John Mayer - Paradise Valley (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
SAY what you will about John Mayer’s recent tabloid exploits, the man is still a hugely enjoyable singer-songwriter in his own right and latest album Paradise Valley provides ample proof of that.
Produced with long-time collaborator Don Was, who also co-produced Mayer’s No.1 charting Gold-certified 2012 release Born and Raised, this is an effortlessly appealing listen from the outset, with the lively, reggae tinged Wildfire kick-starting proceedings with a surefire summer anthem in waiting (and a giddy ode to good times and love to boot).
Dear Marie, the track that follows, unfolds initially at a sedate country-rock pace, before eventually exploding to life for a rousing finale that really enables you to warm to it.
Former single Paper Doll thrives on its mix of intricately layered guitar licks (which build towards a great solo) and a genuinely catchy central melody and chorus, while seem to fly in the face of the bittersweet lyrics supposedly about ex-love Taylor Swift. Nonetheless, if you don’t take it as a veiled commentary on a particular relationship, it’s lyrics are quite hypnotic, touching on angels and the fragility of romance.
Mayer seems to be having fun on the breezy Call Me The Breeze, a tale of a rolling stone that effortlessly combines blues-rock riffs with that ever-present country breeze. It’s the kind of offering you could imagine Mayer jamming with someone like Eric Clapton on, and accordingly drops in a great guitar solo.
His collaboration with Frank Ocean on Wildfire, meanwhile, is nicely realised… low-key and brief, for sure, but effortlessly hummable and endearing.
While the hangdog Badge And Gun has a really appealing broken down, blues-folk quality that feels like an Old West tale augmented by an occasional gospel backing.
And On The Way Home combines more country-rock with some fine harmonica and a nice sense of closure for an end of the summer ditty that recalls Dylan.
There are disappointments. His big duet with Katy Perry, Who You Love, fails to stand out. The laidback approach, and drippy lyricism, find both Mayer and Perry singing well within themselves and seemingly aiming for the type of overly sentimental ballad that could wing its way onto the soundtrack of a film like Valentine’s Day.
Similarly, the country-ballad I Will Be Found (Lost At Sea) suffers from the same kind of uninspired sentimentality and, coming immediately after Who You Love, upsets the album’s momentum.
But for the most part, Mayer’s latest engages the head and the heart and offers up a genuinely satisfying listen.
Download picks: Wildfire, Paper Doll, Badge Ad Gun, Call Me The Breeze