Still riding the momentum of the record-breaking single “I’m Yours,” which recently spent 76 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and has sold over four million downloads, singer-songwriter Jason Mraz releases his fourth official live album, the clumsily titled Jason Mraz’s Beautiful Mess - Live from Earth. Unlike R.E.M.‘s recent Live from the Olympia set, which brought new insight into a veteran band’s creative process, Mraz’s Mess is a collection that will most likely be of interest only to his core fans, since he simply doesn’t have a deep catalogue of material from which to draw and doesn’t stray too far from the arrangements of the songs found on his three proper studio albums. Still, there’s no faulting the quality of the recording, taken from a show at Chicago’s Charter One Pavillion in the summer of 2009, or Mraz’s performances: He actually tones down some of the show-boating tendencies that have made his studio albums come across as smarmy, and he does have a genuinely strong, versatile voice. There’s a laidback vibe to the set that is unsurprising given Mraz’s neo-crunch sensibility, and the performances of songs like “Sunshine Song” and “Only Human” are generally pleasant. The only surprises are a reggae-inspired reworking of his other hit single, “The Remedy (I Won’t Worry),” a by-the-books cover of Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long,” and an appearance by the ungodly dull Colbie Caillat for a duet on the simpering “Lucky.” The crowd’s response makes it clear that there’s an enthusiastic audience for Mess, but, for the unconverted, it’s hard to hear the album as anything more than inessential.
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