Thursday, September 21, 2006

Highway Companion - Tom Petty

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Travel back in time to 1994/1995 and whilst the young kids of Wigan are listening to Definately Maybe and Parklife, a young Matty is enraptured by the new Tom Petty album, Wildflowers. Ok that's not strictly true (I did also have the Oasis and Blur albums) but it's a nice point. Quite why in 1994 I ended up buying Tom Petty's new solo album is a point long lost in the ravages of time, but i've waited 12 years for the next one.

Of course sonically, Petty has hardly made giant leaps and bounds since then but what's wrong with finding a sound that suits you and then sticking to it? Jeff Lynne is back at the producing helm (having done the same job on Petty's 1989 solo debut disc Full Moon Fever) yet despite Lynne's tendancy to give everthing he touches an ELO sheen, this is more like the afforementioned Wildflowers than with Full Moon Fever.

The mood is dreamy and as you might guess from the title there is a feeling of the roads travelling under your feet. As evidenced by Petty's recent proclamations that he is retiring, there is also a feeling of the sands of time running away; "You're flirting with time, baby/And maybe time baby, is catching up with you" does seem to sum up the album rather neatly.

There are highlights aplenty; the album kicks off with the rocking Saving Grace, which is a nice up-tempo slice of bluesy americana, but the real winners are the likes of Flirting With Time and Down South, which add a layer of melancholy and a surprising moodiness to the album.

Of course if you're not a fan of Tom Petty, this isn't an album that is likely to change your mind. But for fans of the man this a good album which whilst not coming up to the standards of his previous "solo" albums is nudging up there with the best of his other efforts, and certainly does its best to make us forget about the misfiring previous Heartbreakers effort, The Last DJ. If this really is the last album Petty gives us, he's left on a high note.

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