Tom Petty Albums: The Essential 7

tom petty1 As Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers hit the road for a summer tour, their Indianapolis stop on Saturday night (June 15) is the first after multi-night stands at small theaters in both New York and LA.  The band heads to Bonnaroo the day after  Indy, so this will be the first outdoor/shed/large venue show of the trek – not that it should matter.  Petty always rocks.  This time, however, they have decided to scatter a few hits while hitting  a lot of great forgotten album tracks.  Hell, they are playing “Tweeter and the Monkey  Man”, one of the great, largely buried cuts from the first Traveling Willbury’s album.

tompetty2If there’s one band that best represents American Rock music in the past 30 years, I’d give the title to Petty & the Heartbreakers. Sounding not from one place (belying the band’s strong Florida roots), but from everywhere. It enables them to connect with rednecks and hippies, east coast attitude and west coast shine. They can rock loud. Tom can be acoustic quiet. Lyrics resonate. Petty can sweat and smile at the same time. It is a band that has been making music for almost 40 years, the most recent album, Mojo, released in 2010. That record is both a departure for the band, and a rejuvenating set of music. I’m a big E Street Band and Pearl Jam fan, but still give the nod to the quintessential American rock and roll to Petty and his boys when it comes to the package of  accessibility, passion and sweet-ass rock and roll hooks.

Here for you, my friends, is the Rockforward list of Petty’s 7 Essential Albums (and a couple that were too good to leave off).

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Album Review : Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – “Mojo”

Here’s a prediction: Tom Petty’s new Mojo album will eventually by hailed as one of his brilliant moments; it’s the album where Petty let the band loose to play modern blues – filtered through, and kept familiar, by the Florida nasal twang of the frontman.

Fuck radio. That’s what Petty must have said. Are classic rock radio stations abuzz with anticipation of playing a new Tom Petty song? Maybe a couple. Maybe some AAA and Americana stations. And probably all the cool guys with the hour-long weekly radio shows on non-commercial stations will dig it. But Petty is almost 60 years old. Hit singles are in the past, even for a guy who kept MTV playing videos for about five years longer than they might have without his great pop songs and endless string of compelling (or at least entertaining) videos.

What Tom Petty has done has said “Screw all of ya. Me and the boys feels like making this kind of album”. And what “this” kind of album became was a logical followup to the Mudcrutch record that Petty, guitarist Mike Campbell and keyboardist Benmont Tench made two years ago with the two original members of a band that would become the Heartbreakers after moving to LA.

That album was a swampy, bluesy, stretched-out rock record. So is Mojo, if you replace the sound of the Everglades with the sound of Chess Records.

The title of album opener “Jefferson Jericho Blues” provides the obvious style clue. The record’s sound leans on Campbell’s guitar lines and Tench’s piano and organ. The vibe is Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited with better production.

There are nuggets that shine. “Candy” is a fun piece of CCR confection; “US 41″ a Muddy Waters homage; and ‘Let Yourself Go” has a sound that reminds of the Doors, of all things.

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