Sounds: Petty continues to be just plain good
Review by Tom Ford
Toledo Blade — July 21, 1991
“Into the Great Wide Open” | Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (MCA)
It would be very difficult to find a musician with more integrity than Tom Petty.
From his battle with MCA in 1981 over release of his album at a new, higher price, to his almost single-handed resurrection last year of the career of ex-Byrds Roger McGuinn, Petty has long been rock’s good soldier, good neighbor, and just plain good, in his adherence to a set of values forgotten in most of the rest of the genre.
“Into The Great Wide Open” is full of solid, thought-out songs utilizing Petty’s McGuinnish/Dylanish voice, Mike Campbell’s precise guitars playing around Petty’s trademark 12-string, and Benmont Tench’s atmospheric keyboards to talk about personal relationships.
Since it is produced by Petty’s fellow Traveling Wilbury, Jeff Lynne, it is no wonder each song also features that layered depth we have come to associate with Lynne since his days with Electric Light Orchestra, as well as the sort of winking, “Through The Looking Glass” humor and sense of wonder we associate with Petty. There is also an easygoing, yet flexible pace to the songs, which enable them to be either urgent or relaxed as needed.
“Learning To Fly,” the title cut, and “All The Wrong Reasons” best show Petty at the top of his songwriting form. Each is filled with a wry, self-effacing point of view, and an honest sense that people have much to learn about love and life, friendships and relationships.
In sum, Petty serves up another rock-steady performance filled with fine moments, humor, deep thoughts, and a deep sense that dignity and fun can coexist in rock and roll after all.