Hard Promises cements Petty's spot in top ranks
By Jim Millican
Winnipeg Free Press - Saturday, May 9, 1981
Heartbreakers' guitars take listener on emotional trip ranging from exuberance to despair
Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers' Hard Promises (MCA/Backstreet) isn't the searing revelation that Damn the Torpedoes was 1½ years ago. With sales of several millions, Torpedoes rocketed Petty and his band right into the top rank of American bands. Hard Promises does the job of cementing that reputation in place with a potent package of romantic ballads and stripped-down rock that matches anything the contemporary music mainstream has thrown out so far this year.
Damn the Torpedoes was mostly written about Petty's hassles with his record company and management (now both former) and his determination not to compromise his way to success.
Hard Promises deals to some degree with the realization of dreams but just as much it comes to terms with the fact that, although he's not top billed, Petty's reputation depends must as much on his next record as his last.
The love songs are bittersweet, about lost romance and trying to make it. The rock comes from the darkest part of the night and details petty criminals, petty endeavors and life in the loser's lane.
The slow stuff seems to have the most fire. Petty and The Heartbreakers play rock in the traditional sense. There's some of Dylan in his voice and still a lot of reverence for Roger McGuin.
With as much country twang as rock bite, the guitars -- laid down over solid drums and tight bass lines -- sound lean and taut, made for action. It's not complicate music but it's emotional, picking you up with its exuberance or drawing you into its sense of despair. The melodies stay as uncomplicated as the stories Petty tells.
Although it was such rockers as Refugee and Don't Do Me Like That from Damn the Torpedoes that made Petty's reputation, in the new album it's such ballads as A Woman In Love (It's Not Me), Insider (sung with Stevie Nicks), and the John Lennon Beatlesque You Can Still Change Your Mind that are bound to enlarge the singer's following.
LINER NOTES: Not too long ago, Tom Petty sound himself in the middle of a fight over increasing record prices. His record company wanted to list Hard Promises at $9.98 (same as Steely Dan's Gaucho) but Petty thought that was outrageous. "If we don't take a stand," he was quoted as saying, "one of these days records are going to be $20."
A survey comissioned by the folks at Warner Communications Incorporated (Warner Bros., Elektra-Asylum, Atlantic, etc.) has found that consumers are getting heated up, too.
The survey found that only 67 per cent of consumers thought records were good value in 1980, and the year before, 75 per cent thought records were a good buy. No figures are available on blank tape usage...