Review Summary: Jason Mraz takes what we already love about the genre, adds his excellent writing ability, a dash of jazz, and the result is Live at Java Joe’s.
There must be a reason that, at the time of this review, this album has only 4 ratings, and they are all 5’s. I think that many users on Sputnik ignore Jason Mraz because of his mainstream success. While his new album may be garbage, this one was recorded while he was still playing the good ol’ coffeehouse circuits. Prior to this album, Mraz cut his teeth in the music business busking in New York and then San Diego. Live at Java Joe’s was recorded at the San Diego coffeehouse with the same name in 2001. Featuring Toca Rivera on percussion and background vocals, this album captures Mraz’s live show and extraordinary songwriting and performing ability.
The first thing that sticks out while listening to the music is Mraz’s voice. He has one of the best voices around, with great range, and he shows it off without being a showoff. He also makes excellent use of mixing vocal rhythms with his guitar playing, as heard on “Did I Fool Ya?” and “Little You & I”. Lyrically, Mraz is solid but not groundbreaking. His lyrics are often witty and reflective, and many different moods are presented. Sad and despondent on “Halfway Home”, love on “You & I Both”, “Bright Eyes”, and “Hey Love”, to name a few, and the triviality of society on “Zero Percent”.
The instrumentation is also flawless on the album. This album has the best of both worlds: the intimacy and rawness of a live album and also perfect playing and studio-like sound quality of, well, a studio album. Jason is a very competent guitar player, and Toca Rivera is no pushover on drums. The songwriting is another strong suit of Jason’s. Although the genre of acoustic singer-songwriter is not exactly brimming with new ideas, Mraz takes what we already love about the genre, adds his excellent writing ability, a dash of jazz, and the result is Live at Java Joe’s. The only flaw I can see in this album is some repetitiveness, but if it’s not broken, why fix it?
As you can see, I love this album. In fact, I think it deserves the classic 5/5 rating. I can listen to this album in any mood, and it fits well. Live at Java Joe’s is a diamond in the rough of the singer-songwriter genre.