Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers


"I'm old enough to have lived in a country where, if you were willing to work hard, you could have a fairly nice life. You could support your family, and even get a shot at owning your own home. But you never thought you'd get a swimming pool. Now culture has hypnotised people into thinking they're really nothing if they're not wealthy and a Kardashian" - Tom Petty

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers (1976)

Rockin' Around With You/Breakdown/Hometown Blues/The Wild One/Forever/Anything That's Rock 'n' Roll/Strangered In The Night/Fooled Again (I Don't Like It)/Mystery Man/Luna/American Girl     

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers came on to the scene in 1976, after a few years gigging as Mudcrutch, and because of the time they emerged, they were considered punk. I guess they had a swagger and wore leather jackets, but they were no Ramones. They were, quite simply, a Southern States US rock band, albeit with a penchant for short, concise, sometimes fast-paced rock songs. Their influences were The Byrds, The Rolling Stones and even 60s pop bands like The Searchers.
Their debut album has a rough-edged rudimentary sound and kicks off with the Beatles-ish Rockin' Around (With You) and then we get the bluesy, organ-led slow rock of Breakdown, which remained a favourite for years. It is the second best track on the album. 

Hometown Blues was a far too short, sharp piece of Southern rock, where Petty’s strange, at times weak voice was exposed somewhat, as indeed it was on the slightly Springsteenesque The Wild One/Forever

Despite that, though, he clearly had something. These are good, punchy, riffy and catchy rock songs. Quite what the punks saw in these Southern States boys to let them in to their anarchic movement, however, is unclear. This was just US riffy rock. 

The semi-hit single, Anything That's Rock 'n' Roll was a hit with the punky/new wave crowd. I guess it had that attitude they liked and The Heartbreakers’ image sort of went along with that of The Ramones or The Dead Boys. I remember seeing the band live in 1977 and they played their rocking set to a crowd of pogoing punks.

Strangered In The Night was a slab of Bourbon-soaked rock with a vague bit of punk attitude, sort of Lynyrd Skynyrd meets the Patti Smith Group. The thing about US punk was that bands like these, Patti Smith, Richard Hell, Television, Blondie and so on were considered punks. They were quite different from their UK equivalents.

Fooled Again (I Don't Like It) has a Stonesy sneer to its vocal delivery and a rumbling, down n dirty slow-paced rock feel. 

Mystery Man has an addictive, slightly reggae skank to its guitar parts, backed by some jangly Byrds-style guitar at the same time and a appealingly lazy Petty vocal. This is a favourite from the album. It is pretty hard to categorise however. A problem I do have with all of the album, though, is the sound. It is supposedly remastered but is tinny, lacking in punch or depth of bass. A lot of Tom Petty’s earlier material suffers tis way, and is often better heard on his later live performances. 

Luna is a mysterious, slow rumbler with some fine organ, keyboard and drum parts but a bit of on odd vocal. I believe Petty’s voice improved considerably over the years.

The album’s jewel in the crown is, of course, the mighty American Girl with its wonderful guitar intro and similarly impressive extended guitar ending. The song was also used to great effect in the film The Silence Of The Lambs. Listening to that intro now, it just makes we think again that this album could really do with a remastering. Tracks from it (American Girl, The Wild OneBreakdown and Hometown Blues) are given a bit of a clean-up on the Anthology compilation, where they are clearer and certainly bassier, which is good to hear. It makes them sound better tracks.

Much as this album is a reasonably pleasant listen an is pretty nostalgic for 1977, I have to say it is nothing special. The band were to produce much better.

You're Gonna Get It! (1978)

When The Time Comes/You're Gonna Get It/Hurt/Magnolia/Too Much Ain't Enough/I Need To Know/Listen To Her Heart/No Second Thoughts/Restless/Baby's A Rock And Roller     

After a quite successful debut album from 1976, with some patchy moments, but two copper-bottomed Petty classics in Breakout and American Girl, the Florida band were back with more of the same Southern, vaguely punk-associated bluesy rock.
The first thing that hits me, though, is that eighteen months between the albums, the sound quality has improved immeasurably (or is it just the remastering?). 

The first track, When The Time Comes, sets the the tone. It is a vibrant piece of mid-pace soulful rock with a far richer, warmer, bassier sound than on the previous album’s material. 

The comfortable medium groove, slightly bluesy rock continues with You're Gonna Get It, which has an impressive drum sound. That strong backing - drums, bass and Byrds-style guitar licks is carried on into the upbeat, vibrant Hurt. All these years later, though, I still find myself having trouble accepting Tom Petty’s voice, but, as I said in the review of the first album, it has a certain something that just suits the recordings. It wouldn’t be the same without him. However, with all Tom Petty albums, I enjoy listening to them, but there is often a lack of truly standout material. By that, I mean songs that really stick in your mind as they do with, for example, Bruce Springsteen. The songs are all good, the general atmosphere is a rocking one. All ok. But often there is just nothing that really gets you by the whatever.

