Tom Petty | “Echo” | Warner Brothers Records
By Dave Cuozzo
American University Eagle — May 3, 1999
One of the best recording artists of the last three decades is without a doubt Tom Petty. He has revolutionized rock and roll. Every decade, Petty and his band, the Heartbreakers, release songs and albums that raise the bar for them and other older rockers. Songs like “Mary Jane’s Last Dance,” “Free Fallin'” and “Runnin’ Down a Dream” have influenced the sound of rock.
Petty is back with his follow-up album for “Wildflowers.” “Echo” is a great album, full of heartbreak and straight-from-the-soul messages.
“Echo” has some of the better Petty songs of the 1990’s. “Free Girl Now” is a fast paced song along the lines of “Free Fallin’.” It’s about a girl who has gotten away from her boyfriend and is free to live life.
Another Petty staple, the guitar that comes in late, is on the first track, “Room at the Top.” The song seems to drag a bit at the start, however, this is done to throw off the listener. The guitar and backing vocals come in and the pace picks up from this point. These elements strengthen the song, add life and make us wonder how one man has come so far without losing his roots.
Two songs that really stand out are “Swingin'” and “Billy the Kid.” “Swingin'” is a great little ditty about a woman who has been knocked down in the past but always “went down swingin’.”
“Billy the Kid,” on the other hand, is about a man who gets into a fight in a bar and acts like the famous outlaw. Both songs are stories, as the best Petty songs tend to be. They have strong, steady drumbeats and are reminded of such classics as “Into the Great Wide Open” and Bruce Springsteen’s “The River.” Unlike Springsteen, however, Petty’s storytelling is as good now as it ever was.
The song “Echo” is the album’s highlight. Slow and steady, it explores the possibility of a love that never was and the realization of getting older. “Put down your things and rest for a while/we both know where we got to go,” he sings. A song like this is another advance in Petty’s career. As he grows as a man, he matures as a storyteller.
Tom Petty is still one of the best around, in any type of music. As “Echo” shows, Petty and friends enter this millennium still at the top of the music world. As he will be on tour this summer, it would be wise to catch Petty. It is rare to see an artistic master at the height of his talent. Tom Petty has always put out dependable and great albums, and “Echo” is no exception.