Review Summary: Dude got his shit together.
It's unbelieveable how much John Mayer has come since "Your Body Is A Wonderland" made him a household name. His debut, Room For Squares, was written on an accoustic guitar, and is mostly straight pop, with womanizing lyrics and Mayer's guitar work not being even close to a focal point. Heavier Things, Mayer's second album, really didn't do a whole lot to buck this trend, and Mayer recieved his second straight multi-platinum album. But on Try!, a live album featuring Pino Palladino on bass and Steve Jordan on drums, Mayer realizes his true purpose in music: to shred.
And shred he does on the John Mayer Trio's debut live album, which features four tracks on other Mayer albums, five brand new tracks, and two covers, the artists covered being Jimi Hendrix ("Wait Until Tomorrow") and Ray Charles ("I've Got A Woman"). From the first track on you can tell that this is no ordinary Mayer album: the pace is much faster than usual on some tracks, and every song (besides "Daughters") has a back-breaking guitar solo.
But what stands out here is the atmosphere. All good live albums have a positive, laid-back atmosphere, but not overwhelmingly so. Mayer sings softly in his poppy croon, and his guitar work is top-notch, but it's the backing members that keep this atmosphere in place. Pino Palladino is an excellent bass player (he filled in for John Entwistle for the Who after his death), playing very quickly, yet too loud or overpowering, and seeming to do it with a breezy ease. It's sort of like how Flea would play if he had any self-control. Steve Jordan also largely contributes to this sound, playing laid-back, simple rhythms that are exhilarated by improvised drum rolls and complicated cymbol patterns.
But this is clearly Mayer's show, and he lets you know it too, from the blazing fast riffs on "Who Did You Think I Was"" to the mellow "Gravity" to the hooky "Vultures"; Mayer always sings perfectly, and while he may not yet be a guitar virtuoso like his idols Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughn, he's getting there, and he's closer than ever now. His voice is also improving, and I say it's even better live. It takes on a smokey, crackly texture when he sings lower, and his high notes are spot on: hitting them higher than most could ever imagine yet never sounding whiney or girlish.
It can't be all perfect, and Mayer at times, trys too much. "I've Got A Woman" seems patched together, and hearing Mayer's voice instead of Charles's seems disconcerting at first, and the song really doesn't get better. It wouldn't of hurt to get rid of "Daughters", his hit track from Heavier Things, because it doesn't really fit with the blues atmosphere. Hell, the only reason it's on there is so he can get the girls screaming again, after being obviously disappointed from no "Your Body Is A Wonderland". Sometimes it also feels like Mayer is surrounded by such talent in the rhythm sectionthat he seems overwhelmed, but this is only in the covers, the songs he didn't write. However, that's only three songs I found fault with, so this is still a worthwhile buy.
Overall, this is such a fantastic jump in quality for Mayer that it seems that he may now finally get the respect he obviously deserves, and explore his inner Clapton. Hopefully he continues this trend of popish-blues, and he eventually be cemented into music's legacy as one of the all-time greatest guitarists.