On to this album, though, Magnolia is a laid-back piece of country-ish rock with a nice hook and Too Much Ain't Enough is a fast-paced number that would have kept the punks happy - who inexplicably claimed Petty as one of their own in 1977-78. This Southern States rock was always slightly incongruous among gig listings for The Ramones, The Stranglers, Talking Heads, The Clash, Stiff Little Fingers and The Jam but it was accepted as part of the “new wave”. It was the attitude, I guess. It just seemed to fit the times. The Heartbreakers were an honest, hard-working band with no pretensions or “rock star” mannerisms, so that would appeal to the “sweep the decks clean/back to basics” punk ethics.

I Need To Know is a piano-driven rocker that is so reminiscent of a lot of the Bruce Springsteen session tracks from 1977-78 that appeared on Tracks and The Promise, while my favourite from the album, Listen To Her Heart has such as Searchers/Needles And Pins intro it’s untrue. Great song, however. 

There is something about the bass line on No Second Thoughts that reminds me of American Girl and, for me, there are strong hints of The Rolling Stones’ Factory Girl. Some interesting instrumentation used on it too. 

Restless is big, strong, powerful and has a killer chugging guitar riff and a suitably strong vocal. Make no mistake, this is a blues ROCK song. Not a punk song. Not a new wave song. Not white reggae. Not post punk. It is rock. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers were a rock band. The final track, Baby's A Rock 'n' Roller is an almost glam rock-styled track that proves it.

These early albums were all somewhat short, all over in about half an hour. All enjoyable though, but no works of genius. I prefer this to the debut album, however, it has a fuller sound and is generally more polished.

Damn The Torpedoes (1979)

Refugee/Here Comes My Girl/Even The Losers/Shadow Of A Doubt (A Complex Kid)/Century City/Don't Do Me Like That/You Tell Me/What Are You Doin' In My Life?/Louisiana Rain     

This was the album that “broke through” (to paraphrase Petty) for Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. After two short but occasionally impressive albums, they really got their whatever together for this one. The first thing that hits you is how much better the sound is. It is now full, defined, powerful and with the bass given the oomph it needed. If only the debut album had been recorded like this, I am sure I would view it differently.
The quality is there right from the off with the rousing, fist-pumper, Refugee, with Petty on fine vocal form, far stronger than previously, and a killer hook. When you think it couldn’t get any better, it does, with the anthemic rocker, Here Comes My Girl. It was 1979 by now and punk sensibilities didn’t matter so much (not that they ever did to Petty, he just got lumped in with it all, by default). It was ok to produce solid Southern States rock and the public wanted it.

The powerful Even The Losers is even more Bruce Springsteen circa the Tracks sessions era than I Need To Know from the previous album. 

Shadow Of A Doubt (Complex Kid) is incredibly like Graham Parker in its sneering vocal delivery. Petty’s voice is so much better now than the often bleating sound he gave us on the debut album. Even some bongos on the backing on this one and some searing lead guitar. Great stuff.

Century City sounds a lot like Springsteen’s Pink Cadillac, speeded up, in places. It is another great rocker, though. You get the impression this is a band who have got it exactly as they want it now. This is as perfect as the debut album was frustrating. 

Next up is the wonderful piano intro to Don't Do Me Like That, one of Petty’s best ever songs, for me. It rocks, majestically, from beginning to end. Petty’s voice has never sounded as good either. No bleating now, that’s for sure. This song never fails to impress me.

The mysterious You Tell Me is slow-paced, slow-burning slice of Southern bluesy rock. Some great guitar and swirling organ backing. The subtle, melodic bass is finally given the mastering it deserves on this album, too. Most noticeable on this track. Love this one. 

What Are You Doin' In My Life? is a rocking tale of a girl stalking Petty around on tour, it seems. Again, it has serious Springsteen rocking intonations all through it and Graham Parker again, as well. Petty’s voice and the superb playing of The Heartbreakers always makes the tracks his own, however. 

The funny noises at the start of Louisiana Rain will have startled for a split second before the track eventually, after a minute, launches into some majestic, marvellous bluesy rock. It has a live gig full sound and the track is quite lengthy, a nice change for Petty, as many of his earlier tacks ended too early. This is a great one, some mournful vocals in the verses and a kick ass chorus part.  A wonderful guitar/harmonica part half way through. Petty never sounded better.

Hard Promises (1981)

The Waiting/A Woman In Love (It's Not Me)/Nightwatchman/Something Big/Kings Road/Letting You Go/A Thing About You/Insider/The Criminal Kind/You Can Still Change Your Mind  
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers albums, by now, 1981, were becoming trustworthy, more of the same impressive fare offerings. 1979's Damn The Torpedoes had established Petty and his band as a solid outfit worthy of respect from both the rock and the new wave fraternities. After the slightly dodgy sound of the band's first two albums, this, their fourth outing, finds a better quality of sonic delivery.

