This week we are expecting a new album from the always-trustworthy Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (the world’s most underrated support band). Incessant tours, brilliant consistency and multi-generational appeal have been the hallmarks of Tom Petty and we expect “Hypnotic Eye” to be nothing more than a superb album.
The thirteenth album from Petty and company will be reviewed in future columns but I’ll assure you already I, like just about every other music lover, will like it. I mean do you know anybody that doesn’t like Tom Petty? Anyone? At any age?
His place in the American canon is reserved and yet he continues to fill his legacy with consistent efforts. Of the more than dozen albums released there is not a single clunker in the mix. Therefore, it is no easy task to do what I am about to attempt. A list of Tom Petty’s best songs.
5. “Refugee”- Serious kudos to the production of this number. Mike Campbell’s restrained lead guitar brings us to Petty’s vocals, which are layered, in the mix like some one sneaking into a refuge camp to save you. “You don’t have to live it like a refugee.” It rescues you.
4. “The Last DJ”- Through the years Petty has found numerous ways to comment on the state of the music industry. Whether he was rallying against the price of albums as he threatened to actually name an album $8.98 or singing against the corporatization of FM radio, Petty could drive a stake into the heart of the dark side. Besides, it’s also the name of my favorite show on KZYR.
3. “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” – This song is so good it was put on Petty’s Greatest Hits compilation without ever being on an album. In other words it was a greatest hit before it was released. That’s how good this number is. And speaking of numbers is that what this is about? A drug reference? Well the band says, “It could be.”
2. “Free Fallin’- Metaphors in music are hard to pull off and yet they are at the essence of great song writing craft- ask Bob Dylan. Petty’s epic is at times a cruising driving song as well as a lament on success and its frailty. The street names are symbols of success as the song narrator makes his way “up’ the social economic ladder while still being wary of the pitfalls. Petty is free. “Free falling.” Brilliant.
1. “American Girl”- Ok full disclosure. This song always makes me think of my mother so that’s the first reason I love it. Second it introduced us to all things Petty. The last song on one of the best debut albums mankind has ever known, the song introduces us to the jangly guitars, unique voice and raging energy that not just encapsulates America, but sets the table for decades of musical joy that would come from Petty over the years. As the song says “She was raised on promises,” and like this song and dozens more like it, Tom Petty delivered on that promise and still does.