When listening to other Mayer songs, you might find yourself thinking of Van Morrison, Leon Russell, and Paul Simon. Being compared to the cream of the ’60-’70s singer songwriters is no low blow. But Mayer needs to develop his own sound, not favor the songs, tunes, and styles of others for his own material. With this issue in mind, this reviewer won’t be surprised to hear Mayer’s next release will feature a bigger horn
section a la Morrison, the addition of an acoustic piano player a la Leon Russell, or the collaboration with African and other World music artists a la Paul Simon. It would all be more inviting were Mayer to find his own unique musical style instead of borrowing from other masters of the singer songwriter genre.
On many Continuum cuts you will find yourself wishing for just one ripping guitar solo, but once again, Mayer tightly constricts himself and refuses to open up his music for a little jamming. He takes a few two bar solos on a few cuts — and one song fades out to the only four bar lead solo on the album — but Mayer never lets loose with his guitar, leaving this reviewer aching for some true guitar leads.
Perhaps Mayer needs to stop thinking of himself as a great guitarist, which he is clearly not — no matter how many times his own press material touts him as such — as none of his hoped-for guitar greatness is apparent on this release. Instead, Mayer should take heed and focus on his real skill — that of writing lyrics. Then he can hire himself a true guitar gunslinger to rock the crowd — or to rock with.
How Mayer could compare himself to true guitar legends like Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton, while exhibiting no flashy guitar work himself on his recordings, is hard to understand, except for the possible explanation of hero worship and wishful thinking. Nothing on Continuum would leave anyone thinking Mayer is a great guitarist. Mayer has a long way to go before he can be compared to such guitar legends. Perhaps that’s why he realized he could never graduate from the Berklee College of Music in Boston, which he calls a “short-lived stint” on his website, and dropped out and moved to Atlanta at the age of 19.
Mayer is clearly a gifted lyrical songwriter and on Continuum he uses this gift to delve into the world of aging. About this he says:
My generation was never told we were going to get older. We thought we were going to hear our names on ‘Romper Room’ for the rest of our lives. For a long time, I was really upset about getting older, worried that things were just going to level out. But then I realized that everyone around me was all getting older at the same time. We’re all fighting it together, and we’re always going to be those kids, the first really emotionally aware generation. When I realized that, I could relax about it a little bit. And I thought that maybe I can be the guy to sing about it.