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I posted a ton about John Mayer’s new record Battle Studies while it was being made.  Now that it’s out, for those wondering what I think of it, let me say this: I like it a lot.  That’s all I’m saying for now.  Maybe more on that in a future post.

But…

I do want to bring up again the discussion regarding the single “Who Says” and it’s somewhat questionable lyrical content/depth.  I recently read an interview with Mayer, which covers the subject of that tune and the general direction of the album as a whole.  I can’t decide if his comments change my understanding of the situation with that song or not.

David Ryan Harris, an LA singer/songwriter and the rhythm guitarist for John Mayer’s touring band, just wrote a blog post about his experience tracking the forthcoming Nick Jonas solo record.  Money quote: “I am as proud of my contribution to the record, and the record as a whole as I have ever been with anything I’ve ever done.”

Huh.

The record has Minneapolis stamped all over it, as it’s apparently being produced by MN native John Fields, and features Michael Bland on drums and Tommy Barbarella on keyboards.  I am equal parts looking-forward-to-it and afraid-to-admit-I’m-looking-forward-to-it.

Apparently John Mayer played a full hour-long set at the Ed Sullivan Theater last Thursday, during the taping of the Letterman Show, but the performance was only broadcast in it’s entirety on the CBS website.  So, check out CBS.com to watch it.

I have to say, Mayer himself doesn’t sound very good, but the band is killing it, and Steve Jordan especially (of course).

Ok… the new John Mayer single… I just heard the song for the first time while watching the video, and I seriously don’t know how to respond. The track is like Tom Petty’s beautiful record Wildflowers, but with Busta Rhymes writing the lyrics.  Aside from the music and production being really great, the song is a complete letdown.

I suppose this is my 1:00am gut reaction, so maybe I’ll recant later.  If you want to check it out for yourself, then you’ll have to click here, because I don’t want to embed this video.  The images/concept are, frankly, a lot of what is wrong with today’s generation in America… in my opinion, of course.

The whole thing just seems so out-of-character for the guy who wrote Continuum and regularly calls for Americans to remember their brave men and women in uniform.  In fact, I have a small hunch that releasing this track as the first single on Mayer’s new record is actually part of a big sociological statement on his part.  I mean, literally, the song and the video are an EXACT REPRESENTATION of what most people associate with the becoming-a-different-person-once-you-hit-the-big-time phenomenon.  Whatever the case, I just really hope the rest of the record is different.

That is all.  (steps down from soapbox…)

UPDATE:  Lots of great discussion about this in the comments… nice.  Meanwhile, the second single was just released, and I really dig it.  Check it out below…

The short blog hiatus continues. I promise it will be SHORT, though. I’ve got some cool stuff in the works for the future, but for now I’m doing lots of practicing and reading and relaxing and so on.

In the meantime, the John Mayer Trio will be on Conan tonight. I wonder if Steve Jordan will still use that set up with the little kick drum off to the side…

6/5/09 Update: Confirmation on the little aux kick drum, even though he didn’t use it.  And… somebody needs to tell Conan’s front of house engineer that the guitar is not supposed to be the hottest part of the mix.  Pearl Jam, Green Day, Sheryl Crow, JMT… the show is 4 for 4 so far on mixing the guitar to WAY too loudly.

Ok, here’s the deal…

I realize I post stuff on this blog about John Mayer a lot.  What can I say… I like him.  I’m not a groupie or anything – I just respect his musicianship/songwriting.  That, and Continuum is one of my favorite records ever.  If I am totally honest, though, the main reason I’m so into his stuff lately is STEVE EFFING JORDAN on drums.  Seriously, I love Steve Jordan’s playing, and Mayer’s music is the main place to see Jordan at work for the past few years.

I’ve seen Jordan’s instructional DVD a couple times, which is rad.  I also have a live Mayer DVD that has Jordan on a few tracks (Where The Light Is), but aside from that I’ve not found much footage of him.  So, I am super pumped to have just now discovered a bazillion clips of him on youtube that I’ve not found before.  I spent the last few hours watching them, and the good ones are listed below.  Do yourself a favor and watch them ALL before you go to sleep tonight, and I bet you will wake up to find you are a better drummer because of it…

Some vintage Steve Jordan – a television performance w/ Jeffy Healey, circa early 80’s… (I feel like this might be from SNL during the era when Jordan held that drum chair). UPDATE: a recent commenter pointed out that this might in fact be Omar Hakim on drums, not Steve Jordan. Interesting.

Recording John Mayer’s “Stitched Up” with Herbie Hancock – this is a clip from a documentary on Herbie’s mulit-collaboration album from a few years ago called Possibilities.  The Jordan footage ends around the 5:30 mark…

Recording Sting’s “Sister Moon” with Herbie Hancock – another segment from the Possibilities documentary, this time featuring Sting, Cyro Baptista (perc), and John Patitucci (bass).  The pattern in the groove on this tune is sick.

Demonstrating a Sheryl Crow track – a clip from Jordan’s instructional DVD, The Groove Is Here.

