Petty Tribute Album Was Long Overdue
The Gateway - December 2, 1994
After the entertaining but decidedly tongue-in-cheek Kiss tribute last spring and coinciding with the release of a Carpenters tribute album, Backyard Records has released "You Got Lucky," a homage to a songwriter who legitimately deserves it -- Tom Petty.
You Got Lucky: A Tribute to Tom Petty is a terrific idea. What better way to create a buzz for a brand-new label full of underground bands than to latch on to an artist as well known as Petty?
Just looking at the band roster and the songs represented it is a good start, as it includes some of Petty's more underappreciated material (there's only a couple of Petty's bigger hit singles) covered by bands from some of the country's noted musical breeding grounds (Seattle, Chicago, San Diego, Minneapolis, Cincinnati and Washington).
And by the time the Portland, Ore., band Everclear wails "Make it last all goddamn night" on "American Girl," the rousing opening track, it's hard not to be having fun.
"You Got Lucky" is at all points solid, seemingly playing with the idea of how Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers might sound if they were coming up today. The answer: he'd largely forsake his homegrown acoustic-electric guitar mix for some good old amplified noise.
But at its best, "You Got Lucky" does everything a tribute album should -- it highlights the strengths of the original while sounding new.
Most of the best tracks -- such as "American Girl" and Fig Dish's rendition of "Don't Come Around Here No More" -- become simple by adding a little amplified punch to an otherwise faithful cover. But others -- Nectarine's "Even the Losers" and Silkworms "Insider" -- neither being the noise nor sound like the original.
The most notable exception to the reliable guitar noise formula is the stunning cover of "Insider." Laid over a hauntingly spare piano-percussion-bass arrangement and produced by mastermind Steve Albini (Nirvana, PJ Harvey), "Insider" appears completely naked, a perfect forum for one of Petty's darkest, saddest songs.
Of course, "You Got Lucky" probably won't attack any Petty converts. While the feedback-infused sound that dominates the album doesn't sound much like Petty and the Heartbreakers (not to mention that no one else on earth has Petty's love-it-or-hate-it nasal whine), the contributing artists remain respectful to Petty's music.
So respectful, in fact, that if you're annoyed by Petty's voice, you'll likely still be annoyed by other bands singing his stuff.
But it could draw over some fencesitters. While tributes to the likes of Kiss and the Carpenters are great novelties in themselves, it's nice to see a little credit being handed out where credit is due.