Tom Petty Burns With A Fever
By Gary Nolan
The Daily Collegian — September 7, 1989
Heartbreaker Frontman stands “Solo But Not Alone” on “Full Moon Fever”
The start of classes at Behrend is marked by many new album releases, including the notable “Full Moon Fever” by veteran rocker Tom Petty. This album marks Petty’s first solo venture without the Heartbreakers, Petty’s loyal backup band since his first release in 1976. Listeners will learn quickly, however, that the Heartbreakers are very much evident on this album.
Mike Campbell, Petty’s longtime friend, cowriters, and lead guitar player for the Heartbreakers, shares billing with Petty on the production, music, and writing of “Full Moon Fever.” Other friends accompanying Petty are rock and roll legends such as ex-Beatle George Harrison, Jeff Lynne of the Electric Light Orchestra, and the late Roy Orbison. This release is just off the heels of the enormously successful Traveling Wilburys album, “Volume One,” on which Petty joined an all-star band of Harrison, Lynne, Orbison, and Bob Dylan. The Traveling Wilburys album peaked at number one on the Billboard charts.
“Full Moon Fever” is Petty’s ninth release and has hit number two on the Billboard charts, making it another in a long long of successful Petty albums for MCA Records. He has since joined the Heartbreakers in a tour of outdoor venues to support the release and is playing sold-out venues all over the country.
The album, in true Petty nature, is a straightforward rock and roll work played with vigor and vitality, leaving the listener anything but bored. “Full Moon Fever” is fueled by the singles “I Won’t Back Down” and “Runnin’ Down a Dream” which received quite a bit of FM airplay. Other outstanding tracks include “Feel a Whole Lot Better,” “Face in the Crowd,” and “Free Fallin’.” After listening to these throughly entertaining and sensitive songs the listener is left wondering if there is anything this rocker cannot do.
Tom Petty acts as a fulcrum to release the talents of his bandmates, especially Campbell and notably organist Benmont Tench, whose talents are showcased nicely on the canvas of Petty and Campbell. All three have the potential to “steal the show” at any moment, making the listener quite aware this is no novice band, but a finely oiled machine ready to spring to life at any moment.
One of the other outstanding features of this album remains its superior production. Lynne, Petty, and Campbell seize the opportunity to make an extremely good album even better by giving it the full sound it deserves, while maximizing the talents of the all-star cast. Not easily done when the talent runs this deep. One is struck especially by the acoustic guitars used to give a warm and sensitive feel while not softening or dulling the hard-edged sound.
Petty, a Gainesville, Florida native has released consistently successful albums since his birth to the music industry almost thirteen years ago. This release was recorded in a very short time, quite a task when one stops to consider all the personnel used. The backup sounds from the late Roy Orbison also serve as a testimonial to the impact Orbison had on the industry, which further strengthens the sensitivity of this release.
The future for Petty remains a mystery, but one thing a listener can be assured of: Straightforward, lively rock and roll will never die as long as Petty is at the helm.