John Mayer – Continuum

My first exposure to the supposedly ‘new,’ post-Room For Squares John Mayer was when a friend of mine handed me the buds to his iPod, and asked me to listen to this cool, new jazz-blues musician he had ran across. He was obviously baiting me, and upon giving a track or two a spin I enjoyed it quite a bit. I soon learned that, quite contrary to what he first told me, it was actually last year’s live John Mayer Trio effort Try!. This record was quite a definite departure for the doe-eyed pop auteur. Instead of mushy love songs, he was trying to be Hendrix with a lean, mean classic blues backing team. And, most surprisingly, it kind of worked. Mayer doesn’t have the chops to be the next immortalized music-god, but he is definitely talented, and proved with that release that, when let loose, he can make one heck of a rollickingly enjoyable album.

So, it is with that direction that it brings us to where we are today. Looking at Mayer’s most recent studio effort: Continuum. I was a bit apprehensive at first, but upon repeated listens, Mayer has definitely assembled a great collection of songs here. This feels more like a follow-up to Mayer’s 2003 studio disc Heavier Things than it does Try!, but it also brings with it the loose, bluesy feel of smoky barrooms echoing throughout his solid live effort. He even carries over a tidbit or two from both Heavier Things, and Try!; just to be sure you get the hint.

I would easily be willing to go so far as to say that this is Mayer’s best album to date; and shows a definite level of maturity many (myself included) never really expected to see from the man that brought us the schmaltz of a song “Your Body Is A Wonderland.” The pop here on Continuum isn’t so much pop as it is smooth jazz. It flows through you; these songs fill the room before you even know what has happened.

As can be witnessed by first single “Waiting On The World To Change,” this record wisely walks the line between accessibility to the masses, and accessibility to blues and jazz fans. Stalwarts and casual listeners alike can latch onto these tracks, with just enough depth and catchiness to happily carry you through the effort as a whole. Mayer seems to have gotten back to the basics of recorded music: that is, creating a cohesive album, as opposed to a disc of potential singles intermittent with filler. I would go through a mini-speculative of highlights, but to be honest there isn’t a bad song in the bunch. It all just flows so evenly, and so perfectly.

I never thought the time would come that I would find myself recommending a John Mayer record, but it seems that the day of reckoning is upon us. This is good stuff—darn good stuff. Don’t let the pop history fool you; John Mayer is back, and man does he mean business.

(Columbia Records)

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