by Chuck Campbell
Daytona Beach News-Journal — May 20, 1989
‘Full Moon Fever’ | Tom Petty (MCA)
Tom Petty’s Full Moon Fever is technically a solo album, but in reality it is a combination-group affair.
Guest appearances are logged by members of his band, The Heartbreakers — Mike Campbell, Howie Epstein and Benmont Tench — as well as fellow Traveling Wilburys George Harrison, Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne.
Lynne, the frontman for ELO, is the most significant contributor, producing the album, singing backing vocals, playing bass, guitars and keyboards and co-writing seven of the record’s cuts.
Yet, despite all the outside influences, Full Moon Fever is soaked in traditional Tom Petty — a testimony to the musician’s strong creative identity.
“I Won’t Back Down” is the album’s first single, and it’s amusing to hear Petty’s distinctively nasal and practically mocking delivery as he sings “I will stand my ground/And I won’t back down.” But the song’s chugging rhythm is the underlying key.
Tracks on this album have an everyman appeal of universal themes and ideas, such as “The Apartment Song,” a bouncy tune about loneliness with Petty singing, “I used to live in a two-room apartment/Neighbors knockin’ on my wall/Times were hard, I don’t wanna knock it/I don’t miss it much at all.”
Also, on the tough-grooved “Love is a Long Road,” he effectively mixes pain and frustration as he sings about a futile relationship.
Petty sails through a few lesser tracks which each have commendable points, from the spirited chop of “A Mind with a Hear of Its Own” to the cascade of acoustic guitars on “Free Fallin’.”
His rendition of the Byrds’ “Feel a Whole Lot Better” is a throwaway, however. And although “Zombie Zoo” is musically catchy, it’s a lyrical letdown as Petty deals some gratuitous blows to punk fans and their garb: “Sometimes you’re so impulsive, you shaved off all your hair/You look like Boris Karloff, and you don’t even care.”
Take a look at the back of the album cover, and you’ll see a stringy-haired Petty with too-big sunglasses, a stupid grin and frumpy clothes. He’s hardly the sort to judge the looks of others.