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Paradise Valley - John Mayer
Buy Paradise Valley
Release Info

Album: Paradise Valley
Release Date: 16th August, 2013
Label: Columbia Records, a Division of Sony Music


In the 2000s, when he wasn't shagging starlets or performing stand-up comedy, John Mayer was leveraging his two distinct gifts: His virtuosic guitar skills and his aptitude for classy pop-rock songs. Putting those abilities to use both on his solo albums and with the John Mayer Trio, his blues-rock group, Mayer earned big chart success, becoming the sensitive singer-songwriter of choice for hordes of Americans.

The middle son of two teachers who grew up in Fairfield, CT, Mayer picked up guitar at age 13 and was soon playing local blues clubs both solo and with the band Villanova Junction. At 17, he suffered a cardiac arrhythmia that kept him hospitalized for a week. It was then that his songwriting career began in earnest. A year after finishing high school, Mayer enrolled at Boston's Berklee College of Music on a partial scholarship. He dropped out after his first year to move to Atlanta and play live with his friend Clay Cook under the name LoFi Masters. Mayer left the duo to record his first EP, 1999's Inside Wants Out, which he distributed himself while playing gigs across the South.

Mayer's big break came after he appeared at 2000's South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin, TX, when he signed with Aware Records, a Columbia subsidiary. His first full-length album, Room for Squares (Number 8, 2001) was picked up by Columbia for wide release. Room for Squares went multi-platinum on the back of singles "No Such Thing" (Number 13, 2002) and "Your Body Is a Wonderland" (Number 18, 2002). Columbia followed that success by reissuing Inside Wants Out in late 2002.

After the stopgap live album Any Given Thursday (Number 17, 2003), Mayer's studio follow-up, 2003's Heavier Things, debuted at Number One and yielded singles "Bigger Than My Body" (Number 33, 2003) and "Daughters" (Number 19, 2004). Another live record, As/Is, followed in 2004. That year, Mayer began to abandon his sensitive balladeer image in favor of a smart-ass Renaissance man persona, complete with sardonic blog posts, a column in Esquire magazine, a one-off TV show on VH1, and a memorable guest spot on The Chappelle Show, jamming in a Harlem barbershop with members of the Roots.

Around the same time, Mayer began to branch our musically as well. He provided backing vocals on rapper Common's single "Go!" and shared the songwriting credit with Common and Kanye West. In his own music, Mayer began to focus on meatier stuff, particularly the blues. He played shows with Buddy Guy and Herbie Hancock, and in November 2005 released another live album, Try! (Number 34), credited to the John Mayer Trio, which included veteran session musicians Steve Jordan on drums and Pino Palladino on bass. The trio opened for the Rolling Stones on their A Bigger Bang tour that October. Mayer's next solo album, the blues-heavy Continuum (Number 2, 2006) followed a year later, and its quasi-political protest song, "Waiting on the World to Change" (Number 14, 2006), explored lyrical territory untouched on his previous releases.

In 2007, Time magazine featured Mayer as part of its Time 100 series, lauding his "emphatic voice and emotional fearlessness." Mayer's third live album, Where the Light Is (Number 5, 2008), a three-disc release, featured a solo acoustic set, an electric set with Jordan and Palladino and an eight-man ensemble performance. Where the Light Is combined Mayer's recent solo work with covers of Tom Petty, Jimi Hendrix and Elmore James.

Over the years Mayer has been the subject of much tabloid fodder, having been linked to Jessica Simpson and actresses Jennifer Love Hewitt and Minka Kelly. His tumultuous relationship with Jennifer Aniston kept Mayer in the tabloids for months on end. He has also dabbled in stand-up comedy, and CBS announced in January 2009 that it was developing a variety show pilot starring Mayer.


