I’ve always liked John Mayer. I’ve always thought he was a good songwriter, a better-than-average performer, and an excellent guitarist. For me, his making of great pop music was a good thing. You see, I like pop music. However, as much as I like pop, I have an even deeper and more profound love of the blues. Basically, when John Mayer announced he was forming a power trio with multi-instrumentalist wonder Steve Jordan and legendary session musician Pino Palladino, I jumped for joy. When I further discovered that said trio would begin taking Mayer’s music in a more blues-based direction, my vertical leap increased to that of NBA level. The trio’s first, last, and only effort as a group was a live album released in November of 2005, titled Try!
. In March of 2006 (much to my own chagrin), Mayer announced that he would be splitting the trio up. However, his next studio album, Continuum
will feature some of the trio’s songs, and will continue Mayer’s blues orientation. I suppose it’s win/win.
is a fantastic album. Composed of several of Mayer’s pop hits, a few slick blues licks, and even a couple of covers, it was certainly a welcome surprise. Throughout the entire album, Mayer’s fantastic guitar playing is evident. He’s seriously underrated as a guitarist. Mayer plays with plenty of feeling and emotion, but also mixes in more than enough technical expertise. He knows what he’s doing, simple as. Jordan and Palladino complement their partner perfectly, with fantastic bass and drum work. The trio’s vocals also harmonize together, with Mayer (obviously) singing lead, with Jordan and Palladino taking backing duties. Mayer’s snarling rasp, combined with his band mate’s light wails, overlaying their fantastic instrumentation makes for some fantastic music. The fact that this album is recorded surprisingly well for a live record means the experience is that much better.
The first song on the album, “Who Did You Think I Was" starts off with a little bit of crowd cheering. This helps to set the album’s overall mood (it is, after all, live). Next, Mayer’s great riffing and vocal work comes into play. Jordan and Palladino hold everything together, right up to the first great guitar solo. “Who Did You Think I Was" may not be the best song on Try!
, but it certainly gets you warmed up. “Good Love Is On The Way" is one of those songs that’s on the more-poppy side. However, that doesn’t detract from the fact that it’s one of the best songs on the album. The excellent lyrics, perfect guitar work, and catchy chorus draw you in and leave you begging for more. If more artists can mesh blues and pop together like this, I’ll be one happy reviewer. “Wait Until Tomorrow" is the trio’s take on a classic Jimi Hendrix Experience
song. Mayer does the guitar work in this song justice, playing Hendrix’s masterful lines with just as much dexterity and skill as any other top-tier musician. “Wait Until Tomorrow" is another one of the best songs on Try!
and a definitely worthy cover.
“Gravity" is the slowest, most bluesy song yet. It’s a welcome change of pace for Try!
, which showcases the trio’s excellent ability to just make music that flows. From the melancholy, yet well-written lyrics, to the superb instrumentation “Gravity" is another stand-out track from the album. “Vultures" starts off with some steady drumming from Jordan. Soon, Mayer’s laidback guitar comes in, but continues to allow the drums to take center-stage as the premier instrument. Mayer takes a more soprano-like approach to singing “Vultures." The result is a fairly unique song, that’s an easy listen. “Out Of My Mind" keeps the subtle, bluesy feeling of Try!
going. This is just another continuum in the album’s mellow, velvety feel (see what I did there?). The next song, “Another Kind Of Green" is one of the strongest tracks on the album. A little louder, and with a little more feeling than its predecessors, “Another Kind Of Green" combines the finest examples of Mayer’s singing, songwriting, and guitar-playing with Jordan and Palladino’s incredible sense of rhythm. “Another Kind Of Green" is, in my humble opinion, the greatest Try!
has to offer, and a sure “must-listen." I can’t give this song any higher of a recommendation; it’s just that good.
When “I Got A Woman" comes on, you’ll hear Mayer introduce Steve Jordan as the drummer plays a nice little beat. Next, Palladino comes in, and is met with an introduction from Mayer as well. As soon as you hear the lyrics, you’ll think “Wait a sec…isn’t this a Kanye West
song?" Actually, this is partially true. “I Got A Woman" is actually a Ray Charles
song, that West borrowed selections of for his hit single “Gold Digga." It also happens to be the second cover Mayer and Co. dish out on Try!
. It’s a fine song, whose highlight would be the guitar solo. Not the best track on Try!
, but solid nonetheless. “Something’s Missing" features Mayer giving us a nice little speech, which eventually leads into a marvelous guitar riff. The progressive-sounding instrumentation, when combined with the fathomless vocal work from Mayer make “Something’s Missing" another stand-out track from Try!
. “Daughters" is a return to the straightforward, bluesy feel of the record. Slow and steady, it’s slightly boring to hear after the ambitious “Something’s Missing," but is still an excellent song. This live album concludes with “Try." With rocking guitar and vocal work from Mayer, along with Jordan and Palladino’s virtually unlimited “cool" factor make it a smashing way to finish. The trio couldn’t have picked a better note to go out on.
comes agonizingly close to being a perfect album. Occasionally poor track list selection is its only drawback. This is a very trivial matter, but as it is even slightly noticeable, I feel I have to mention it. All-in-all, Try!
is a superb album. Depending on how well Mayer’s career goes in its new direction, this album may be considered a timeless classic one day, as the genesis of something truly special.