One of my favorite John Mayer songs was never released as a single. It's not a song you'd probably think of when you think of Mayer. I could've picked any of my favorite songs like "Neon" (another non-single) or "Your Body is a Wonderland." But today, I'm sharing a song that musically is as cool as anything he's done.
I first heard "Vultures" at a live concert I saw on TV in 2005 or 2006 (I've looked but I can't remember what show it was). The song got to me right away cause of that opening riff. So simple, yet funky with a groove that I could move to. It wasn't just John Mayer singing singer-songwriter ballads, it seemed cooler. Mature.
Then I heard the words. Even now when I hear them they inspire me when I feel down on myself or feel pressured. That chorus sounds like exactly what I'd say to keep myself going. It's not going to be easy all the time and I should embrace the struggle.
"Down to the wire
I wanted water, but
I'll walk through the fire
If this is what it takes
To take me even higher
Then I'll come through
Like I do
When the world keeps
Testing me, testing me, testing me"
Everything works so well. The well-written verses describing that closed in feeling, the pressure from outsiders and rising above it. Mayer's falsetto on the chorus. The instrumental breakdown in the middle. His bluesy playing that said he knew the genre more than just a passing fan.
I think this was around the time I started taking him seriously as a musician/guitarist. It's no surprise that when I listened to Continuum as a whole last month, I loved the vibe of it. As much as I love the songs from his first two albums, I loved the growth that said "I got a lot more to offer you than just singer/songwriter stuff."
And the rhythm section? Steve Jordan on drums and Pino Palladino on bass (part of the John Mayer Trio). This year, I've been digging into Pino's playing, especially on D'Angelo's Voodoo, and he has a way of making songs funky without overpowering the vocals. The bassline is the groove that drives "Vultures" and when I saw that Pino played it, I said "I knew I liked it for a reason."
It ends with" Don't give up, give up, give up." That's my mantra. A song that's as uplifting as it's cool. John Mayer may be a lot of things but he's vulnerable and honest with just the right amount of sincerity. This song showcases that and it's still a great experience every time I hear it.
As a bonus here's a live version of "Vultures" done at Club Nokia here in L.A.