August 20th, 2013. By Anthony Decurtis for Rolling Stone Magazine

John Mayer has made a career of growing up (or failing to grow up) in public, and Paradise Valley, his sixth studio album, continues that autobiographical journey. As its title (a reference to Mayer's Montana retreat) indicates, this chapter finds him in a relaxed, joyful frame of mind. And why not? After two throat surgeries, his voice is fully restored, and his personal life has ceased to be a tabloid fixture.  

As on last year's Born and Raised, Mayer works with producer Don Was and dives into American roots music. Country and folk elements abound; the filigreed guitar lines of "Wildfire" recall the Grateful Dead. Mayer can get in trouble when he pushes too hard for effect, so the laid-back vibe here works to his advantage, allowing both his talent and his charm to shine. His boldface love life enters the picture in a lovely duet with his ex Katy Perry ("Who You Love"), as well as in "Paper Doll," a measured if pointed response to Taylor Swift's eviscerating "Dear John." "You're like 22 girls in one," he sings, a nod to Swift's song "22." "And none of them know what they're running from/Was it just too far to fall?" 

Frank Ocean handles the vocal on a different, soulful version of "Wildfire," the opening track. And Mayer's slow burn on J.J. Cale's "Call Me the Breeze" turned unexpectedly poignant when Cale died shortly before the LP's release. The song's meaning remains true for Paradise Valley, however: Mayer continues to blow down the road, this time carrying far less baggage and all the better for it.

August 20th, 2013. By Jim Farber for New York Daily News

John Mayer sings with Katy Perry – and about Taylor Swift.

John Mayer clearly cracked open the history books before making his recent music. His last album, “Born and Raised,” released just a year ago, went for the woodsy and reflective style of early ’70s Laurel Canyon. It brazenly — if awkwardly — invoked artists from Joni Mitchell to Neil Young to Crosby, Stills & Nash , weaving allusions to them in the lyrics and even employing some of their session musicians.

For the new “Paradise Valley,” Mayer flipped ahead a chapter, taking inspiration from sounds of the mid-’70s. Much of the disc conjures Eric Clapton’s mellowest work from that time, back when he had a man-crush on the “Tulsa Sound” of guitarist J.J. Cale. (Cale, who died last month, wrote “After Midnight” and “Cocaine,” both covered by Clapton).

In case you miss the connection, the only cover song on Mayer’s disc comes from Cale — “Call Me the Breeze,” a perfect example of his brand of slow-burn, blues. Mayer’s take has just the right laconic groove. All of “Paradise Valley” proves more successful than Mayer’s last effort at nailing the styles that inspired it. The melodies have more ease, the lyrics more awareness and the mood more coherence.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a John Mayer album if it didn’t throw some bones to the gossip-minded. Allegedly, “Paper Doll” offers his musical answer to ex-girlfriend Taylor Swift’s snarky hit “Dear John.”

If so, Mayer takes the higher road. His lyrics may house a sarcastic refrain by asking “was it too great a fall” — a reference to his shafting of Swift. But Mayer’s warm delivery cauterizes the wound. He’s more direct in “Who You Love,” a duet with current bold-faced gal pal Katy Perry. It says you can’t choose whom you fall for, and it proves a revelation for Perry. Shorn of the battery of multitracked gimmicks that make her sound bionic on her candy-pop hits, here she seems, for the first time, warm.

A separate cameo from Frank Ocean just puzzles. It’s two minutes of meandering.

Mayer’s guitar work throughout mines an especially genteel vibe. His licks can recall Clapton, but they have their own gallantry. Some of the work takes influence from Afro-pop, like the ticklish lines in “Wildfire” or the Township Jive-like loops and pings of “Paper Doll.”

As usual, Mayer’s songs muse about the consequences of wandering. Many lyrics find him tussling with split desires — for both a family connection and the freedom to follow his muse. Mayer mirrors that two-pronged approach in the simple grounding of his songs and the haunting call of his leads.

As with nearly all Mayer CDs, there’s a vexing downside. Why does a young man blessed with the potential for such fiery guitar prowess keep his music so low-key? At least this time, his songs offer adequate compensation — in their intimacy and breezy ease.


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