“Paradise Valley” feels like the result of John Mayer sitting at home bored on a Sunday afternoon.
Not a lot on his sixth studio album really makes sense. It’s a shame since “Paradise Valley” gets off to a promising start.
“Wildfire,” the album opener, features Mayer’s best guitar work and best lyrics of any song on the album. Unfortunately, he doesn’t match it on the other 10 songs.
Mayer, for the most part, does his best to inch toward that perfection, but he never quite seems to find it. If he would just have let things fly on the guitar a little more on “I Will Be Found (Lost At Sea)” and “Paper Doll,” then maybe they wouldn’t sound so flat.
And that is in no way bashing Mayer’s work, either. They’re not horrible songs. They just lack a certain level of excitement that he brings at other points on this album.
A cover of J.J. Cale’s “Call Me The Breeze” leans more toward the original than Lynyrd Skynyrd’s version, and it’s better for it. It was a smart selection for a cover song.
Other choices on “Paradise Valley” may not have been as well thought out. The album squanders two guest appearances by notable artists.
On “Who You Love,” Mayer duets with girlfriend Katy Perry. The two sound great together, but the accompanying music ruins the song. What could have been a formidable collaboration turns into something that sounds like an early ’80s light rock standard.
Then there’s the guest spot by R&B singer Frank Ocean. Seeing his name in the credits shouldn’t be a total surprise since Mayer played on Ocean’s 2012 album.
Mayer returns the favor, by giving Ocean a 1:26 song to feature his vocals. Ocean’s voice deserves so much more than an abbreviated track that seems like it was thrown in at the last second to get him on the album.
A little more than a year separated the release of Mayer’s last album, “Born and Raised,” and “Paradise Valley.” Maybe taking some more time between the two would have given his fans something a little more refreshing.
Too much of “Paradise Valley” feels like what didn’t make the cut for the last album.
Rating: Two stars