There is not too much analysis that can be given to these Petty albums - he was a deceptively good rock songwriter and his band could play. The first two tracks are the ones that instantly stand out - The Waiting, which became the album's fan favourite, and the anthemic rock of A Woman In Love (It's Not Me). The former is one of those archetypal Petty upbeat rock songs, full of anthemic hooks and killer guitar riffs and the later is a fine example of his slower, but equally punchy numbers.

Nightwatchman has a sort of funky rock vibe about it. Something Big is a brooding, Stonesy slow burner and Kings Road sees the riffiness return on a typical Petty rocker. Presumably, judging by the lyrics, it is about a visit to the legendary London street. 

Letting You Go also ticks all the boxes of requisites for a slow but catchy Petty number. It has a lot of John Mellencamp influence.


A Thing About You rocks as hard as anything on the album, with hints of River-era Bruce Springsteen and Graham Parker in the song. Check out that great guitar intro. 

Insider is a walking pace, organ-powered maudlin-ish number, with Petty's voice delivering in that strange, slurry tone of his to great effect. In many ways, his voice is awful, but in other respects, his songs wouldn't sound the same without it. 

The chunky rock of The Criminal Kind sounds very much like Bob Dylan did around the same period, both vocally and musically. You Can Still Change Your Mind ends the album on a low-key, but dignified note.

The thing I find with these albums is that none of the songs, or indeed the album as a whole particularly sticks in your mind, yet at the same time it is still a quality offering. You can't argue with it, not in any way, but neither can you make a case for it being extra special.

Long After Dark (1982)

A One Story Town/You Got Lucky/Deliver Me/Change Of Heart/Finding Out/We Stand A Chance/Straight Into Darkness/The Same Old You/Between Two Worlds/A Wasted Life

I have read a few criticisms of this 1982 album from Petty and his Heartbreakers, accusing it of being formulaic and tired. I am having none of that - it is a vibrant, rocking enjoyable album. Yes, it betrays some traits of its era, but it still retains a strong rock flavour. 

A One Story Town is a riffy opener with a sharp percussion sound and that familiar new wave meets jangly sixties rock vibe to it. It has a very early eighties new wave feeling about it. As it was the eighties, the use of synthesisers is creeping in, and they are certainly there on the admittedly catchy riff of You Got Lucky. Parts of the keyboard break remind me a lot of Billy Joel's All For Leyna. 

Deliver Me returns to a more-guitar-dominated Stonesy sound on a nice piece of solid period rock. The drum sound brings to mind much of the material from Bruce Springsteen’s River sessions, not for the first time with Petty. Even more owing a debt to The Stones is the weighty riffery of Change Of Heart. I really like this track. It also has a typical power pop-new wave-style vocal, such as used by The Jags or Graham Parker, again not for the first time. 

Liveliness and full-on rock attack continues on Finding Out. There is a bit of typical eighties unremastered  tinniness on these tracks, but that doesn't detract from the general overall energy. This one bristles from beginning to end.

We Stand  A Chance is a very eighties-sounding mid-pace rocker with some nice sharp riffs and the same can be said for the also chunkier and bassier Straight Into Darkness

The Same Old You is an attractively lazy-sounding seventies-style number and a clunking piano drives on Between Two Worlds. I do accept that there is a bit of a sameness about these tracks and they are ones that don’t really stick in the mind, but they are still enjoyable to listen to. Some of Petty’s songs have always been a bit like that, which is probably why he never made it properly to the top table.

The final number, A Wasted Life, sees a bit of a change in its sleepy melody and slurry vocal that sounds like a cross between slow Springsteen and slow Stones. 

Although the album’s best material comes at the beginning, it is a pleasurable short sharp blast of inconsequential rocking air. 

Southern Accents (1985)

Rebels/It Ain’t Nothing To Me/Don’t Come Around Here No More/Southern Accents/Make It Better(Forget About Me)/Spike/Dogs On The Run/Mary’s New Car/The Best Of Everything

This 1985 Tom Petty album saw him influenced by contemporary sounds, some vaguely country-ish melodies and also, notably, funk and disco, would you believe. In a similar way to The Rolling Stones in the eighties, he managed to successfully merge his trademark riffy rock sound with rhythms borrowed from popular dance music. This makes this a surprisingly fresh and innovative album. It is one of my favourites of his. 

Rebels has a nice bassy riff underpinning it, and is full of atmosphere, but the main body of the song is frustratingly muffled and Petty’s vocal sounds as if he has just got up with a serious hangover, being equally indistinct. Despite these sonic problems, however, I still like the song.

