Pop/Rock: Giving the people what they want in music
Review by Tony Norman
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - August 30, 1991
"Into the Great Wide Open" Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (MCA Records)
One of the central mysteries of the record buying public is the sudden, but much-deserved success of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers after nearly a decade of consumer indifference. Petty's much acclaimed solo effort "Full Moon Fever" obviously turned a few heads. It eventually led to the band's musical rejuvenation when they toured to support the album.
Now the boys are back with 12 new songs co-produced with Petty's fellow Traveling Wilbury Jeff Lynne. The results, if not the masterpiece everyone agrees is just about due, qualify as the best album by a "mainstream" band this year.
Listeners will experience an overwhelming feeling of deja vu at the end of the album's first cut "Learning to Fly," a continuation of Petty's thematic infatuation with skies, open spaces, celestial bodies, falling in love and woman who don't scare easily.
With deceptively simple lyrics and melodies, "Into the Great Wide Open" continues the laid-back pacing Petty picked up during his stint with the Wilburys. While Petty continues to enunciate like Dylan would after one too many evenings in the San Fernando Valley, the Heartbreakers continue to back him as if he still imitated Roger McGuinn.
Lynne is responsible for making sure the rough edges aren't too jagged, and he does his job well enough, but there's something to be said for allowing the Heartbreakers to rock louder and edgier than they do here.
This is wonderful airplane music.
Post-Gazette Rating: A