on 29 July 2014
Tom Petty didn't need to do this. He and his group, The Heartbreakers, have so many hits in the can they didn't need to create anything new and be comfortable for the rest of their lives. But it's artists just like Petty who get that itch and it needs to be scratched, and with their 13th studio album (and their first since 2010's "Mojo,") Petty is following today's trends and looking back at his very first two albums, realizing they were great and returned to the style they know best - straightforward rock and roll.
Younger and hungrier musicians would approach the making of an album with low-fidelity, analog recording and other tricks best reserved for the amateur or the foolish, with the end result being longshots that may ultimately go nowhere. Petty took an old formula that was right there on the shelf and re-created his own version of lightning. This album took two years to make, and the perfection, sloppy as it sounds (as if on purpose), is present.
Here's my 30-second from the gut review of each song - 11 tracks at just over 44 minutes:
1. American Dream Plan B - as this was released as a CD single in June 2014 with a $2.00 discount coupon towards the album itself, Petty is still shaking the tree and telling the music industry they still stink. "My success is anybody’s guess, but like a fool, I’m bettin’ on happiness" are the truest words on this album. A great opener.
2. Fault Lines - introspective lyrics pepper this Petty of 2014, and he's got enough guilt of his own thank you very much. Great guitar work by Mike Campbell on lead guitar and Scott Thurston take us to the subtle vibrations under the floorboards. It's a little gritty and unfinished, and it's great. Which takes us right into
3. Red River - traveling and moving, she's dodging karma as much as possible and as crafty as she can, but you just can't outrun your fate. Tom wants you to meet him, and he has a solution. More wonderful guitar work by Petty and Campbell.
4. Full Grown Boy - an almost jazzy down-tempo relaxing number, and Petty's telling you about growth, and stretching out, and it's not such a bad thing to make time for yourself and contemplate the world. Nice bit of music here.
5. All You Can Carry - a good old fashioned jam to wash out the taste of the previous slow jam. Sometimes you've got to be ready to go when the disaster strikes, even though it's the kind that doesn't leave a mark on the street.
6. Power Drunk - is this about former President George Bush? Seems like it, because he sings about the man who left so much damage behind because he was on a power trip, and now the "good man" has to clean up the mess left behind. Interesting song.
7. Forgotten Man - another song released early in July 2014. It has an old-fashioned vibe to it, and it's stripped back from all of the wild sounds of previous albums. Guilt still reigns supreme though, but the guitar solo gives an authority to Petty's words. I liked it!
8. Sins Of My Youth - another slow burner, and definitely designed to make the listener hear all the confessions of Petty's lyrics. "I love you more than the sins of my youth," he says, and truer words could never be spoken.
9. U Get Me High - using LOL-type texting to serve as modern, he lets go a bit here and swings out as he once again puts his heart on his sleeve. More rocking from the lads, and it's polished and plays as Petty wants it to be - fun and jamming.
10. Burnt Out Town - a bluesy number, and is a cool jam with hot nights, dirty looks, and a bar band vibe page torn right out of The Doors' "Roadhouse Blues" book. It still works for me, though, because Petty puts his own spin on it.
11. Shadow People - move over Don Henley's "A Month of Sundays," here's the new old man "get off my porch" song for the new Millennium. This final song on the album is slow, sexy, and the lyrics burn hot with an older man's perspective, from gun rights to Judgment Day. The song is a definite departure however, and is a real radical statement. What a way to end an album, with a real viewpoint about today's politics, and where we are, in "Shadowland," not here, and not there.
12. Playin' Dumb (Vinyl, digital and Blu-Ray bonus track) - I'm glad Petty did NOT include this on this album. It's a serious criticism against the Catholic Church to be sure (he was raised Baptist). He really let's the church have it - he sings to light a candle for "every confession that wasn't on the level, for every man of God that lives with hidden devils..." Tough stuff, and he has his opinions, but wow... Petty has even said in interviews he didn't know where to "place" the song within the framework. I'm so glad he omitted this.
After taking the time to listen, as Petty is almost 15 years older than me, and I understand where his ideas and inspirations are coming from. I wanted to give this album 5 stars. Is this his best album to date? No it isn't, and it's flawed, but that's okay, so I'm giving the album 4 stars.
His attempt to go back to his roots are admirable, but his seasoning and his experience overshadow his 1979 self. He was angry and hungry then, and had major problems with his first record label when he debuted, but now he's more relaxed, and more introspective, which is fine. It translates well here. I just think he missed the mark by that much, though.
I still love his music, but he is the Tom Petty of now, and it shows.
(thanks for reading my review - please leave a vote if you liked it or not, and please also comment if you'd like! Also, please check out my other reviews right here on Amazon!)
on 4 October 2014
One thing that you can be sure of is that the quality control dept at Petty HQ hasn't gone to sleep.
I saw them on their first UK tour when they blew Nils Lofgren off stage as support, loved them ever since.
Recently I decided to catch up on the albums I'd missed. They only had Hypnotic Eye in stock in the local cd shop so I bought it on a whim, it looked a little odd, the cover is obtuse for a Petty/Heartbreakers album. I then bought four more off Amazon, Wildflowers, Full Moon, Torpedoes. Listening to them all in my new van I have to admit I keep returning to this one, it's a masterclass on so many levels.
It's a grower and as we know they always turn out to be the best ones in the long run..no duds, each song has a solid core and those trademark hooks and one thing that's not obvious in previous releases, a weighty depth.
Power Drunk and Shadow People stand out as welcome comments on the more negative aspects of life on earth, particularly in America, they're balanced by U Get Me High and Fault Lines..in fact these four sum up the whole album, it has a perfect balance that makes it easy to repeat listen, each song seems to complement the one before. It hasn't been off my player for two weeks now..
As with all Petty and the band's work the song construction seems deceptively simple at first, after all it is rock, but within that palette there's always something new to hear on every listen. The band, and what a band they are, subtly make the whole sound complete and rock solid.
And then there's Mike Cambell's guitar work. What can you say..Underrated? Of course..this guy always lays down all the right notes in the right order, as Frank Zappa used to say..with such assurance and accuracy and with that thing he has of leaving us wanting more, (having said that we're treated to a fierce, extra long solo on one of the tracks, I won't say which...)
I'm still amazed at how Tom can write such perfect songs every time, as others have said, his success rate is beyond par.
I could go on and on, repeating what everyone else has said, but I won't..just buy this and keep listening to it, I absolutely guarantee you won't be disappointed.
on 18 October 2014
First of all, the 2 vinyl version of this album is top notch sound quality a treat for the ears. Also it has the bonus track of Burnt Out Town which is actually rather good. The album itself has been described as a return to TP's 'punky' roots (eg Damn The Torpedoes), this worried me at first because I was never a fan of 70s Tom Petty and have much preferred the more mature sounding West Coast Rock artist of the 80s and 90s. However I needn't have worried because this has much more in common with 1994s 'Wildflowers' (one of my favourite TP albums) than 1970s TP. There is a mixture of blues, blues rock and even jazz tinged moments (eg Sins of My Youth, Full Grown Boy). All the tracks are worth a listen but for me stand outs are the melodic Red River, the heavy blues of Power Drunk and Shadow People and the jazz tinged Full Grown Boy. First few listens of this album might lead one to think there's nothing here that you haven't heard before, but stick with it and it's charm and personality eventually shines through. My score: 88%.