It Ain’t Nothing To Me is a classic piece of Stonesy funk rock that brings to mind Dance (Part One) from their 1980 Emotional Rescue album. The bass line reminds me of Queen’s disco dabbling and there is a Mike Garson on Aladdin Sane-inspired piano break too. It boils with white funk grooves, disco-ish horn breaks and razor sharp riffs and is a most unusual departure from the usual for Petty. I love it. 

The big popular track from the album that dominated the airwaves was the anthemic and stately Don’t Come Around Here No More. There is not much to be said other than it is simply a great track, why, I even love the synthesiser breaks. The Free Bird-esque up in tempo at the end is rousing too. Get a load of that wah-wah guitar at the end.

The tempo drops on the sombre but balefully appealing Southern Accents, which sees Petty getting all emotional about the Southern States. A real favourite of mine is the superbly frothy Make It Better (Forget About Me), which bubbles over with poppy funk in another serious change of style for Petty. It reminds me of Southside Johnny’s brassy, dancey stuff in the eighties.

Spike is a brooding, swampy serving of country-influenced rock and soul. It has a captivating backbeat and some Dire Straits style guitar. Dogs On The Run is another gem, loaded with uplifting riffs and breaks and a slurringly enticing Jaggeresque vocal. Talking Of Jagger, Mary’s New Car has a really Stones-like riff and some delicious smoky saxophone breaks underpinning it.  

There has not been a sub-standard track on here and the quality continues right up to the end with the typically evocative Petty slowie in the lovely The Best Of Everything. Once more there is a Southside Johnny style brass backing together with a hint of Jackson Browne in the vocal delivery, in places.

This was a great album, maybe Petty and his excellent band’s best, for me, anyway.

Full Moon Fever (1989)

Free Fallin'/I Won't Back Down/Love Is A Long Road/A Face In The Crowd/Runnin' Down A Dream/I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better/Yer So Bad/Depending On You/The Apartment Song/Alright For Now/A Mind With A Heart Of Its Own/Zombie Zoo

Tom Petty solo albums are odd things. This was his first one from 1989 and, rather like Bruce Springsteen often used members of the E Street Band on his supposedly solo albums, Petty saw several of his Heartbreakers turning up to appear on this one. I don’t really know why he bothered calling them solo albums, to be honest, if not all the Heartbreakers were there, never mind, some of them were, as was the sound/vibe.

Despite the presence of some eighties synthesisers, the sound is still a rocking one, powered along by those typical jangly guitar sounds. Heartbreakers or no Heartbreakers, the sound sounds indistinguishable to me, really. Therefore, I tend to lump the solo albums together with the Heartbreakers albums.

Either way, this was an extremely successful album. It is a really good one too, without a bad track on it. It rocks from beginning to end in fine, lively, flowing style. Free Fallin’ is an instantly recognisable and seductively slow-burning but anthemic number, as is the charismatic, insistent, singalong I Won’t Back Down. Those were two copper-bottomed Petty classics to kick the album off with. A great start, I have to say.

Both the slightly Billy Joel-ish piano-synth rock of Love Is A Long Road and the understated sound of A Face In The Crowd are both chugging and appealingly competent rockers. 

The tempo gets right up with the wonderful riffing of Runnin’ Down A Dream, with its name check for Del Shannon’s Runaway. This a is great track that doesn’t let up for a minute, acoustic and electric guitars merging perfectly. It is quite irresistible.

Petty always loved The Byrds and his cover of  I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better is pretty much definitive. Yer So Bad is an upbeat acoustic-driven folky rocker with wry lyrics about Petty’s sister marrying a yuppie. 

Depending On You is a jangly, new wave-ish rocker with hints of Graham Parker about it. The quality really isn’t letting up at all here. The same can be said for the John Mellencamp riff-powered rock of The Apartment Song, which contains a Peggy Sue drum bit in the middle, along with a very T. Rex-influenced riff. 

The pace slows on the sleepy acoustic strains of the short Alright For Now. Not to worry, rock fans, though because two fine toe-tappers end this excellent album in the vaguely mid-sixties Dylanesque A Mind With A Heart Of Its Own and the goofy fun of the Elvis Costello & The Attractions-influenced Zombie Zoo.

This was rightly one of the most successful and popular Petty albums. It is packed full of vitality and verve, delivered with an infectious enthusiasm by Petty and whatever he chose to call his band.

Wildflowers (1994)

Wildflowers/You Don't Know How It Feels/Time To Move On/You Wreck Me/It’s Good To Be King/Only A Broken Heart/Honey Bee/Don’t Fade On Me/Hard On Me/Cabin Down Below/To Find A Friend/A Higher Place/House In The Woods/Crawling Back To You/Wake Up Time

This was Tom Petty’s second ‘solo’ album (several Heartbreakers were involved). It was intended to be a huge, 25 track album but was eventually released as a still bloated 15 song offering. Personally, that is too long an album but that should not detract from the quality of the material on offer. Many consider it to be Petty’s finest piece of work. 

