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VINE VOICEon September 9, 2009
The evolution of "neo-soul" and the reinvention of funk and R & B has been the unspoken blessing of the past decade. The slow mutation from Jill Scott to the British throwback queens of Duffy and Amy Winehouse have shown you don't have to reinvent the wheel, just take the old one and paint it a different color. Mayer Hawthorne's debut on Stones Throw Records, thankfully, finds an untapped niche in this genre with great results.

"A Strange Arrangement" isn't your older brothers booty-shaking R & B, your uncle's old Earth Wind and Fire records, or your dad's collection of Al Green. This record has a lot more in common with the Temptations and Otis Redding. Combining Motown soul and funk breaks and instrumentation, Mayer Hawthorne's music owes a lot to the classics and the easy listening sound of the early 60s and their favorite topic: love won and lost. Hawthorne plays every instrument on the record and has been quoted as having to learn how to sing for this record. It is easy to hear why: the melody lines frequently dip into falsetto and sometimes he executes it, sometimes he doesn't. No matter. The effort he pours into it makes up for the lack of training. The title track oozes along with vocal harmonies to create the lushest arrangement (no pun intended) on the record, first single "Just Ain't Gonna Work Out," despite its sparseness of arrangement or melody, just feels great. The horns of the cover "Maybe So or Maybe No" jump out of the record as well.

As a whole, A Strange Arrangement feels familiar and nostalgic in a good way. Of course there are drawbacks to his approach and style. I can't help but wishing Burt Bacharach or Hal Mooney (if he was alive) could toss their arrangements onto these sparse compositions and make them really fly. Very few multi-instrumentalists (Beck, Jon Brion, or Prince are excluded) can really put a session musician's technique on each instrument and careful listeners can hear this lack of polish. But for most listeners, "A Strange Arrangement" is an intimate, informal collection of love songs that goes down easier than your favorite nightcap. Recommended
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on September 13, 2009
I had read the reviews, seen the pictures, saw that he was on Stones Throw and all I could think was, great...another ironic artist copping a classic musical genre so he can be funny. I was wrong. Mayer, regardless of his initial motivations, has made a picture perfect piece of undeniable pop music that shines as a reminder of how sorely we need real music back on the radio. I would personally send my "hit" local radio station a dozen roses if they replaced the repetition of things like "Do the Stanky Leg" or the new Lady GaGa single with "Your easy lovin' aint pleasin' nothin" or "Make Her Mine". Also, this album is a great example of proper song constraint. I'd much rather have a 40 minute long album that I listen to on repeat without skipping a song rather than having to cut out half the album to listen to the 3 good songs. Kudos to Mayer Hawthorne and PBW for noticing the possibilities in Mayer's early singles and ponying up the cash for a full album.
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on December 8, 2009
As a singer/songwriter/bass player in a pretty popular local RnB band I'm always being deluged with albums of "neo-soul" artists that some today think are pretty good, or "the real deal". Having grown up the "golden age of Soul Music" as a kid in New York City I saw and heard every Motown Review, Stax Volt Review and Independent show that came in town to the Brooklyn Apollo, the RKO Alden in Queens and of course, THE Apollo Theatre in Harlem. So I'm just a wee bit skeptical when someone say "this guy's the new Smokey" or "that guy sounds just like Curtis". Pheh...

When I was handed a copy of Mr. Hawthorne's debut album "A Strange Arrangement" I was pretty skeptical. How ever after keeping it in heavy rotation in my various listeneing spaces for a month I paid him the ultimate compliment I can in this age of ripping and running, I came here and bought his album!!! Meyer Hawthorne "gets it"! He understands how to pair a hook with a beat and keep it short. There's not a tune on this albume over 3.5 minutes in length. And while reminiscent of Curtom and Motown his tunes manage to be bright, upbight and soulfull. At times you hear Curtis, especially on "The Ills of the World", other times you hear the Moments on "I Wish It Would Rain", but never ever does it descend into blaten rip off. I enjoy this album immensely, enough to buy it and review it. You could do a lot worse.

Worf
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on September 11, 2009
If it weren't for the message board I was visiting, Mayer Hawthorne's debut album, "A Strange Arrangement" would of went unnoticed by me(at least for awhile). Maybe if I had saw it in a year end recap of best albums of 2009, it would pique my curiosity. Luckily for me I didn't have to wait 'til such a time and discovered the album on my own(somewhat).

