Commentary: Tom Petty shows emotions on first light-hearted album
By Steve MacKelvie
Lewiston Morning Tribune — Friday, May 19, 1989
Tom Petty | “Full Moon Fever” | MCA
Tom Petty has finally made a light-hearted album. “Full Moon Fever” is Petty without the Heartbreakers for the first time. He’s actually having fun and displaying sincere emotions without being a pessimist’s uncle.
Rather than sneering at the world, Petty spends his time writing love songs in all forms (most with fellow Wilbury and co-producer Jeff Lynne). He sings a romantic lullaby to his sleeping lady with only an acoustic guitar on “Alright For Now.” Then there’s the swaying sentimental guitar strumming ballad “A Face In The Crowd,” referring to a woman he’s seen in the crowd for years and only fantasized over their meeting.
Right about where Tom Petty’s voice strains, during the chorus of the rough rocker “Love Is A Long Road,” you’ll want to turn it up. The stable drumming and crisp rolls of Heartbreaker Mike Campbell’s guitar makes this one crank. The best song for rolling into summertime with all the windows open is “Runnin’ Down A Dream.” Drummer Phil Jones lets loose a locomotive beat as Campbell plays engineer and Petty growls, “I’m going wherever it (dream) leads.”
The acoustical guitar waterfall of chords engulfs the catchy, soft-sell of “Free Fallin’.” Even though this guy has let go of his gal he’s feeling free. I helped sing backup vocals bu the second listen.
Without streamlining, modernizing or changing a beat, Petty revives the mid-’60s Byrds classic “Feel a Whole Lot Better” perfectly. If you’ve seen the video to “I Won’t Back Down” you know that Petty’s brother Wilbury George Harrison is a guest. And yes, that’s Ringo Starr drumming, not the album’s percussionist, Phil Jones. Maybe Petty’s feeling sorry that Ringo is still out of work in motion pictures.
“Full Moon Fever” has all the intensity of “Damn the Torpedoes.” The difference is Tom Petty recorded this one with a happy edge.