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Record Review: Exceptions to don’t-waste-your-money rule
By Jerry Spangler
The Deseret News – Friday, March 14, 1986
Live albums are, for the most part, undisguised attempts by record companies to drum up an extra million or two in record sales until the band’s next LP is released. The result is most like LPs are far inferior to regular studio recordings in both content and quality.
There have been a couple of notable exceptions to that over the years: Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s “Four-Way Street,” Peter Frampton’s “Comes Alive” and, more recently, the “Tribute to Steve Goodman” recording.
Despite their history of poor record sales, there is currently a rash of live recordings on the market. Still, most of them are of the double-LP, don’t-waste-your-money variety. But there are exceptions to that, too.
The cream of the current crop includes Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the Guess Who and Rainbow. Those releases, coupled with the release several months ago of Yes’ exceptional “9012Live” are dispelling preconceived notions that live LPs have to be boring guitar solos and rehashed hits better left forgotten.
TOM PETTY & THE HEARTBREAKERS — Pack Up the Plantation. “So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star,” “Needles and Pins,” “Refugee,” “The Waiting,” “Breakdown,” 11 others. Double LP. Produced by Tom Petty and Mike Campbell. MCA2-8021. ★★★ 1/2
If you’ve been saving up your pennies to see Tom Petty & Co. at the Salt Palace sometime soon, you will have better luck spending your money on Petty’s live album “Pack Up The Plantation.” Petty and the Heartbreakers are currently touring Australia as the backup band for Bob Dylan (at Dylan’s request), and all indications are both sides are tickled pink with the arrangement and they may make it quasi-permanent.
That’s bad news for Petty fans in small venues like Salt Lake, where Dylan is not likely to make concert appearances.
While “Pack Up the Plantation” is not the same as seeing the Florida rocker live, it is the next best thing. It’s a fine collection of 16 songs, including the many hits, that are wrapped in all the magic and spirit that makes Tom Petty one of the premier rockers in America.
The album also highlights Petty’s exceptional concert skills, while avoiding traditional pitfalls like super-extended extended guitar solos and excessive wasted space. Petty delivers the familiar and the not-so-familiar in crisp precision, alternating between hard rockers like “Refugee” and moaning ballads like “Southern Accents.”
The best thing about this LP is you get so caught up in the performance you almost forget it’s live.