Greatest Hits — Tom Petty and the Heart Breakers (MCA)
Review by Chris Hoyt
The Gateway – January 11, 1994
Tom Petty. Relic of the seventies. Embodiment of all things Californian. Freak. Damn cool musician. Now he and the Heartbreakers have put out their first greatest hits album. What a piece!
Containing fully eighteen (18) almost exclusively incredible tracks, the album spans the years from 1976 right up to 1993 — Tom and Mike Campbell produced two more songs for this album, “Mary Jane’s Last Dance,” and “Something In The Air” (how these two qualify as ‘greatest hits,’ never having been released before, I’m not sure.) The resulting mix illustrates very well the transitions and phases the band has gone through, from the early … uh … stuff right up to the acoustic years of Full Moon Fever and Into the Great Wide Open and beyond, right back to plugged.
Whether you’re a drivelling Petty Fan like myself or not you’re bound to have some soft and cheesy-golden summer memories of having just dis-entangled yourself from one of those insane high-school flings… listening to “Freefallin'” on your fuzzy am deck. You’re cruising your ’79 Beaterola and it’s screaming in tortured agony as you try to get it to speed. Your buddies packed in like sardines, elated singing sardines … Yeah, I know it’s just me. Come on! You know what I mean.
So anyway. All the characteristic Tom Petty themes are here lined up for your listening enjoyment — he talks about driving and California freeways, travelling, searching. His lyrics are the classic social commentaries infused with that great sense of irony and the occasional hard angry edge. It seems his favourites are romantic tragedy and general disillusionment. Tom has always laid it (almost) all on the tab;e and that’s what this album is all about. And the lyrics are so damn good! They strike that resonant chord of common human experience — as I was trying to illustrate earlier — and work on your imagination like no others can.
The great ones are all here. Strange for a greatest hits album. “Refugee.” Yeah, good song. That angry bit of sarcasm with the stultifying video, “Don’t Come Around Here No More” (Petty’s collaboration with David Stewart of Eurythmics fame.) In general, the best ones are from Full Moon Fever — “I Won’t Back Down,” written about the time Petty’s house was demolished by an arsonist, “Runnin’ Down a Dream,” and of course “Freefallin’.” I can only give a simple smattering of the delectable delights Petty has picked from his popular and prodigious past. So forego the festering, limit your loitering and lay down those loonies for this lorrie-load of listening libido.