Review by Teresa Hopkins
Artist: TOM PETTY & THE HEARTBREAKERS
Album: Hypnotic Eye
Label: Reprise Records
Release Date: July 29, 2014
01. American Dream Plan B
02. Fault Lines
03. Red River
04. Full Grown Boy
05. All You Can Carry
06. Power Drunk
07. Forgotten Man
08. Sins Of My Youth
09. U Get Me High
10. Burnt Out Town
11. Shadow People
12. Playin’ Dumb (Bonus Track, on vinyl, digital, and Blu-Ray)
TOM PETTY AND THE HEARTBREAKERS have undoubtedly contributed in some way to the soundtrack of most of our lives. Whatever it is, this guy’s probably lived it, and he always has his own spin on it, too.
Tom Petty was always one of those artists I liked. I mean, I wasn’t stark raving mad on him like some others, but I always appreciated and enjoyed his music, never turned the dial when one of his songs came on the radio, and usually knew all the words. Hailing from Gainesville, Florida, Petty was always considered the consummate Southern gentleman and a fan favorite. I think my respect for him and the band increased exponentially after finally seeing one of his live shows last year in our city’s new arena. He spoke a heartfelt “Thank You” to the crowd after every song, something I have never before witnessed from an artist at the level that he is. Tom, Mike Campbell (guitars) and the guys were at the top of their game, and had the Indiana audience eating out of their hands, especially on “Mary Jane’s Last Dance”!
His earlier material—fresh, young and hungry—appealed to us in our youth with its themes of rebellion and questioning of the way Life goes. He’s been known to cast more than a casual nod to his personal influences and favorites, as evidenced by the eras in which his sound evolved into something akin to the Byrds, then leaning into Bob Dylan and later still a folky feel with the Traveling Wilburys. But regardless of whom he reminded us, his music was always distinctively Tom Petty.
With “Hypnotic Eye”, his latest release on Reprise Records, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers have come full circle. I was intrigued by the basic, vintage looking album cover, not sure of what I’d hear.
Something about it impressed me immediately. At first listen, I thought it had a sleepy feel, almost too laid back, like he was effortlessly throwing stuff out there. What is truly effortless, and undeniable, is Tom’s way of telling a story with his simple yet insightful lyrics and some great music to back it up. There is a beautiful maturity about the overall feel of this album, and considering that Tom is now 63, he’s musing about a lot of life experience. The songs have an easy groove to them: some gritty and bluesy, some venturing into easy listening with a sweet, spooky melancholy.
The band covers the gamut of rock genres, opening with “American Dream, Plan B”, a raw, bluesy number, and switches right up with a bossa nova rhythm section for “Fault Lines”. “Red River”, with its references to superstition, could have easily fit among the tracks of Into The Great Wide Open. Smooth jazz gives “Full Grown Boy” a very nice appeal, and “All You Can Carry” goes another direction yet again, facing the past but ready to move on. The slow and steady of “Power Drunk” addresses corrupted authority, contrasted by the upbeat, TP classic sounding “Forgotten Man”. “Sins Of My Youth” is a poignant perspective of love from one still haunted by it. It feels a little Rolling Stones on the bluesy rock and infatuated musings of “U Get Me High”, and the blues get even better on “Burnt Out Town”, a tune that the Fabulous T-Birds could have easily pulled out of their hats. “Shadow People” muses on political side and sounds like something on which Stevie Nicks could have been asked to duet. It’s a bit too relaxing for my taste, and I’m glad when the bonus track “Playin’ Dumb” picks things up a little bit to close out the album. I’ve read that there’s been some controversy surrounding this song, especially among Catholics. I’ve listened a few times and read the lyrics, but even if he is thumbing his nose at them, it doesn’t come out in a blatant way. There are a few stereotypical references at the beginning of the song, but they’re generalized, more in a way as if Tom is basically saying that he’s older, waking up, and seeing clearly now through all of the stifling that organized religion can put upon youth.
Hypnotic Eye is Life: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly. Tom Petty has never been afraid to sing about all three, and he still does it like a boss. Overall, it’s got a lot of variety musically, and I think that if you’ve enjoyed the band’s music over the years, you’ll be pleased with what you hear.
Tom Petty – Vocals, Guitar
Mike Campbell – Lead Guitar
Benmont Tench – Keyboards
Ron Blair – Bass Guitar
Scott Thurston – Guitar, Keyboards, Harmonica
Steve Ferrone – Drums
Visit the official website for tour information as well as options and formats for purchase. It’s all here: http://www.tompetty.com/tour2014
Official Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/tompetty