John Mayer - Continuum (CD)

Columbia/Aware 88697011522, UK release 16 October 2006

John Mayer's gradually been building a dedicated UK fan base, judging from his recent sell out UK appearance. His album "Heavier Things" hit number one in the US but success over this side of the water has been a little limited to say the least. In my view, that's an absolute shame. "Room For Squares" in particular is a completely gorgeous album with great guitar playing, melodies and lovely songs about love and loss that just make you feel immersed in the late night beauty of it.

"Continuum" marks a different Mayer in some ways. There's a definite blues influence in some of the tracks, although he hasn't lost his ability to make some of the most catchy infectious tracks around. This is completely borne out by the first track "Waiting on the World to Change", which he played in an episode of CSI (not yet transmitted in the UK) and it has a great hook line to it, whilst at the same time being a protest song of how everything revolves around the media and things out of our control, "when you trust your television, what you get is what you got" is the particular lyric which stood out for me. The guitar playing is lush and there's such an uplifting feel about the whole thing - the keyboards and guitars seam perfectly for that groove. Get this released as a single - now!

"I Don't Trust Myself (With Loving You)" is just serene, there's some lovely keyboards in the background, and the guitars just blend themselves in with consummate ease. The pace is really well timed, and there's just that echelon of sadness in John's voice as he proclaims the title of the song in the chorus. And you just have to love the bluesy guitars in the interludes. It's the right mood of regret and sadness. "Belief" had me thinking that John had hired Vini Reilly from the Durutti Column, the guitars are that close. In essence, the guitars from him and Ben Harper work really well and give it that slightly ethereal background. The song too is solid - about how people has their belief and how they use it for their own feelings and ways that they are. "We're never gonna win the world.. if belief is what we're fighting for" also seems quite poignant too.

"Gravity" is simply serene. It has that perfect slowness to it that just blends along melodically and an utterly gorgeous guitar to die for. And that's even before the lyrics kick in and how gravity wants to bring you down. It is delivered with the perfect punch and poise that has hi-fi separates retailers want to use the track as a test disc track to show off that CD player. Yes, it's that good. And you can tell by the end that John really doesn't want Gravity to be near him because of the passion in his voice that builds up. It's really lovely. "The Heart of Life" is full of lush guitars everywhere, and it is just a song of hope for so many people everywhere that feel like crying - "No it won't go all the way it should, but I know the heart of life is good" trying to tell you that not to cry and to realise that life is good for you. It's delivered with a gentle softness that just makes you want to curl up and give someone you care about a hug. Another single contender, this.

"Vultures" has one of those guitar lines that works better as background than a lead, and it seems to take the back seat a little. It's a little bit forgettable, this track, probably because it's so laid back, but also because of how the lyrics are just telling you that "the world keeps testing me, testing me, testing me" but it's not a bad one. Then we get on to "Stop This Train" which seems autobiographical of many of us, how we're all getting older and how we want to stop the train and get off, and go home. There's a nice lyric bit midway through where he speaks to his father and he tells him just to not the stop the train and to change the place you're in. The acoustic guitars work really well with John's very soft vocal here to really get that feeling of warmth. And the piano interlude in the middle just absolutely clinches it!

"Slow Dancing in a Burning Room" is another track which has featured on CSI, and it's very slow, and you can dance it to is slowly, and the guitars are just the perfect accompanient, and it's a very sad and soulful song about the last moments of love and how we're doomed slow dancing in a burning room. It happens to be wrapped up so well that it just works. And as for the next track - a cover of Hendrix's "Bold As Love" it will divide people. Hendrix diehards might sniff at it, but in truth Mayer's kept the essence of the original Hendrix classic intact, with plenty of emotion and passion and so much of a blues guitar in there that it just sounds really good. And the instrumental bit in the middle is the perfect showcase for some awesome guitar playing. As a cover, it's great. And I really mean that.

"Dreaming With A Broken Heart" is another song of love and sadness, which seems to be a recurring theme even more so than the whole Room For Squares album. This track has some beautiful piano playing which sounds like it fills the room with rawness. The first two lines sum it up so well "When you're dreaming with a broken heart, the waking up is the hardest part" because it has that truth and emotion. As the pianos give way to guitars it sounds even more epic. Then there's possibly the best track on the album - and the longest - "In Repair" which tells it like it is for many of us - "I'm in repair, I'm not together but I'm getting there" and even if you're not, you've been sometime, I guarantee it. It's full of guitars (at least three) and it hits all the right notes, and as for the middle intermission, that will blow you away. Listening to all those guitar riffs on a good rig gave me that lovely sense of wow factor, I have to tell you.

Lastly, "I'm Gonna Find Another You" which reminds me of Fleetwood Mac's "Need Your Love So Bad" for some reason, no bad thing, but delivered with the late night midnight listening that it deserves. You have to dig those saxophones and you have to listen to this just after you've split with someone - "If I'm forced to find another, I hope she looks like you, and she's nicer too" which has that bit of barb but with that bit of hope inside there. That barb shows near the end - "I'm gonna do some things that you wouldn't let me do" and ends with a gentle guitar lick that works. Perfectly.

To say that this album is going to be one of my albums of the year is an understatement. It already is. It has that blend of great guitar playing, sadness, hope and uplifting feelings and brings so much together in one nice fifty minute audio package. Don't wait until he tours again to experience his sound - I urge you to run out to the shops and purchase the CD. Right now. You'll love the guitar playing. You'll love the voice. You'll just love it. Full stop.

Warren's rating: 93%