Heavier Things

John Mayer

Sony Records, 2003


REVIEW BY: Tommy Johnson


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



© 2003 Tommy Johnson and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Sony Records, and is used for informational purposes only.