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New Recordings: Petty, Heartbreakers’ latest isn’t their best, but it’s still good
Review by Thor Christensen
The Milwaukee Journal — Sunday, June 30, 1991
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers | “Into the Great Wide Open” | MCA
No surprise about it: Tom Petty’s first album since his 1989 solo LP, “Full Moon Fever,” sounds a lot like its triple-platinum predecessor. That’s not altogether good news. Jeff Lynne’s formulaic production dominates the show, leaving Petty and the Heartbreakers precious little room to explore new turf.
Yet despite its familiarity, “Into the Great Wide Open” succeeds on the strength of Petty’s irresistible melodies, his wonderful sneer, and his wry tales of romance and alienation. The title track, one of the album’s best cuts, is a jubilant rocker about a pair of would-be pop stars who form a relationship on the basis of their mutual love of tattoos.
That tune, like most of the songs here, gets its fire from Mike Campbell’s surreal slide guitar. On an album where the Heartbreakers often play a minor role, Campbell’s psychedelic solos and Berry-flavored rave-ups are welcome recurring themes.
Petty resorts to cookie-cutter acoustic guitar rhythms for most of the album and shies from anything remotely experimental. As a result, the LP resembles the easy-going jangle of “Free Fallin'” far more than it does the psycho rock of “Don’t Come Around Here No More.”
In other words, this isn’t Petty and the Heartbreakers at their peak. But stayed tuned. The group’s first album in four years is, at least, a promising first step back.
“Into the Great Wide Open” arrives in record stores Tuesday.