CMJ New Music Monthly — January 1996

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers | Playback | MCA
Review by Tim Stegall
CMJ New Music Monthly — January 1996

Although these guys should still be pistol-whipped for having claim-jumped a band name rightfully the property of Johnny Thunders, it’s hard to deny their potency. Petty learned all the right lessons from the Dylan/Byrds/Stones mid-’60s — the value of tough-but-tender songwriting and instrumental attack — and brought them unblemished into the present, rendering those elements totally free of nostalgia. This six-disc anthological proof is interesting, in that its meat is not the first three discs’ worth of Petty classics. A full half of it is unheard music, including demos from the larval stage of the Heartbreakers, Mudcrutch (interesting if only to hear how little their basic gameplan has changed, not to mention finding out how old “Don’t Do Me Like That” is) and a disc’s worth of B-side that prove how goofy these guys can get if they think no one’s listening (“Heartbreakers Beach Party,” anyone?). But the cool stuff is on Disc Six, a clutch of unreleased songs strong enough to be an LP itself, despite the inclusion of a pair of fun-but-disposable Elvis covers. Tracks like the Bo Diddling “I Got My Mind Made Up” or “Ways To Be Wicked” (a hit for Lone Justice) definitely beg questioning why they remained in the can ’til now. They also might be reason enough to purchase the whole box, outside of not having to wait around your radio to hear whatever your fave Petty hit might be.

DATALOG: Released Nov. 21
FILE UNDER: Classic rock that deserves the title.
Recommended If You Like: Er…Tom Petty?

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