Record Review: Veteran rockers Adams and Petty change direction despite criticism
By Jerry Spangler
The Deseret News — June 5, 1987
When a traditional Top-40 pop-rocker shifts gears and suddenly starts offering fans a little more than just a good time, there’s bound to be some resentment.
A lot of people are unwilling to accept the change. They either deny the change has occurred or they criticize the change as a temporary abandonment of the good ol’ music.
You hear a lot of those criticisms in connection with new albums by Bryan Adams and Tom Petty. But the bottom line with both albums is that these veteran rockers have opened the doors to the kind of professional greatness that comes through quality music, not the quantity of hits.
TOM PETTY & THE HEARTBREAKERS — Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough). “Jammin’ Me,” “Runaway Trains,” “My Life, Your World,” “A Self Made Man,” “Ain’t Love Strange,” six others. Produced by Tom Petty and Mike Campbell. MCA Records 5836. ★★★★
I must confess, I didn’t think much of Tom Petty’s “Let Me Up” album the first time I heard it. It seemed rather dry and disjointed and so unlike Tom Petty’s “damn the torpedoes” style.
But the more you listen to “Let Me Up,” the more convinced you become that Petty has constructed a masterpiece. The more you listen, the more you like it. The more you like it a whole lot.
You dislike “Let Me Up” because it is new and unusual and so unlike what you’ve been accustomed to. You grow to like the album for the very same reason.
But the irony of the album is that in the very heart of the music, it isn’t all that unusual. It has a very traditional, bluesy feel that has been superbly layered with a variety of musical sounds and vocal harmonies.
The result is 11 songs that have Petty & Co. wearing an entirely new and exciting mask.
The temptation with any new Tom Petty album is to give it a quick listen and see what power-rockers grab your attention. Then sit back and wait for AOR radio to play them to death.
That won’t work with “Let Me Up” because the songs don’t jump out at you as pop singles. Even “Jammin’ Me,” the first single, is surprisingly subtle and mature. A superficial pop rocker it is not.
There are three or more songs here that are unquestionably among the best Petty has ever done. Perhaps the best of the lot is “My Life, Your World,” a mesmerizing rocker that haunts you not only with its bluesy rhythms, but with its sly, seemingly demented sense of humor.
If “Let Me Up” is an accurate barometer of musical direction, Petty and co-writer Mike Campbell have successfully tempered the sanctimonious preaching of Bob Dylan (the Heartbreakers will again be the backup band for Dylan at selected concerts this year) and combined it with a refined, more focused blues rock, the trademark of the Heartbreakers.
There is an incredible feeling of balance on this album. It’s as if Petty and Campbell have found peace with their music in a variety of abstractions and they are willing to share them with only those willing to look beyond the vinyl surface.