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John Mayer hits his stride

Becca Saunders | Thursday, November 18, 2004

The best version of John Mayer is him in concert. Live, Mayer often extends his songs to upwards of 10 minutes, feeling every chord he plays as he grooves across the stage. Mayer’s talent exceeds what any listener can grasp from his studio albums, and as such the “As/Is” album is a little piece of soulful heaven for any Mayer fan, and is at least an interesting album for others. For anyone who wants to belt along to many of Mayer’s hits over the entire span of his career, “As/Is” is a good album. But for anyone who wants to hear a spectacular guitar player and musician hit his stride, “As/Is” is the album. The “As/Is” collection has only recently been released by Mayer on iTunes. For sale as an album only, Mayer’s live performances from his tour this past summer in Houston, Cleveland, Philadelphia and Mountain View, Calif. are each on a separate album titled “As/Is: Houston,” etc. However, available on an actual album is a collection of live performances, from a larger variety of venues. Recordings from Ohio, New Jersey, Texas, California and even a Kansas show compose the two-disc set of 15 songs. The majority of the songs are ones nearly anyone remotely familiar with Mayer will recognize. The hits are there, “No Such Thing,” “Your Body is a Wonderland,” “Come Back to Bed,” along with others. However, there are also a couple of tracks that are a bit harder to find, such as the most successful song from his first independent release, “Comfortable.” The real novelty comes in the form of “Blues Intro” and “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler).” Both tracks feature Mayer playing a bluesy beat, with a little funk twist in “Inner City Blues,” which features a DJ and shows a different side of Mayer’s musical prowess. For the most part the songs sound similar to their studio recordings. They are just extended and expounded upon by Mayer musically and vocally. With only seven tracks on the first album and eight on the second, it is obvious the songs are extended in length quite a bit. Generally the songs are all between five and 10 minutes, often doubling, and sometimes almost tripling, the time of the studio recorded versions. This gives Mayer time to play music related to the song, and at times seemingly completely unrelated to the song, but even the improvisation is better than what many people release after months in the studio.”As/Is” is a must for any Mayer fan who has never seen him in concert. Live Mayer cuts loose and lets the music control the show and thus the pure music is very obviously the driving force on “As/Is.” There is only a slight bit of irritating crowd background noise and participation, but when it exists, it is not extremely distracting. “As/Is” is Mayer at his best. The album may not be easy to get a hold of (it is chiefly only available online), but it is well worth the trouble.