Petty’s release may be best yet
By Scott Hudson
The Augustana Mirror — April 18, 1985
Due to a change of locale (and state of mind) during Spring Break, I didn’t get a chance to listen to much new music. However, one new album caught my attention. Tom Petty released Southern Accents, his first album in almost three years, and possible the best release of his seven-album career.
Southern Accents is such a triumph because Petty opted to experiment with different styles and sounds. Petty uses musicians as diverse as Dave Stewart (Eurythmics), Jack Nitzsche (Neil Young), Garth Hudson and Robbie Robertson (The Band), and his own band, the Heartbreakers, in an effort to combine elements of the 60s, 70s and 80s.
Petty’s collaborations with Eurythmic Dave Stewart are the most startling. “Don’t Come Around Here No More,” the current gle, is the best of the three songs co-written with Stewart. Stewart’s use of the sitar, an instrument not often used anymore, gives the song a psychedelic tone while Mike Campbell’s guitar solo is a straight copy of the late-60s Tommy James.
Petty also experiments with ballads, a rarity for his albums. “The Best of Everything” is the most successful of the pair. Members of The Band aid Petty in this lament to a former flame.
Petty hasn’t completely given up his old sound, however. “Rebels,” the opening cut, is reminiscent of classic Petty openers such as “The Waiting,” “One Story Town,” and “Refugee.” Aided by the Heart Attack Horns, Petty sings a Southern tale of frustration very similar to 1979’s “Refugee.” “Spike” and “Mary’s New Car” are also reminiscent of past Petty efforts.
Technically, Tom Petty has a terrible voice. He has a very limited range and usually sounds hoarse. Somehow he has turned this liability into one of rock’s best voices. Petty’s Dylanesque phrasings turn simple lyrics into profound lyrics of frustration or triumph.
Along with recent albums by John Fogerty and Mick Jagger, Tom Petty’s Southern Accents is one of the best albums of the year, and should dominate the airwaves for most of the summer. Petty will be touring this summer, an indication that his broken hand has fully healed. Fans of his should try to attend one of his concerts — he’s one of rock’s best performers.