Highway Companion

Tom Petty

American Recordings, 2006


REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck


By definition, I am the prototypical casual Tom Petty fan. Were you to ask me to name a few songs of his, I could surely do that. Every now and then, one of them will get stuck in my head and won’t leave for a while (case in point; the past few weeks it was "Mary Jane’s Last Dance.") However, that was as far as I wanted to take it.

To be honest, Petty never instilled in me a desire to pursue his work. It always seemed to be relatively inconsequential. I mean, if I was looking for a few tracks to play while driving down the road, with the windows down and the sun shining, Petty would be one of my first choices. But to me, his music seemed wrapped entirely in that niche.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Highway Companion has gotten some press as an introspective record of sorts. With that in mind, I decided to give a Petty album a shot, since perhaps my impressions had been wrong and there was more to it than meets eye.

For about the first five tracks, Petty had me hooked. “Saving Grace” is hands down the best track off the album. A raging ZZ Top-inspired blues rocker, it perfectly encapsulates his trademark sound. “Square One” is the exact opposite; a gorgeous acoustic number that goes beyond the usual sex, drugs and rock & roll. Sometimes we go through a lot of pain and heartache to get back to where we started off at, and “Square One” defines that feeling perfectly.

“Flirting With Time” takes Petty, and mixes it with ELO. Considering Jeff Lynne handled the production duties, this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Those ELO sensibilities give the track a firm foundation in the pop genre; I dare you to not get hooked by the chorus immediately.Also, “Jack” is by far the most interesting number on the whole album; if this wasn’t inspired by early Who, then you can lock me away and throw away the key.

Unfortunately, this is where the dreaded enemy of rock stars enter into play; repetition. The very thing that had prevented me from buying a Petty album before was rearing its ugly head here. Don’t get me wrong, there are still great moments after around the fifth track, but Highway Companion starts to lose its luster quickly. “Big Weekend,” “Night Driver,” etc. just don’t capture the attention as much as the earlier material. At the start of the record, it’s “new and fresh,” but Petty runs out of solid material as the album wears on.

This record reminds me of some of the classic double albums, since technically speaking, there are no bad performances but the delivery wears on you. If you have the patience, or really enjoy Petty, this disc is probably right for you. I, on the other hand, need to look elsewhere.

Rating: C+

User Rating: B+



© 2006 Jeff Clutterbuck and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of American Recordings, and is used for informational purposes only.