Tom Petty | Into The Great Wide Open | MCA Records
Review by Henry Horman
The Minnesota Daily — Friday, August 2, 1991
It is my dying wish that Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne would get into a six-tier brawl in a saloon parking lot. The ensuing hard feelings would leave Lynne unable to twiddle knobs on any future Petty discs, thus saving us from the schmaltzy backing vocals and factory-made smooth as polyester guitar strummings he’s so fond of.
But the presence of the Heartbreakers keeps Lynne’s overproduction somewhat restrained; and while Great Wide Open is in the same groovy laidback mode as Full Moon Fever, it’s something Petty is damn good at.
“Learning to Fly” has “summer smash hit” written all over it. It’s carried to heavens by Mike Campbell’s lazy, hazy slide guitar and Petty’s serene delivery. The title track also spins a great yarn, including unforgettable lines about stuffy A & R men and movie stars.
The lyrics become more pedestrian as the record plays on, though — a far cry from his glory days (“Somewhere somehow somebody must’ve pushed you around some”). But musically he still glimmers, because the record’s contented state of mind overcomes the hackneyed lyrics (of which “You and I Will Meet Again” is a prime example).
He may not have invented the California easy-rock thing (we have the Byrds to thank for that), but Petty should be crowned the King of Highway One, because — even with Lynne’s Wall of Slick — he’s done himself proud.