Album review: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, ‘Mojo’ | ★★★☆
Review by Greg Kot
Chicago Tribune — June 14, 2010
Tom Petty has been making albums with the Heartbreakers since 1976, but “Mojo” is the first studio release in which the band sounds like it’s on equal footing with the songs.
That’s both a plus and minus. Petty’s best songs have a certain economy best-served by terse arrangements and the self-effacing interplay of his bandmates. But “Mojo” (Reprise) spotlights the interplay of the Heartbreakers, and gives guitarist Mike Campbell room to stretch.
A master at weaving different colors through Petty’s songs, Campbell brings a new boldness to his playing, as is instantly apparent with the opening fanfare on “First Flash of Freedom.” The songs aren’t exactly jam-fests, but they feel looser, stretching out to accommodate his solos. In “Good Enough,” his six-string fire evokes the soul-blues drama of the Allman Brothers at their vintage best, and “I Should Have Known It” is harder still, a flashback to Led Zeppelin.
Though the album was recorded in the band’s North Hollywood, Calif., rehearsal space, it brims with references to the Heartbreakers’ collective past in the deep South, with its images of sugarcane, moonshine and a grandfather’s pulpwood factory off U.S. Hwy. 41 in Florida. That makes the undeniable blues undercurrent in songs like “Jefferson Jericho Blues,” “Takin’ My Time,” “Candy,” “U.S. 41” and “Let Yourself Go” understandable. These aren’t classic Petty songs, but they are sturdy vehicles for a terrific, if frequently underrated band.