Music Review: Petty’s new album wins, uses traditional sounds and effective vocal bits
By Gregg Dunn
Central Michigan Life — July 26, 1989
If one listens to “Full Moon Fever” by Tom Petty, it appears the Heartbreakers and Traveling Wilburys have made a big impression.
In fact, much of the album is tainted with Heartbreaker and Wilbury personnel.
Mike Campbell of the Heartbreakers plays guitars, mandolin, and bass, while helping produce his record. Heartbreaker keyboardist adds his expertise on “The Apartment Song.”
Wilbury members, George Harrison and Roy Orbison, play on “I Won’t Back Down,” and “Zombie Zoo” respectively.
While most of “Full Moon Fever” is acoustic Petty, the music has a Dylanesque (also a Wilbury) sound on Petty’s “Free Fallin'” and “I Won’t Back Down.”
Lyrically, Petty writes of personal situations — love, loneliness, and character. Petty’s biggest hit from “Full Moon Fever,” “I Won’t Back Down,” deals with one’s integrity. “Well I know what’s right. I got just one life, in a world that keeps on pushin’ me around, but I’ll stand my ground and I won’t back down.” This song is reminiscent of early Dylan not only in words, but also music and singing style.
“Free Fallin'” is a description of the social mores promoted throughout our society in male-female relationships.
“She’s a good girl, loves her mama, loves Jesus and America too. She’s a good girl, crazy ’bout Elvis loves horses and her boyfriend too. It’s a long day, livin’ in Reseda, there’s a freeway runnin’ through the yard, and I’m a bad boy cause I don’t even miss her. I’m a bad boy for breaking her heart,” Petty sings.
The last three songs on the first side, “Love Is A Long Road,” “A Face In The Crowd,” and “Runnin’ Down a Dream” sound like Heartbreaker music — with prominent Heartbreaker themes — love and dreaming.
The second side starts with a re-make of the Byrds “Feel A Whole Lot Better.” Petty does such a good imitation it is difficult to distinguish between the original version and Petty’s re-make.
The music is “Full Moon Fever” is fine. Petty, however, is attempting to go through some musical changes in search for a new style, but instead of finding one, he had made an assortment of Heartbreakers, Wilbury, and 60’s style folk-style cuts — no new style is created, rather many styles are used.
If you like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the Traveling Wilburys, Dylan, or 60’s style folk-rock — you’ll enjoy the release.