It is said to be Petty’s ‘divorce album’ and has many soul-searching, emotional songs as opposed to his usual carefree rockers, making it something of a low-key, indigestible listen. 

The title track, Wildflowers, is a deliciously attractive acoustically-strummed number that you expect to kick into full rock mode, but it doesn't and it doesn't matter. It is actually powerful enough anyway. Some nice organ and piano join in to more than enhance it. Great track. 

The band is full on for the next one, though, the harmonica and drums-powered dignified  thump of You Don't Know How It Feels, with its slow but catchy chorus about rolling another joint. This was another top quality song.

Time To Move On is an upbeat, later-era Springsteen-esque number whose lively drumbeat is in contrast to Petty's sleepy Knopfler-esque vocal. 

You Wreck Me is a top class Petty rock classic, full of his trademark riffs and vocals. It is a standout track on the album. It’s Good To Be King is a slow but beguiling number that is full of atmosphere. It features a great guitar solo. Only A Broken Heart is a Beatles meets ELO slow ethereal number.

Honey Bee sees a return to solid riffage on a big, chunky, slow-paced rocker. Don’t Fade On Me is a folky, acoustic number with hints of Led Zeppelin III about it in both its acoustic guitar and Petty’s vocal. Hard On Me continues the laid-back ambience. Both these tracks are ok, but they run the risk of being considered part of a bit of a dull phase in the album. That should not take away from the excellent guitar to be found on the latter in particular. 

Cabin Down Below is a shirt but riffily appealing song, the sort of thing Petty could do in his sleep and has indeed been doing for nearly twenty years. To Find A Friend is also a typical Petty song but this time it is an acoustic number. 

A Higher Place is a Byrds-ish jangly and catchy rocker that also stands as one of the album’s best. House In The Woods is a bit of a dirge, I have to say, something Petty is occasionally guilty of putting out.  It is redeemed by some tough guitar and drum interplay in the middle. The vocal is quite turgid, though, rendering the track interminable.

Crawling Back To You is a gentle piece of Fleetwood Mac-ish mellow, steady-paced rock. It is another of my favourites from the selection. Wake Up Time is a sombre, slow ballad to end on. 

I prefer the more concise nature of many of Petty’s other albums (Full Moon Fever And Highway Companion, for example, his two other ‘solo’ ones) as this one does admittedly suffer from CD bloat - a curse of the CD age. When I dip into this album I am tempted to put it on random and play about eight tracks.

Highway Companion (2006)

Saving Grace/Square One/Flirting With Time/Down South/Jack/Turn This Car Around/Big Weekend/Night Driver/Damaged By Love/This Old Town/Ankle Deep/The Golden Rose

This final 'solo' album from Tom Petty, from 2006, was intended to be a goodbye to the music industry. As it was, Petty didn't retire. It is a pleasant, if not a bit understated, collection of acoustic-electric merged new millennium rock. 

Saving Grace is a rhythmic, riffy pice of vibrant bluesy rock to open with. It has a Southern swampiness to it, along with some infectious, insistent riffs. It reminds me of Willy De Ville's White Trash Girl in some places.

The mood immediately changes with Square One, which is a haunting acoustic slow number with a sad vocal refrain. Flirting With Time gets things back up again, slightly, with a solid acoustic and electric rock chugger. It has a catchy chorus too.

Down South is so Dylanesque on the verses to be almost Dylan himself. It reminds me a lot of Love Minus Zero/No Limit on those verses and also has a delicious guitar solo in the middle. It is, despite is derivative parts, a fine song. 

Jack is a both melodic and chunkily powerful number with a slight mysterious quality to it. The same applies to the slow and muscular Turn This Car Around.

Big Weekend is a lively piece of country-ish Petty rock. It is a familiar serving of Petty fun. Night Driver is a ghostly, Neil Young-ish slower number with Petty's vocal higher than usual. It features some lovely bass and guitar at the end. The mournful Damaged By Love reminds me of Bruce Springsteen, lyrically. Once more, the guitar is superb on here.

This Old Town has Beatles-ish hints in its production. This is not surprising, as the album was produced by Beatles devotee Jeff Lynne. 

Ankle Deep is a sort of Springsteen meets Dylan dignified and attractive rocker. It is my favourite on the album. It is similar to some of the stuff Petty did with The Traveling Wilburys. Petty's guitar is on fire on the solo, again.

The Golden Rose is a Beatles and Dylan type closer with hints of Norwegian Wood in places and a typically anthemic Pretty chorus. Nice bass and guitar feature once more as well as a spacey keyboard ending that is very ELO. 

Quality stuff.

