We last heard from John Mayer with his second album, Heavier Things. After taking a brief touring hiatus, he returned with a new live album, Try! featuring himself, drummer Steve Jordon (Bruce Springsteen, The Stones) and bassist Pino Palladino (Phil Collins)- also known as the John Mayer Trio.
I was thrilled about this new venture in John’s musical career- being the rabid fan that I am, I would’ve bought anything he released, but I knew that an album full of blues tracks and covers of Ray Charlesand Jimi Hendrix would be a delight.
Once again, John has failed to disappoint me.
The album starts off with Who Did You Think I Was, which was also the only single that was released from the album. We’re greeted by a cheering audience before John comes in with a great guitar solo. This proves to be a great opening track; lines like “Is he the one who plays the quiet songs?/Is he the one who turns the ladies on?/…Got a brand new blues I can’t explain” seem to be Mayer’s response to any naysayer who doesn’t think that a Grammy winning pop artist can release a live blues album.
Good Love Is On The Way, written by the Trio, is another treat. A catchy chorus and another great guitar solo move the song along.
One of my favorite songs on the album is Gravity, a slow, blues track. Mayer sounds melancholy as he sings about another relationship gone awry (“I’ll never know/what makes this man/with all the love/that his heart can stand/dream of ways/to throw it all away”). This song could’ve easily been included with some of the others on Heavier Things, but by the end of the track, Mayer strips the song down to simple guitar, and he puts so much emotion into the vocals that I can’t listen to it with getting wrapped up in emotion as well.
Vultures is easily another stand out track. It starts off with a heavy beat, and some great drum work courtesy of Steve Jordon. The opening line, “Some of us/we’re hardly ever here/the rest of us/are born to disappear”, sets the mood for a song about rebelling against conformity. Again, Jordon and Pino Palladino lend their skills and make this song such a treat to listen to; the bass and drum solos are excellent and paired with Mayer’s vocals make for a wonderful song.
Yet another of my favorites would be Another Kind Of Green. Mayer opens the song with another rousing guitar solo, and leads into his vocals, which sound a lot clearer than some of the other tracks, for some reason. Again, the catchy chorus and lyrics (“And I don’t need/another kind of green/to know/I’m on the right side with you”) make the song.
Mayer also tackles new renditions of songs from Heavier Things, including Something’s Missing and the Grammy winner, Daughters. Though I love both of the original versions, I must say the Trio adds some much needed soul to both tracks. Something’s Missing is a bit slower than it’s studio counterpart- not much has changed, but the live version is obviously much more stripped down and works well.
Daughters has a very long instrumental interlude, in which the audience doesn’t seem to figure out which song is going to be played until Mayer begins to sing the first lines (needless to say, without even looking at the track listing I figured it out within the first few bars. I know my John Mayer!). Again, the song is stripped and slowed down, and Mayer sings the song a bit differently than the studio rendition. This time, the track is a bit jazzy and I might even like this version of Daughters better than the original. The audience sings along for most of it, but it’s not too loud, and therefore, not annoying.
The covers on the album, Wait Until Tomorrow and I’ve Got A Woman, also work well, but neither tend to be a favorite. Wait Until Tomorrow is a Hendrix cover, and all the focus can be placed on the instrumental work. There are a few awesome riffs, and you can tell the Trio is playing its butt off during this song. I’ve Got A Woman is obviously a Ray Charles remake, and isn’t as scary as it sounds. Besides being terribly long (7:34 minutes!) it’s a fun track, and as Speeddemon mentioned in his review, it’s a bit hard to listen to the song without getting confused with the Kanye West/Jamie Foxx version.
Out of My Mind may be the only filler track on the album, but even so, it’s still a decent piece. This song is definitely pure blues; from the lazy guitar work, to John’s wailing vocals. Again, it’s the song’s length (7:39 minutes) that makes it a bit tiresome.
The album closes with Try, another original song written by the Trio. Comprised of a funky beat and well-written lyrics that remind me of My Stupid Mouth(“I’m gonna try/Gonna try to be myself/Although myself will wonder why”), and smooth backing vocals make this track a winner. It also stands out as a great closer to the album.
All in all, John Mayer’s venture into blues has proved successful. Try provides a smooth bridge between John’s earlier albums and what we can expect from him the future. I don’t know about you, but I simply can’t wait to see what’s next from Mr. Mayer.
1. Who Did You Think I Was
2. Good Love Is on the Way
3. Wait Until Tomorrow
6. Out of My Mind
7. Another Kind of Green
8. I Got a Woman
9. Something’s Missing