John Mayer | 'Born and Raised'
On “Born and Raised,” John Mayer is in a state of retreat, repentance and nostalgia.
After a couple of years of bad behavior and bad publicity, he has left Hollywood, moved to somewhere near Bozeman, Mont., and committed the act of contrition on TV (“Ellen”). This week he released “Born and Raised,” a collection of breezy acoustic songs dipped in several flavors of ’70s music: country blues, acoustic Southern rock, California folk, soft rock. Here and there it evokes the styles of everyone from Neil Young and James Taylor to the laid-back Allman Brothers.
From the album’s first single, “Shadow Man,” which opens with an intro that sounds a lot like Bob Seger’s “Main Street”: “Did you know you could be wrong and swear you’re right … Hard times have helped me see / I’m a good man with a good heart.” Then: “I ain’t no trouble maker and I never meant her harm / But it doesn’t mean I didn’t make it hard to carry on.”
Don Was produced “Born and Raised,” and he embroidered many of the 12 tracks with primary country rock, blues and folk elements: violins, slide guitars, pedal steel guitars, acoustic guitars, blues harp.
He also enlisted some well-known veterans of those sounds, including David Crosby and Graham Nash, who sing harmonies on “Queen of California,” which name-checks Joni Mitchell, and keyboard ace Chuck Leavell, best known for his work with the Rolling Stones.
The overall mood is low-pulse, introspective, wistful, melancholic, the sound of a slow-moving train creeping toward the light at the end of the tunnel. It has drawn plenty of comparisons to a few Neil Young albums, but only for the acoustic, back-porch vibe.
What others are saying:
People magazine: “Its shades of ’70s soft rock radiate a real warmth.”
From Entertainment Weekly: “You can imagine the onetime king of the Sunset Strip running for the hills to strum his guitar under Neil Young’s harvest moon.”
But the Independent in the U.K. sees little beyond the shimmering arrangements: “What’s most loveable about Neil is his ornery, cussed nature, and there’s not a bit of that in this bland Americana.”
Mayer would argue that ornery is what got him where he is today and why he’s seeking absolution through confessions and platitudes.
Garbage | ‘Not Your Kind of People’
Opinions are split on the band’s first album in seven years. From the Guardian: “People” “returns to the blueprint of their first two, best albums, the major change being fewer electronics, more fuzzy guitars and production aimed at the Gaga generation.” The Observer: “Electro-charged grunge and ambient pop are their default settings and there’s plenty of both here.” NME: “Too much of ‘People’ is pedestrian, anodyne and utterly unremarkable.”
Gossip | ‘A Joyful Noise’
This Is Fake DYI: “Joyful” “shines when the group’s newfound command of seductive pop music is allowed to cavort with the deep-rooted rawness that made us pay attention right at the beginning. The result is a great album full of slightly haywire, unpretentious pop music.” NME: “The idea of ‘Gossip go full-on pop’ is bursting with possibilities. But the reality is not. … Good moments are squandered by unsatisfying choruses and/or weak lyrics.”
Killer Mike | ‘R.A.P. Music’
The early reviews of “R.A.P.” are glowing. From Sputnikmusic: “Not only is it essential listening … but also one of the few records that pushes musical and cultural boundaries.” Prefix: “ ‘R.A.P. Music’ is ambitious and incisive and frustrated and angry and serious. But it’s also charged with a vital energy, with the life of music that is — beyond all these heavy ideas — exciting to listen to. The kind of record that will resonate for years.”
Joey Ramone | ‘… Ya Know?’
This won’t make anyone forget the best Ramones material or its predecessor, “Don’t Worry About Me,” but it has its charms. “Ya Know” comprises previously unreleased tracks recorded over the final 15 years of the life of Jeffry Ross Hyman, who died in April 2001. Several colleagues helped finish it, including Joan Jett, Steven Van Zandt, members of Cheap Trick and the Dictators. Two tracks, including “Life’s a Gas,” are re-recordings of songs put out by the Ramones.
Out this week
• Kris Allen, “Thank You Camellia”
• Michael Bloomfield and Nick Gravenites,” Blues at the Fillmore, 1968-69”
• Joe Bonamassa, “Driving Towards the Daylight”
• The Cult, “Choice of Weapons”
• Great White, “Elation”
• Kill Devil Hill, “Kill Devil Hill”
• Kimbra, “Vows”
• The Knack, “Havin’ a RaveUp: Live in Los Angeles, 1978”
• Sonny Landreth, “Elemental Journey”
• Paul McCartney, “Ram” (special edition)
• Mercy Me, “The Hurt and the Healer”
• The Oak Ridge Boys, “Back Home Again”
• Haley Reinhart, “Listen Up!”
• Slash, “Apocalyptic Love”
• Soulsavers, “The Light the Dead See”
• Tedeschi Trucks Band, “Everybody’s Talkin’”
• Wade Bowen, “The Given”
• Melody Gardot, “The Absence”
• Juanes, “MTV Unplugged”
• Public Image Ltd., “This Is Pil”
• Scissor Sisters, “Magic Hour”
• Sigur Ros, “Valtari”
• Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, “Here”
• Regina Spektor, “What We Saw From the Cheap Seats”
• 12 Stones, “Beneath the Scars”
• Walkmen, “Heaven”
| Timothy Finn, The Star