Hypnotic Eye (2014)

American Dream Plan B/Fault Lines/Red River/Full Grown Boy/All You Can Carry/Power Drunk/Forgotten Man/Sins Of My Youth/U Get Me High/Burnt Out Town/Shadow People

This was Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers’ final album, and it is a deceptively good one. Initially, it sounds a bit harsh and as if it is  trying to sound contemporary but a couple of listens in it starts to get to work on you. It is very much a grower. Sure, it is quite a heavy, dark album compared to some of Petty’s past work, but therein lies its slow burning appeal. Those old new wave days seem a long time ago, though. 

American Dream Plan B is a chunky, solid, fuzzy and metallic opener. It is quite un-Petty in places, with a dense, tinny, grungy soundscape. It is full of great guitar breaks, however. Far more bassy, though, is the infectious self-analytical Fault Lines, with its delicious extended instrumental intro and behind the main beat funky edge. I really like this one. 

Red River is also a strong, industrial strength rocker with vague hints of Bruce Springsteen’s River sessions material. 

Full Grown Boy slows the pace down on a slightly jazzy bass-powered sleepy groove. Check out that great jazz guitar solo in the middle too. Crashing riffage is back for All You Can Carry, which is another dense rocker. This is quite heavy, uncompromising stuff. 

The deep, slightly menacing Power Drunk ploughs a similar furrow to most of what has been before. It contains some searing guitar and has a sort of grungy psychedelic, garage sound. 

Forgotten Man has some echoes of the seventies in Petty’s vocals and it is driven along by a huge drum sound, together with some expertly merged, razor sharp acoustic and electric guitars. 

Sins Of My Youth returns to the spacey, jazzy sound of a few songs earlier on a beautifully laid-back number that has a slightly croaky Petty sounding vaguely like an ageing Bryan Ferry. It is a most attractive number. 

The Prince-like titled U Get Me High bristles with unsubtle guitar attack. Once more, I find it is a track that really gets into my bloodstream. 

The blues finally makes an appearance on the quirky, harmonica-led Burnt Out Town, which features a distant, unusual-sounding vocal and some killer piano from Benmont Tench. 

Shadow People was the final track on the final album and a fine one it was too, full of atmosphere and great instrumentation. As it always was.

Live Anthology

Thanks to the release, in recent years, of many radio broadcasts, from the seventies and eighties, the market is now awash with Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers live material, with varying quality. Some are excellent, some are understandably a bit hissy. This is an "official" live compilation - a 48 track 4CD monster - and its is by far the best in terms of sound quality. It is a sprawling compilation, however, that does not have any continuity i.e. it doesn't come across like one live gig. Tracks are scattered across the compilation, willy-nilly, with no real connection to each other, as they are derived from many different gigs. Bruce Springsteen's Live 1975-1985 is similar and suffers from a similar lack of continuity. Because of that, it is an album I dip into for short periods. You can't really listen to it in one sitting. Playing it on "random" is a good idea, otherwise you find yourself listening to the same few tracks at the beginning each time you re-visit it.

As I said, there is no chronological nature to the album and there are all sorts of rarities thrown in - covers of Booker T & The MGs' Green Onions, Willie Dixon's I Just Want To Make Love To You, Bobby Womack's I'm In Love, Van Morrison's Mystic Eyes, Thunderclap Newman's Something In The Air and, interestingly, the theme from Goldfinger. Most of the Petty favourites are here - Free Fallin', American Girl, Refugee, I Won't Back Down and Breakdown. A personal favourite is the riffy, rocking Jammin' Me. Good, Good Lovin' is a corker too. Checkout out the beautiful, sad tones of Louisiana Rain as well.

Petty always liked a bit of a jam, and there are some extended versions in places, but that is live albums for you, it adds to the live feeling of the recordings, in my opinion, as opposed to functional note-perfect replicas of the songs' studio versions. It also highlights just how good The Heartbreakers were, musically. Whether you dip into this for a rocking half hour, or you play it for longer, this is a highly invigorating, quality live compilation.

Anthology: Through The Years

This is an excellent anthology - taking between two and four tracks from each of the albums produced by Florida’s Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. They were a classic Southern States, soaked in Bourbon guitar-driven bluesy rock band, with clear influences from The Byrds, The Searchers, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Graham Parker and Bruce Springsteen. The late Tom Petty (I still can’t really believe I’m writing that) had a unique voice that, at times, was something of a whiny bleat but it did improve and get stronger over time and he was an excellent guitarist. The voice, rather like with Bob Dylan, never really detracted from the appeal of the material. The band, The Heartbreakers, were somewhat faceless, no rock star pretensions, just honest guys would could certainly play. The backing on the songs is always excellent.

This is an attractive album for me because it appears to have been remastered, and has a full, punchy sound that makes room for the often melodious bass lines to be heard. The remastering is particularly relevant on the four tracks taken from 1976’s debut album, which was recorded notoriously badly - tinny and weak. Here, at least there is a bit more “oomph”, which is pleasing, considering that two of the tracks are the iconic pair of Breakdown and American Girl.

