John Mayer Is Back With Reflective New Album

After three and a half years, singer-songwriter John Mayer has released a new full-length album, reflecting on love, life and getting older.

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After two EPs each consisting of four songs from his new album, John Mayer has released the entire record. The Search for Everything is the seventh full-length studio album of the singer-songwriter, guitarist and producer, and his most personal and reflective work to date.

Mayer clearly put a lot of ambition in the album, reportedly spending hundreds of hours in the studio. “This is the longest I have gone in the incubation of a record,” he told Rolling Stone. “I wasn’t interested in doing anything I’ve done before, and I wanted to stoke the fire of abstraction and just start punching hard.”

John Mayer

The 12-track set kicks off with Still Feel Like Your Man, a soulful ballad with a soft, laid-back, funky guitar feel. Other tunes with a similar groove include Helpless and Moving On and Getting Over. Helpless also nicely showcases Mayer’s great abilities on electric solo guitar, as does Changing.

Love on the Weekend, the first single released last Nov, is perhaps the album’s most catchy tune. While in this regard it doesn’t quite reach previous songs, such as Daughters, Waiting on the World to Change or Say, it proves Mayer still knows how to write hit songs. Love on the Weekend charted within the Billboard Hot 100 at no. 53 and climbed to no. 5 on the Hot Rock Songs chart.

On two of the songs Mayer has some great help on background vocals. The above mentioned Helpless features Tiffany Palmer, who according to her bio has also worked with artists like Bette Midler, Chaka Khan and Mary J. Blige. In addition, she has written for Anita Baker and Patti LaBelle. And then there is none other than Cheryl Crow, who provides background vocals on In the Blood.

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Overall, The Search for Everything is a pretty solid album. Mayer’s guitar-playing is superb. A review in Entertainment Weekly noted it’s reminiscent of “the most reeled-in work of Eric Clapton’s solo career.” Perhaps one drawback is that all of the songs are slow or mid-tempo, which does make listening to the album a bit monotonous after a while. Throwing in a couple of uptempo tunes here and there could have mixed things up, even covers of blues rockers, which is a genre in which Mayer absolutely excels. On the other hand, I get this would have thrown off the album’s overall focus on personal reflection.

Further commenting on the album, Mayer told USA Today it’s about “getting older and comparing my track to other people’s. Part of me is a quote-unquote ‘rock star’ and part of me is this kid from Fairfield, Conn., who really wasn’t made for this. That part looks around at the other parts and goes, ‘Is any of this OK? Am I alright doing this?'”

All tracks on The Search for Everything were written by Mayer. He also produced the album, together with Chad Franscoviac and Steve Jordan (executive producer), with whom he has frequently worked in the past. Mayer is currently on the road to support the record with an extensive tour that mostly focuses on the U.S., with a few gigs in Canada and one show in London, UK.  The tour is scheduled to conclude in Noblesville, Ind. on Sep 2.

Here’s a clip of Helpless from a recent live performance in Albany, N.Y.

Sources: Wikipedia, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, Billboard, USA Today, Tiffany Palmer web site, YouTube

Soft Rock Tunes for Valentine’s

Valentine’s Day is a good opportunity to write about some of my favorite rock ballads.

I don’t recall Valentine’s Day being a big deal when I was growing up in Germany, though I believe nowadays it’s become pretty popular there as well, especially among young people. While I don’t celebrate the occasion to this day, I thought it would be fun to put together a list of great rock ballads.

I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing (Aerosmith): For a band that had released many great songs since their eponymous 1973 album, such as Dream On, Sweet Emotion and Janie’s Got a Gun, it is quite remarkable that it took 28 years until Aerosmith finally had a no. 1 single in September 1998. I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing was written by American songwriter, Dianne Warren. It probably did not hurt that the power ballad was part of the soundtrack of the 1998 motion picture Armageddon starring Ben Affleck, Bruce Willis and Liv Tyler, Steven Tyler’s daughter.

Still Loving You (Scorpions): The Scorpions have released a number of catchy rock ballads throughout their long career. I think the best one, Still Loving You, initially appeared on 1984’s Love At First Sting, which also happens to my favorite Scorpions album. Written by Rudolf Schenker and Klaus Meine, the song was also released as a single in July 1984. It cracked the top 20 in various European  charts and made it to no. 64 on the Billboard Hot 100. Given how much radio play the song received in Germany, I’m actually surprised it only climbed to no. 14 in the charts there.

Open Arms (Journey): There was possibly nobody else who could deliver a rock ballad quite like Steve Perry. Written by him and Jonathan Cain, this gem appeared in January 1982 and was the fourth single from Journey’s seventh studio album Escape. The song became the band’s biggest Billboard Top 100 hit, climbing all the way to no. 2 in February 1982 and staying there for six weeks.

Every Rose Has Its Thorn (Poison): This power ballad was included in Poison’s second studio album Open Up and Say…Ahh!, which appeared in May 1988. It was also released as a single in October that year and climbed in the Billboard Hot 100 until it reached the top spot in December 1988, remaining there for three weeks. Credited to all four members of Poison, Bret Michaels, C.C. DeVille, Bobby Dall and Rikki Rockett, it became the band’s only no. 1 hit in the U.S.

Waiting For a Girl Like You (Foreigner): Written by Mick Jones and Lou Gramm, this tune is one of the defining 80’s power ballads. The song initially appeared on 4, Foreigner’s fourth and best studio album in July 1981, and was also released as a single in October that year. It was one of the record’s several major hits, reaching no. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and holding that position for 10 weeks.

I’ll Be There For You (Bon Jovi): The tune was originally released in September 1988 on Bon Jovi’s fourth studio album New Jersey. Written by Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora, I’ll Be There for You was one of an impressive five top 10 singles the album yielded, reaching the no. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100. The guys look kind of hilarious in the clip – oh, well, it was the 80’s era of the hair bands!

Babe (Styx): Babe was the lead single from Styx’s ninth studio album Cornerstone, released in October 1979. Written by Dennis DeYoung, the ballad became the band’s first and only no. 1 single on the Billboard Hot 100.

Amanda (Boston): Including its eponymous 1976 debut, Boston has only released six albums in its 41-year history. Guitarist, keyboardist, songwriter and producer Tom Scholz, who essentially is Boston, is known for absolute perfectionism when it comes to recording music. And he allows himself to take as much time as needed to meet his high standards. Amanda was released in September 1986 as the first single from Third Stage, Boston’s third studio album. The song became the band’s most successful single, holding the no. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks. Incredibly, it even outperformed Boston’s signature song More Than a Feeling.

Heaven (Bryan Adams): Heaven came out during the peak of Bryan Adams’ popularity, initially appearing on the soundtrack of the 1983 motion picture A Night in Heaven. The song, which Adams co-wrote with Jim Vallance, was also included on his fourth studio album Reckless, released in November 1984. It became the record’s third single and reached no. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in June 1985. It ended up being the most successful of the album’s six singles.

Can’t Fight This Feeling (REO Speedwagon): Initially appearing in November 1984 on REO Speedwagon’s 11th studio album Wheels Are Turnin’, the song was also released as the record’s second single in January 1985. Written by Kevin Cronin, Can’t Fight This Feeling became the band’s second no. 1 single after 1981’s Keep on Loving You. It hit the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in March 1985 and remained there for three consecutive weeks.

Enjoy and to those celebrating, Happy Valentine’s Day!

Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube