The Milwaukee Sentinel — May 3, 1985

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Records: Two gems by Petty, Prince
By Jim Higgins
The Milwaukee Sentinel — May 3, 1985

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers | Southern Accents | MCA
Sometimes you have to trust the people who make the music you like, even when they do things that scare you. When Tom Petty announced some months ago he was recording tracks for a new album with David A. Stewart of the Eurythmics, I nearly panicked.

Since the first time I heard “American Girl,” and particularly since I heard Petty in 1979 at the Uptown Theatre, he has ranked high on my list of favorite rock performers. I’ve loved the basic simplicity of his arrangements and the yearning quality of his songs. When he sang “The Waiting” on “Saturday Night Live,” he nearly broke my heart.

And I’ve loved the way he has defied record labels and “industry” conventions. What was this guy doing in the studio with a Eurythmic? At the time, I could have grudgingly admitted Stewart was a talented producer with a knack for turning out spooky songs. But I couldn’t see much common ground the two musicians could explore together.

Well, Stewart has caught me twice with my head buried in my preconceptions. The Eurythmics’ “1984” soundtrack was a marvelous album that captured the terror and immense sadness of George Orwell’s book better than the film did. And Stewart’s three collaborations with Petty are the best songs on “Southern Accents,” a generally fine album.

On “It Ain’t Nothin’ to Me,” Stewart puts his exquisite producer’s ear in service of Petty’s off-beat sense of humor. Stewart occasionally filters Petty’s voice through some kind of distorter, a la Joe Walsh on “Rocky Mountain Way.” “Don’t Come Around Here No More” is a fine “Get lost!” song. I’m sure I’ll enjoy hearing it the next time I feel hurt.

Of the album’s other songs, I most enjoyed “Southern Accents.” It’s a song about accepting who you are, and feeling glad about it: “I got my own way of livin’, but everything gets done.” Petty’s rough but tender singing and Jack Nitzche’s string arrangement create a feeling of serenity. It’s difficult not to feel sad when such a beautiful song ends.

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