at me for what felt like an eternity, while I pretended to study the surface of our flawless 85 inch TV. They finally left the room, and I stood there, marveling at how quickly a moment of ecstasy can turn into a bottomless pit of guilt, shame and humiliation.
So that's my review of the first three songs. There are eight more on the album, but I guess we'll all have to wait. After that close call, I have been trying to be "good." But you know us gals--leave us alone in the house with a box of John Mayer, and sooner or later, we'll be at it again. So, ladies, stay tuned!
BTW, the other day Lizette told me she caught her oldest son masturbating to pornography. Isn't that just disgusting?! I swear, sometimes I am so grateful not to have sons.