Heavier Things

John Mayer

Sony Records, 2003

http://www.johnmayer.com

REVIEW BY: Tommy Johnson

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 12/08/2003

About two or three years ago, I was looking through my CD collection. While browsing through, I came to a rather uncomfortable conclusion -- my collection is old. Not the actual discs, but the artists on them. I noticed that few artists below the age of fifty were to be found in my stack of albums. If I was that age myself, I wouldn't have thought much of it, but I'm not. Yes of course, age doesn't matter when it comes to the quality of music, and yes, music was indeed a bit better 25-30 years ago. But still, it's nice with new and fresh music. A few weeks later I stumbled across a singer/songwriter who at that time was still unknown in Sweden. His name was John Mayer, and his album was Room For Squares. I bought the CD. I saw him in concert. I bought a t-shirt.

That's history now, and John has grown to be a well-known name in the music world. He won a Grammy, did all the late night shows and did just about all the things a newborn star is supposed to do. To that list of things you can add a live DVD-and-CD release. But as much as we love hearing old songs, we wanted new music from Mayer. It took him awhile, but now it's finally here; John Mayer's my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Heavier Things.

The title implies that this release is a bit heavier than his previous album. However, that's not the case nor do I think it was intended to be the case. Actually it sounds pretty much, production- and song-wise, like the Room For Squares album, and to call that album or the new album "heavy" would be like calling Pavarotti groovy. John's music isn't heavy, but it's pretty good.

I don't want to turn this review into a comparison between his new and old work, but considering the fact that Room For Squares was such a great album, it's hard not to compare.

So let's compare. Room For Squares had great songwriting, a great production and great musicians. Almost the same thing can be said about Heavier Things. As a matter of fact, the musicians on the new album are even better than the ones who played on Room For Squares. Higher budget, I guess. On this release you can hear Jerry Hey (Seawind Horns, Earth Wind & Fire, Al Jarreau), jazz great Roy Hargrove, legendary percussionist Lenny Castro and many others.

The production is still good, although a bit overdone. John doesn't need to be buried in a huge production, because there isn't anything to hide. John's music would be given more justice if they kept it a bit more basic, a bit more laidback. The producer is Jack Joseph Puig, who also mixed many of the tracks on Room For Squares.

Now to the song material. The lyrics are thought-provoking, funny, at times sarcastic and always clever. Mayer is a truly gifted lyricist. Some of the songs are not as accessible, or may I call it "catchy," as the ones on Room For Squares, but change is good, I suppose. The highlights are "Only Heart" (it has "radio hit" written all over it), "New Deep" (great lyrics and a cool beat), and the opening track "Clarity." The latter sounds like an MTV version of singer/songwriter Michael Franks (check out his albums, they're good).

The artwork/liner-notes are a big plus. The outside is very plain and simple looking and it gives you a rather stylish impression. The inside is filled with funny diagrams, such as where the songs were originally written geographically, in which keys the songs are, etc etc.

Conclusion: John has almost done it again. Heavier Things is a good release, though not as good as his debut album.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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