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Posted on May 17th, 2011 (10:00 am) by Clayton Williamson

There is no denying that it’s often fun to hear an established musician perform another artist’s material, with Lou Reed’s painful cover of “Solsbury Hill” being one of the rule’s exceptions. Far removed from any experimental urges or hokey renditions, however, lies LA-based Mayer Hawthorne’s newest EP, Impressions, released for free download through Stones Throw Records. Largely an interesting diversion rather than a devoted statement of artistic fact, Impressions is an eclectic grab bag of tunes gazed through a neo-soulful lens.

Every sound on the EP is crisp, polished enough to sound like it came out of John Legend’s studio, though this quality could be interpreted as either warm or dangerously sterile. For twenty odd minutes, Hawthorne keeps the grooves bumping and his voice pristine, crooning through these songs like old jazz standards without turning into a Richard Cheese tribute act. Still, the attitude is one of classy restraint rather than lurking lust, so tunes like Chromeo’s “Don’t Turn The Lights On” becomes foreplay by candlelight, but The Isley Brothers’ “Work to Do” manages to squeeze a little passion out of Impressions’ mildly stuffy environs. But no song ever does anything of unique merit, especially his rushed, uninspired version of ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky”. He speeds through this prog-rock classic like he needs to go home and feed his hungry cat, but he suddenly stops the song before making any attempt at duplicating the rousing orchestral finale. What’s the point then?

Even at its best, Impressions never provides a genuinely fresh perspective on these tunes, most of which you’ve probably never heard of at all. No doubt Hawthorne and friends enjoyed the creation of this EP, as in a live setting I’m sure these covers carry more weight, but on record they are merely tempo and arrangement changes. Then again, Impressions is a free download, after all, so there’s really nothing to complain about.

Track List:
1. Work to Do
2. Don’t Turn the Lights On
3. You’ve Got The Makings of a Lover
4. Fantasy Girl
5. Little Person
6. Mr. Blue Sky

Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

65 / 100
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