The Petty Archives

Petty packs Plantation
Album review by Nic Milligan
Endeavour - January 30, 1986

Tom Petty has done the impossible. He has produced an album to rival U2's Under a Blood Red Sky in the recorded live category.

Pack Up The Plantation is possibly the best live album ever released by anyone. Petty and his band, the Heartbreakers, has captured the live experience perfectly, dutifully including the cheers of various exuberant audiences throughout each piece.

It is obvious from Petty's album that it is authentic life, compared with the supposedly live treatment of the Talking Heads' Stop Making Sense where the crowd is dubbed in at the beginning and end of each cut.

The song Breakdown, recorded for Plantation at the Wiltern Theatre, Los Angeles, exemplifies the live feel of the album. It is not unusual for the audiences at concerts to sing along.

Under a Blood Red Sky closes with the crowd repeating the chorus of 40 while the band leaves the stage and long after the musicians are gone. But on Petty's live the crowd enthusiastically screams out the entire first half of Breakdown before the band even utters a word.

The crowd's energy, even recorded, installs the desire to be in their midst.

"Your gonna to put me outa a job," Petty tells them and with good reason, their electricity travels right through the speakers.

Plantation was mixed and sculpted at Petty's studio in his Encino, Calif. home where he recorded most of Southern Accents. Accents was the album that inspired the series of live dates.

The live effort is a reassurance for Petty fans he has not met his demise on the over-commercialization scrap heap. Southern Accents looked as though it might be a Heaven's Gate musical venture. Recorded with a great deal of help, both technical and creative, from Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics, it was a glitzy mass-market rework of the old Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. It could have been a glossy tombstone for the once-Florida rockers.

Southern Accents gave fans another scare, in addition to the sellout-anxiety, when Petty punched a wall in a fit of rage during recording sessions and shattered his left hand. It was uncertain for a time whether Petty would be able to play the guitar again. Though he says the hand still hurts if he played for extended periods there is no sign of any handicap listening to Pack Up the Plantation where he is credited with playing six- and 12-string electric and acoustic guitars.