Album Review: John Mayer, “The Village Sessions” (2006)

I believe this is the first time I’ve ever rated a John Mayer album with anything less than five stars. To be fair, The Village Sessions (released in December 2006), is just an EP, so I guess you can say it doesn’t really count.

The disc presents six acoustic versions of songs from Continuum and Try! (the John Mayer Trio). Mayer, with the help of fellow musician, Ben Harper, and JM3 members, Steve Jordan and Pino Palladino, put the EP together at The Village recording studio in Los Angeles. The result is a nice example of Mayer’s artistry, though I believe some of the studio recordings are better.

First on the disc is Waiting on the World To Change. Mayer starts off the song by counting down in an extremely sexy voice, and oh…you’re here to read about the music, right? Sorry. Anyway, Ben Harper lends his vocals to this rendition, and though I can’t say I’ve listened to any of Harper’s own stuff, he really has a great voice. Besides the addition of Harper, this version sounds pretty similar to the one on the album. The length is shortened a bit, and there’s a lot more harmonizing towards the end, but the result is a sort of watered-down version of the studio recording.

Next up is one of my favorite Mayer songs, period, Belief. The song begins quite similar to its studio counterpart, but Mayer breaks things down a bit after the first chorus. I’m not sure how much I like his vocalization during some of the verses, but I do like the musical arrangement a bit more. We get a funky acoustic guitar solo towards the end that makes the song even better, and I’m a far bigger fan of this song than the one before it. Even though I love the studio recording of this song, the acoustic version has a lot less production and it’s easier to focus on the beautiful guitar instead; truthfully, both versions are great.

John Mayer and Robbie McIntosh

Mayer pulls out all the stops on Slow Dancing In A Burning Room. The song was another favorite from Continuum (Oh, who am I kidding? The whole album was a “favorite”), and the Village Sessions arrangement is simply beautiful. Again, stripped of pretty much all production save Mayer’s vocals and Robbie McIntosh (The Pretenders) on the guitar, the song has a sultry feeling to it that the album version misses. Mayer delivers the lyrics with unbridled passion, and the line, “How dare you say it’s nothing me?/Baby, you’re the only light I ever saw” gives me chills each time I hear it.

The only song from Try! appears with Good Love Is On The Way. I’m a pretty big fan of this song, but the treatment here isn’t anything spectacular. Don’t get me wrong, Mayer does a nice job, and I’m still in love with the lyrics (“Done with broken people/This is me I’m working on” is pretty much my new motto when it comes to dating relationships), but his solo version lacks a lot of the soul and funk (and fun) that Jordan and Palladino added on the Trio’s album.

The EP comes to an end with I’m Gonna Find Another You and In Repair. I’m Gonna Find Another You sounds almost exactly the same as it does on Continuum, though Mayer’s vocal styling differs a bit from the studio recording. Again, the guitar is the true highlight here, and even if this rendering isn’t too original, it’s still a nice groove track on the disc. In Repair starts off a bit dull, but Mayer kicks it into high gear by the second chorus. His voice sounds the best here as he sings about getting his life on track, and the chant at the end of the song (“I’m in repair/I’m not together but I’m getting there”) is flawless.

And so ends The Village Sessions EP, clocking in at a little under thirty minutes. The disc is nice, but it needs to be said that most of these acoustic arrangements are similar to the studio productions, or I simply found the studio renditions to be better. It also would’ve been nice to see songs like Stop This Train or I Don’t Trust Myself (With Loving You) included, as both were conspicuously absent.

Mostly, I just don’t think an EP was really something that needed to be released; Mayer has already proved that he’s a great singer, and we didn’t really need a six song acoustic EP to show us that, anyway. Either way, fans of Mayer or the Continuum CD might want to pick this up as something extra to add to their collection.

Rating: 200px-4_stars.svg

Track Listing
1. Waiting On The World To Change (Featuring Ben Harper)
2. Belief
3. Slow Dancing In A Burning Room
4. Good Love Is On The Way
5. I’m Gonna Find Another You
6. In Repair

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