The other highlights are the wonderful Don’t Do Me Like ThatRefugee, I Won’t Back Down, Here Comes My GirlListen To Her Heart, Free Fallin’ and Don’t Come Around Here No More. No place for the rocking Anything That’s Rock n Roll’s Right, which is a shame, however.

An American Treasure

This is an excellent compilation box set, largely made up of alternative and "outtake" versions, and live versions, spanning Petty's career with The Heartbreakers, on his own and also some tracks from Mudcrutch (his pre-Heartbreakers band, who re-recorded some of their early material relatively recently). It is not an "anthology" or a "greatest hits" so it is of more interest to hard-core fans as opposed to casual ones, however, listening to it, it is so good that it can be appreciated by anyone, really.

Most followers of Petty's career will be familiar with the material so the point I want to make here, as opposed to analysing each track individually, is just how damn good the sound is. It is the best I have ever heard Petty - big, thumping, bassy and loud, as his music should be, for my taste anyway. Just check out When The Time Comes or the marvellous Surrender (inexplicably left off their debut album). The latter is listed as an "outtake". It is one of the finest quality outtakes I have heard. That is the great thing about this album, the outtakes are excellent in quality, putting it ahead of many such complications, where the outtakes and demos are inferior in sound quality. What is still frustrating for me is that the first two Heartbreakers albums are in need of further remastering, yet tracks like The Wild One/Forever, No Second Thoughts and When The Time Comes are given an excellent makeover here. Why not re-do the whole albums they came from? Even Wild One sounds better here, and the material from the first album is notoriously poor.

Incidentally, just as an aside, I am sure No Second Thoughts has hints of The Rolling StonesFactory Girl in it. What Are You Doin' In My Life? is very Springsteen-esque too. Another aside - good old Tom looks far more handsome on the cover drawing than he actually was, bless him.

Overall, this is an invigorating, sonically pleasing, spirit-raising compilation from a much-missed, honest and highly respected artist. Just listening to the "alternate version" of Here Comes My Girl Great stuff. The bass is just beautiful. Regarding the two editions, the full 63-track "deluxe edition" is the one to go for.

The Best Of Everything (1976-2016)

Yes, this is another Tom Petty compilation. As others have pertinently said - "do we need one?". Possibly not. Possibly yes. The previous one, American Treasure was an excellent collection of outtakes, alternative versions and live cuts interspersed with some superb remasters of early tracks. This set is more of the "well known" tracks type of release, but it still has a few rarities, a really good Stevie Nicks collaboration track and some impressive tracks from Mudcrutch (the name The Heartbreakers first called themselves from 1970-1975). The important thing, for me, is the outstanding remastered sound, which has still, incredibly frustratingly, not been applied to the first two Heartbreakers albums and Southern Accents and Tom Petty solo albums like Full Moon Fever and Wildflowers. Although you don't get more than one or two tracks from each album, it is great to hear those that are included in superb big, full, bassy sound - at last.

The Anthology set also has a good sound quality too, as does American Treasure. So, do we need another collection? For me, yes - to add to those two and get as much Petty remastered material as possible. It really gives a new life to the songs.

Personal highlights are - You Wreck MeMudcrutch's Scare Easy, the previously unreleased For Real, the Springsteen-esque I Need To Know, the pounding rock of Runnin' Down A DreamEven The Losers, You Got Lucky, Learning To Fly, the riffy, Stonesy Jammin' Me and the Stevie Nicks song Stop Draggin' My Heart Around. Of course, there are many more, including the more famous ones. There is not really a duff track on here, let's be honest.

There are six other Tom Petty albums that I have, but, to be honest, I find it difficult to review them separately. Look, there are great guitar rock tracks on all of them, but I find Petty's material, however likeable, really different to differentiate, track by track, and analyse. It's a cop-out, I know, but anyway, here they are...

Let Me Up (I've Had Enough) (1987)

Jammin' Me/Runaway Trains/The Damage You've Done/It'll All Work Out/My Life-Your World/Think About Me/All Mixed Up/A Self-Made Man/Ain't Love Strange/How Many More Days/Let Me Up (I've Had Enough)

Lots of influences from Dire Straits-Mark Knopfler, Springsteen and eighties-era Dylan can be heard here. This was the time that Petty and The Heartbreakers were touring as Dylan's backing band and you can tell. I really like the rootsy rock sound on this album and always thoroughly enjoy every track. It is a bit of an underrated album within Petty's canon - I prefer it to Wildflowers and Southern Accents, for example. I love the Knopfler-esque melodic rock-blues vibe that dominates the whole album, making it one of his very best, in my opinion.

Highlights - Jammin' Me, Runaway Trains, My Life - Your World, Think About Me, How Many More Days - the whole album, really.