Prior to the release of the album, I heard samples of the album and was very interested and impressed with the album. Finally once I got my hands on the actual album, I couldn't stop playing it and virtually have not but I have given it a slight rest so I won't wear it out as fast.

The album is very good and in a very surprising way. I love the "Prelude" and the harmonies and how it goes right into the lush title track which is ever so dreamy and nostalgic. I actually like every song but some more than others such as "Shiny and New", "I Wish It Would Rain" and "Just Ain't Gonna Work Out". I strongly recommend this album and it would be a shame if this album gets ignored(which I'm sure it might but hopefully not).

I will even go as far as to say that this is like the male version of Amy Winehouses' "Back To Black" but not quite as dark.
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on October 28, 2012
I just discovered Mayer Hawthorne, when I was watching random episodes of Live at Daryl's House. It was love at first sight & sound. His voice is amazing...smooth, yet unique. His style is quirky & off-beat, yet solidly based in classic Motown. The man knows how to groove. I love how he writes his own songs, sings all the vocals & plays most of the instruments. He's very talented. A true musician. I've been listening to this cd non-stop, ever since it arrived.
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on October 10, 2013
This is a PERFECT example of "don't judge a book by it's cover". OMG. This guy "looks" like a stone-to-the-bone dweeb, but he sure fooled me! I had to laugh at myself for being SO wrong! If you love "old school", the Motown era, street corner groups, the Memphis sound, then THIS is your guy. He must have grown up listening to his parents record collection because he is WAY too young to have heard it himself. And I must say his parents were some hip people. This guy has a LOT of soul and a respect for all the musicians back in the day. I personally think his biggest influence was the group Confunkshun because I hear a LOT if their style in his songs to the point of totally ripping them off, but I am NOT mad at him, he does a good job. If you're going to pay tribute, then THIS is the way to do it! I am thoroughly enjoying this cd, and so are my friends. I first saw him on "live from Daryl's house", the web show that Daryl Hall hosts, liked him, but really didn't pay attention until I saw him on PBS doing a concert. He is GOOD!! You will get HOOKED! You will have a "favorite" every day!
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on September 21, 2010
I just bought this album. Like... 15 minutes ago. Thing is, I was using this application on my toolbar called "StumbleUpon". As I was doing my boring usual stumble across the internet, this video on Mayer popped up. The music playing in the background absolutely caught my attention.
You see, I'm addicted to different types of music. Lately it's been things such as Bright Eyes and The Arctic Monkeys. But even they have their roots set in some sort of soul background. As I watched this little video, I fell in love with the soul version of Rivers Cuomo. So, maybe my bias of loving thick framed boys with musical talents took over, but my first instinct was to buy this album.

So about 3 seconds later I was here buying the album. Instantly I've listened to the album, and I find nothing wrong with it. I'm astounded by how "on the dot" the music is.... Without the grittiness of a record playing, it's absolutely well constructed and simple.
Simple is what we need in life and music right now. Simple lyrics, straightforward and classy, simple notes, not intricate like the screamo bands we see with their guitar solos, and simplicity in emotion, very optimistic and uplifting.

I see lots of things happening for Mayer. I absolutely love it. And maybe it's not authentically "soul" because Mo-town isn't what's all hot right now, but honestly, its something I can just dance around my living room too. Even if you're not in love in real life, this album makes you fall in love with being a daydreamer all over again. :)
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on June 28, 2014
I heard "Her Favorite Song" on NPR and then dove deep into the discography of Mayer Mawthorne and haven't looked back since. His later albums do get a bit more polished, but he moves a bit away from his break-out Motown-esque vibes which are part of the reason I became hooked on him in the first place. If you enjoy this, be sure to check out Tuxedo on Soundcloud which is his side-project that gives a vibe more faithful to his early music.
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on April 28, 2014
Just about every song on here has a Motown vibe to it. That's not a problem with me, cuz I like it! But if your not in to Motown, this may not be for you. This album may also be almost entirely written and arraigned by Mayer, including most of the instrumentation. Many have tried this, many have failed. Notables that have made this work, Prince-Purple Rain, George Michael- Faith, etc. These albums were entirely done by the artist themselves, and it takes extreme vision and talent to pull it off. This is a good "in the car" album if you dig this era...
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on October 24, 2012
Mayer Hawthorne's Strange Arrangement is one of a handful of cds that I can listen to from beginning to end without having to skip a track. He's phenomenal-the harmonies-the lyrics-the catchiness of the songs definitely stick out from the junk that other performers having been attempting to pass off as music.
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