Jamming with Danny Kortchmar and Bernie Worrell – this is apparently an outtake from The Groove Is Here.

Jamming in John Mayer’s home studio –  I found this video on Mayer’s blog, which is dedicated to chronicling the creation of his new record, Battle Studies.

Another jam from the Battle Studies sessions

Performing “Don’t Need No Doctor” w/ Mayer and John Scofield – Jay Leno show

JMT… “Who Did You Think I Was” – the official video release of the first “John Mayer Trio” single.  This performance totally rips.

JMT… “Wait Until Tomorrow” – the Hendrix tune on Jimmy Kimmel, from back when the John Mayer Trio was first formed.

JMT… “Bold As Love” – more Hendrix, this one from a Tsunami benefit teledrive.  Check out Mayer’s response to his own mistake at 2:51…

JMT… “Cissy Strut” – the Meter’s tune from another teledrive, this time for Katrina.  Jordan rocks a cocktail kit on this, and manages to actually make it sound super hip.

JMT… “Out Of My Mind” – another performance from the early days of JMT, from the Live @ Launch program.  The image is pretty grainy, but the performance of this tune is one of the best I’ve heard.

JMT… “Come When I Call” – a blues tune from the Where The Light Is DVD.  The pocket on this is huge, and Pino’s playing is just unreal.  Snare hit on “1” at 2:28 is oh so perfect.

Finally, there was apparently a JMT television performance that has some affiliation with “Network Live,” as I found a handful of videos from the same show all bearing that logo.  The “Jam” is my fav, but unfortunately the audio/visual timing is a little off on that one…
“I Got A Woman”
“Good Love Is On The Way”
“Gravity”
“Try!”
“Jam”

Video #2 on the home-recording of John Mayer’s forthcoming Battle Studies album. This is fresh off the press… he posted this on Twitter just over an hour ago…

John Mayer just posted a link to this video on his Twitter page. It appears he’s beginning work on another album this week, and it also appears that he’s doing the whole thing at his house. I have to say that I am HUGELY PUMPED that Steve Jordan is again producing and playing drums on the record.  That guy rules so much.

PS.  Another random John Mayer story: Monday he twittered a link to this performance of 4’33, the groundbreaking “Chance Operation” work by John Cage.  Mayer comically suggested that the link was “in observance of 4/20,” but the piece itself is absolutely no joke.  Cage has been hailed as the 20th century’s most influential and important Amercian composer, and is a household name among fans of the avant garde.  A good documentary on his life and work can be viewed here.

This week in music news…

– Pink Floyd is suing their label, EMI, for “miscalculated royalty payments.”  Floyd, whose albums Dark Side Of The Moon and The Wall are among the highest selling albums of all time, will likely receive millions in the case.  rollingstone.com

– Dave Grohl’s wife gave birth to their second child last week, a girl named Harper Willow Grohl.  “Seven and a half lbs, 20 inches long, and loud as hell” was the statement from the family.   drumnews.com

– Susan Boyle, the surprise and overnight star of Britain’s Got Talent, is on the way to holding the record for Youtube views, amassing over 100 million views in 9 days.  allaboutjazz.com

– David Byrne has a concept album with Fatboy Slim due out soon.  In addition, he’ll be curating a stage at this year’s Bonnaroo Festival as the first artist to ever be invited to do so.  pitchfork.com

– In the ongoing saga of who will be the new Smashing Pumpkins drummer, Billy Corgan reveals that he’s leaning toward John Dolmayan of System Of A Downrollingstone.com

– Editorial items:  I recently discovered Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, whose music I enjoy very much.  The new Doves record is also awesome.

After my recent post about doctoring your snare sound in the studio, I feel obligated to mention something about the more important factor in studio snare sound: deciding WHEN to use a doctored sound. Like I said before, the snare tone is a crucial element in the overall feel and vibe of a track, so you don’t want to use a strange muffling technique just for the fun of it. The snare sound you choose needs to fit the song.

The main issue is context. In fact, this is true for music generally, not just studio snare tone. Context is king. A fill is not “cool” on it’s own… it is only cool when it fits well in the moment that you play it. Consequently, a fill that you hear on a record might be really cool in the song where you heard it, and not so cool in your own band’s song (especially if your song is a significantly different musical environment). The same is true of snare tone – the “coolness” of a snare sound is directly related to the context of the track you are playing.

So, how does a drummer develop a knack for picking the right snare tone for the studio? In my opinion, musical skills like this are always gained through listening. How often do you make a mental note on the kind of snare tone your favorite drummer is using on a given track? More importantly, how often do you pay attention to the characteristics of the rest of the song and how they might have impacted the decision to use a given snare tone? This kind of awareness in your listening will jump-start your ear for snare sound and context in a big way.

A good record to listen to along these lines would be John Mayer’s “Continuum.” Steve Jordan produced the album and played drums on the whole thing. The first 5 tracks all have noticeably different snare sounds, and they fit so well with the songs.

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