Tuesday, 20 August 2013
REVIEW: JOHN MAYER-PARADISE VALLEY
It's just another day in paradise for John Mayer. One of the best American singer/songwriters of this generation has found himself again. He's found his voice (which he could have almost lost) and love of his life in the 'California Girl' and pop queen Katy Perry. Now after his own heartbreak warfare it's all fireworks for the singer who is now chasing the Springsteen, Dylan and Young valleys of classic catalogues. This is set with his second album that feels all Crosby, Stills and Nash as this young star takes it deeper to the roots of America and acoustic guitar music. After 'Room For Squares', 'Heavier Things', the 'Inside Wants Out' E.P. and many a great live album, the music by John Mayer was introduced to the world. It was the third part of his intoduction trilogy 'Continuum' that truly propelled him to the musical mainstream and that success continued on 'Battle Studies', but the album to follow THE classic of not only his career but the last decade was always going to endure some critical scars no matter how good it was. Hearing it from everyone from fans to the musical press and Taylor Swift this man left the tweeting for the birds and went back to the true essence of songwriting with his rebirth of the 'Born & Raised' collection. Now a year later, in the same vain John keeps it rock and rolling like classic American automobile journey music whilst searching for deeper meaning and the 'Joshua Tree' of albums.
You too can hear just how close he's coming with 'Paradise Valley'. A heaven sent collection that traverses all through the beauty of a guitars chords and America's back-roads and side-stories. The album was even named after a river valley in the Yellowstone River in tranquil Southernwestern Montana. It all begins with the hand clap, foot-stomping good time opening of the second single 'Wildfire', which sets and spreads the tone for this album like out of the refridgerator butter. As Mayer cools the critics and sings "Tonight the moon's so bright/You could drive with your headlights out/'Cause a little bit of summer's what the whole year's all about", that's what it's all about right there. Just like precious Summer moments to cherish, John gives us a sublime single in 'Paper Doll' before writing another dedication in 'Dear Marie' that ends with some beautiful harmony to sing along too with the top down, feet on the dash and your pant and shirt sleeves rolled up. With eyes closed behind some sepia aviators this is the type of relaxing set that you can fly away with, making the August to Autumn mood perfect. This could very well be the easy going soundtrack of the Summer that you've been yearning for.
'Waitin' On The Day' lulls you into the same perfect feeling. While 'Call Me The Breeze' echo's clouds of the blues, John has found that 'Whiskey, Whiskey, Whiskey' sound that we can all drink to. How about another? How about a collaboration with his leading lady? 'Half Of My Heart' may have been a hit but 'Who You Love' is all heart. The pop princess Perry shows maturity beyond a teenage dream as she proves she could be a strong country singer if she wanted. As the pair dedicate and devote and laugh and joke, they remind listeners just how happy and beautiful true love can be. This is as real as it gets as the pair harmonises. "My girl's ain't the one that I saw coming/And sometimes I don't know which way to go/And I tried to run before/But I'm not running anymore" sings Mayer in all heart bared honesty, while Perry shows the mutual, beutiful affection singing "My boy ain't the one that I saw coming/And some have said his heart's too hot to hold/And it takes a little time/But you should see him when he shines/You never want to let that feeling go". What looks on the back cover of this album as a strange (to those who don't read the press) or tacked on (to those cynics) collaboration proves to be one that has the makings of the next love duet album from this country. One of the albums strongest tracks could lead to so much more. This shouldn't be a surpise.
Sure the guest-spots on this album read like something you would never see on a Bob, Bruce or Neil record but this is how much music is changing today as the genre lines are blurred like a hash tagged Robin Thicke. We can thank Kanye and co's friend Mayer for changing the game though, no matter how deep he delves into the songbook of classic easy time, Clapton like rock. After Mayer's guitar break on 'Channel Orange's 'White', grammy and urban soul crowned king Frank Ocean returns the favour on a smoking hot, 'Wildfire' reprise. Hip-Hop heads will be itching to download this smouldering interlude, but guitar purists will be inspired by Frank's instrumental genre-pushing vocals. The man with Oceans of talent gets deep and brooding over a full and beautiful, minute and a half wonder. With lines like "Out on the beach in the darkness starting bonfire/So gorgeous, a man might cry/Burning trees in the basement start a cool fire/Feel my heartbeat racing, baby you’re on fire/So gorgeous, a man might cry" and "Back in Paris you told me you were suicidal/It’s not a vacation if I lose you to the Eiffel/You’re gorgeous but you can’t fly/A hidden admirer sent me roses white as fire/We took our handfuls it was war, flower fighter", this mans pen is poison to modern day rap lyrics about basic b.s of fast cars, money and girs. It doesn't get much more beautiful than the purity of Ocean's work.
As Mayer gets back to work himself, he find his own Dean Martin jam in the easy listening 'You're No One 'Til Someone Lets You Down', before getting offical on the arresting 'Badge and Gun' that's really one to pull over for. The by the guitar chord book closer 'On My Way Home' comes back and ends the day perfectly but one of the best tracks on this album finds itself between Perry and Ocean. You can put 'I Will Be Found (Lost at Sea)' next to 'Victoria', 'Split Screen Sadness', 'Do You Know Me', 'Assassin', his 'I'm On Fire' boss cover, 'Waitin' On The World To Change' and every other track on the 'Continuum' album as one of his best and brightest. This song is the sound Mayer's second roll and road rock career is all about. With great lyrics across the board of this record like "Baby, I'm a runaway train/Baby, I'm a feather in a hurricane/Maybe it's a long grey game/But maybe that's a good thing", it's clear to hear the man that was once lost is now truly found. After staring down the valley of shadowy career suicide, this is now the recovered Mayer fans and critics always wanted to hear. It's all between him and the great Ben Harper now. The growth is complete and now all that's left is to write and hear better, deeper music that this shallow, diluted mainstream scene is sorely missing. Now doesn't that sound like paradise? TIM DAVID HARVEY.