Review Summary: A compilation of classics, you may not be familiar with the songs, but you're sure you've heard them somewhere........
Here is band that can craft a fine tune. We have Tom Petty writing all the hits and sharing production duties with Mike Campbell who also busies himself with proficiently executing lead guitar duties. Even ELO’s own Jeff Lynne steps in to co-write songs, not because they need him to, but just because Tom Petty wanted to bang out a few tunes with his old buddy.
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers are the fathers of FM radio rock, that dangerous genre that can eat a band up once their string of timeless essence-of-youth capturing hits teeters out. Petty has evaded the pitfalls of such a genre and has consistently produced amazing songs year after year, to the ire of indie championing critics and music buffs the globe over. His perfectly crafted three minute rock songs (intro, verse, chorus, instrumental interlude, chorus x2, fade) have shamelessly kept things so simple you’d be forgiven for thinking there was nothing beneath the surface.
But just scratch beneath it a little and you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find songs with a heart of gold and choruses that make you want to just punch the air.
‘American Girl’ kicks in the way a Greatest Hits album should, two whacks of a guitar to ease us in before breaking into a jog and then a sprint as the bass kind of grabs you by the shoulders and lifts you to your feet. The drumbeat instantly changes the sound of the song, adding another layer to an already promising tune. Things are jumping before Petty has even uttered a word, and this is only the first forty seconds of the album.
Basically, every song is a top ten hit and sounds it too. We have the bluesy jilted lover song (Breakdown), the radio request (I Won’t Back Down), the anthem (Free Fallin’) interspersed with the fast paced urgency of songs like ‘I Need To Know’ and the fantastical whimsy of ‘Into The Great Wide Open’. The Heartbreakers are also into branching out instrumentally as seen on ‘Don’t Come Around Here No More’. A stadium style drumbeat enhanced with a fitting delay effect on the snare gives off a denser atmosphere to this sitar led piece. ‘I dont feel you anymore/ You darken my door/ Whatever youre looking for/ Hey, dont come around here no more’ he sings as the rhythm section glide upwards, so upbeat it feels like the end credits to an 80s flick. It’s no surprise that this song was co-written with Dave Stewart of 80s pop stalwarts Eurythmics. It has a sound that is inherent to the zeitgeist of the time, something that could not be released today for all it’s studio indulgence and stadium show yearnings.
This much is true of the Heartbreakers. Their music is unselfconscious, without pretense and carries no vainglorious baggage. Here we have an album of hits which capture all the notes that a rock fan wants to hear without the bull***. It never deviates into self indulgence or mediocrity. Upon repeat listenings and as you listen to each instument more closely you see that these polished and immaculately crafted songs have a heart and a soul that is astonishing to bear witness to. Petty foces the words from himself with damning conviction on ‘You Got Lucky’,(‘You got lucky, babe/ When I found you’) and on ‘Don’t Do Me Like That’ he exhibits a humour and playfullness that lends itself well to the poppy strut of Mike Campbell’s lead guitar.
This record was a personal joy to discover and it will be years before it comes close to sounding dated. If the FM rock genre is an albatross aound their necks they carry it well. This band are influenced by nothing but their own personal tastes and their autonomy in the studio is evident in the natural sound to all their songs. They are not encumbered with a record companies demands and therefore you will find no unnecessary over-production or out of place string quartets. Indeed the only ouside infuence that this band has ever suffered was the reocrd company’s insistence to name their second album ‘You’re Gonna Get It!’ and the presence of Jeff Lynne’s production on ‘Free Fallin’ and ‘I Won’t Back Down’. That’s not so bad, is it"