Into The Great Wide Open (1991)

Learning To Fly/King's Highway/Into The Great Wide Open/Two Gunslingers/The Dark Of The Sun/All Or Nothin'/All The Wrong Reasons/Too Good To Be True/Out In The Cold/You And I Will Meet Again/Makin' Some Noise/Built To Last

A solid, very appealing album in the style of the solo album, Full Moon Fever. A most enjoyable, lively listen where every single track is more than acceptable. It doesn't mess with the formula, as was true of most Petty albums, and therein lies both its strengths and its weaknesses - if you like it (as I do), you like it, but if you are looking for something that breaks the mould and innovates, then you won't find it. Then again, Petty & The Heartbreakers were never about changing  much, were they?

Highlights  - Learning to Fly, Kings Highway, Into The Great Wide Open - again, the whole album is quality

Songs From She's The One (1996)

Walls (Circus)/Grew Up Fast/Zero From Outer Space/Climb That Hill/Change The Locks/Angel Dream (No. 4)/Hope You Never/Asshole/Supernatural Radio/California/Hope On Board/Walls (No. 3)/Angel Dream (No. 2)/Hung Up And Overdue/Airport

A more rough-edged, stripped-down, gritty and raw album that was a movie soundtrack but stands up alone as a credible album in its own right (I know nothing of the movie, for example). Although it is slightly sprawling (fifty-one minutes long) and lacks just a little cohesion, it has a down 'n' dirty energy about it. The album contains a couple of covers, too - Change The Locks is a Lucinda Williams song and Asshole is from Beck. Compared to the previous two albums, though, it is not one I find myself returning to very often.

Highlights - Grew Up Fast, Climb That Hill, Change The Locks

Echo (1999)

Room At The Top/Counting On You/Free Girl Now/Lonesome Sundown/Swingin'/Accused Of Love/Echo/Won't Last Long/Billy The Kid/I Don't Wanna Fight/This One's For Me/No More/About To Give Out/Rhino Skin/One More Day, One More Night

An album far more like Wildflowers than Let Me Up or Into The Great Wide Open and one that suffers from CD bloat in that it is way too long at over an hour. I prefer my Petty albums to be more all out rocking (as the afore-mentioned pair were) than ones like this one where the rock is mixed with introspective, sprawling ballads. This is just a matter of personal taste, of course, but I find this sounds like "just another Petty album". I know there are differences in his approach, as I have highlighted here, but, for me, there is a bit of a sameiness about this one. I know a lot of people like the album but, unfortunately, I just can't help but find it all a bit dull. 

Petty is down on this album too, due to his marriage-break up and an air of melancholy pervades proceedings (although he rockingly tells her that she is a free girl now). 

Highlights - Counting On You, Free Girl Now, Swingin'

The Last DJ (2002)

The Last DJ/Money Becomes King/Dreamville/Joe/When A Kid Goes Bad/Like A Diamond/Lost Children/Blue Sunday/You And Me/The Man Who Loves Women/Have Love, Will Travel/Can't Stop The Sun

This album finds a world-weary, cynical Petty moaning about the music industry, its corporate greed, and that old chestnut - the radio, notably on the title track. However well-meant, it doesn't really come across that well, its singer sounding like an embittered ageing artist. The sound is also a bit over-orchestrated, 2000s-style, in many places (too many strings) and acoustic-driven for my liking - compare it with Let Me Up to hear the difference. I have read a few notable critics say that this was Petty's worst album, which is a bit of a shame as it was relatively near to the end of his career, but I can see what they meant. I can go along with Joe being his worst track, however, no doubt about that. Actually, maybe the Man Who Loves Women is worse.

Highlights - You And Me, The Last DJ, Money Becomes King, When A Kid Goes Bad

Mojo (2010)

Jefferson Jericho Blues/First Flash Of Freedom/Running Man's Bible/The Trip To Pirate's Cove/Candy/No Reason To Cry/I Should Have Known It/U.S. 41/Takin' My Time/Let Yourself Go/Don't Pull Me Over/Lover's Touch/High In The Morning/Something Good Coming/Good Enough

This was Tom Petty's penultimate studio album. It is one where Petty writes songs in a blues rock style, most of them being as powerful as you would expect, with a lot of Dylanesque influence. They do, however, lack the hooks of his earlier, less bluesy and more rocky material. Songs done in a blues rock fashion invariably are musically sound and grinding but are maybe not as catchy as lighter rock stuff. If you like blues rock, though, as I do, then you will get something out of it. I have to say that it is nice to hear Petty play the blues, something he had never really done previously. He even tries his hand at reggae too. To be honest I can enjoy the whole album pretty easily. 

Highlights - Running Man's Bible, Candy, I Should Have Known It, Takin' My Time, Don't Pull Me Over

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