Petty's low-key songs carry sharp messages
By J.D. Considine
The Baltimore Sun - July 12, 1991
INTO THE GREAT WIDE OPEN | Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (MCA 40317)
Like Bob Dylan, Tom Petty has one of rock's best deadpans, a drawling, laconic delivery which, on record, seems to carry all the menace of a floating log. But just as floating logs sometimes turn out to be alligators, Petty's seemingly affectless singing can conceal quite a bite. That's certainly the case with "Into the Great Wide Open," his latest with the Heartbreakers. As the album ambles through its mid-tempo ballads and low-key rockers, Petty's sly tunefulness almost lulls the listener into accepting these songs at face value. Listen closely, though, and beneath those amiable melodies lie biting insights into American life, from the raucous "Out In the Cold" to the wry title tune.
Sounds: Petty continues to be just plain good
Review by Tom Ford
Toledo Blade - July 21, 1991
"Into the Great Wide Open" | Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (MCA)
It would be very difficult to find a musician with more integrity than Tom Petty.
From his battle with MCA in 1981 over release of his album at a new, higher price, to his almost single-handed resurrection last year of the career of ex-Byrds Roger McGuinn, Petty has long been rock's good soldier, good neighbor, and just plain good, in his adherence to a set of values forgotten in most of the rest of the genre.
Review by David Bauder
The Albany Herald - July 25, 1991
"Into the Great Wide Open" (MCA) -- Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
It must be said: Jeff Lynne has become a plague on rock's older generation.
The former Electric Light Orchestra head and current Traveling Wilbury has produced albums for George Harrison, the Wilburys, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty, and himself in recent years. The downside of his work is obvious on "Into the Great Wide Open," the new album by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
The distinctive stamp of the Heartbreakers -- one of rock's best bands -- is all but replaced by the signature sound of a Lynne-produced album. That's a slick pop sound with layered background vocals on a bed of acoustic guitars.
Tom Petty shows he has limitations
By Greg Kot
Beaver County Times - Sunday, July 28, 1991
Tom Petty | "Into the Great Wide Open" | MCA
Tom Petty sells a lot of records, gets his songs played on the radio, stands up for all the noblest of left-wing causes (No Nukes, Greenpeace, etc.), enjoys a solid critical reputation, and yet ...
The greatness that seems within his grasp continues to elude him.
His latest album, "Into the Great Wide Open," will do little to alter that perception. Nor will it disappoint his millions of fan. It's meat and potatoes rock, a record that, like most of Petty's 10 albums, is proudly, unapologetically, aimed at the mainstream listener.
Tom Petty and the Heartbeakers
By Parry Gettelman
Orlando Sentinel - July 28, 1991
★★★ Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Into the Great Wide Open (MCA): This is more a follow-up to Tom Petty's 1989 solo album, Full Moon Fever, than to the Heartbreakers' Let Me Up (I've Had Enough), released in 1987. And actually, it's a bit of a follow-up to 1990's Armchair Theater - producer Jeff Lynne's solo album.
Petty and guitarist Mike Campbell have secondary producing credits on Into the Great Wide Open. However, Lynne's stylistic influence is even more obvious than on Full Moon Fever or the two Traveling Wilburys albums. That's all very well if you're a huge fan of ELO, Lynne's old outfit. Heartbreakers fans are likely to be a mite disappointed.
Editor's Note: That's a funny album title screwup.
Galway Advertiser - August 1, 1991
Into the Wide Blue Yonder - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: It's been a while since Petty released an album with the Heartbreakers and in the interval the southern rocker with the sardonic outlook has diversified into solo work (the very successful "Full Moon Fever") and Wilbury-work (the two Traveling Wilbury albums). Now he's back with the band and the results are excellent! Petty's music has a sun-drenched, open skies quality that comes across best in a hot-shot convertible with the top down. There are no "big thoughts" on a Petty album, but somehow that never seems to matter very much because the playing is always so good and so damned listenable! On this new release, Petty brings on board fellow Wilbury Jeff Lynne who perfectly complements Petty's fascination with the Byrds. In fact, chief Byrd Roger McGuinn sings along on one of the tracks "All The Wrong Reasons." Petty's music is an attractive mix of nostalgia and guitar rock and by now he can regard himself as the near-peer of any of his idols/influences. This is quite simply a very good album that is perfect summer music. Verdict: 9/10
Tom Petty | Into The Great Wide Open | MCA Records
Review by Henry Horman
The Minnesota Daily - Friday, August 2, 1991
It is my dying wish that Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne would get into a six-tier brawl in a saloon parking lot. The ensuing hard feelings would leave Lynne unable to twiddle knobs on any future Petty discs, thus saving us from the schmaltzy backing vocals and factory-made smooth as polyester guitar strummings he's so fond of.
But the presence of the Heartbreakers keeps Lynne's overproduction somewhat restrained; and while Great Wide Open is in the same groovy laidback mode as Full Moon Fever, it's something Petty is damn good at.
"Learning to Fly" has "summer smash hit" written all over it. It's carried to heavens by Mike Campbell's lazy, hazy slide guitar and Petty's serene delivery. The title track also spins a great yarn, including unforgettable lines about stuffy A & R men and movie stars.
The Heartbreak of Success
By Dave Hall
St. Petersburg Times - August 2, 1991
Tom Petty's recent work dilutes new album with the Heartbreakers
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers | Into The Great Wide Open (MCA) | ★★★★
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (Gone Gator Records) | ★★★★
You're Gonna Get It (Gone Gator Records) | ★★★★
The intimidating success of Tom Petty's work with the Traveling Wilburys and his solo record, Full Moon Fever, may be blessings that plague the artist now. Now that the time has come for another record with his initial aidesmen, the flavor of Tom Petty's outside project has seeped into the mixture, overpowering and overshadowing the potential of drummer Stan Lynch, keyboardist Benmont Tench and bassist Howie Epstein, who along with guitarist Mike Campbell, comprise the Heartbreakers.
As a result, Into the Great Wide Open, indelibly stamped by the luxuriant production of Wilbury Jeff Lynne along with Petty and Campbell, occasionally sounds more like Full Moon Fever Revisited than an effort with The Heartbreakers.
There are obvious examples; All the Wrong Reasons is like a rewrite of Free Fallin' from the Petty solo record; Makin' Some Noise seems a raucous extension of Runnin' Down a Dream, and the hypnotic guitar on the underside of Into the Great Wide Open recalls A Face in the Crowd.
Petty drives rock into the open: Middle age leads to career high ground
By Hillel Italie
Kentucky New Era - August 16, 1991
NEW YORK (AP) -- Tom Petty is not a rapper or a headbanger or a producer of new jack swing. He is a writer and singer of rock 'n' roll, a musician who's been performing rock for most of his life.
At 40, Petty's career is on the rise. He has had three platinum albums -- two with the Traveling Wilburys and the solo "Full Moon Fever" -- in the past two years. His new release, "Into the Great Wide Open," quickly climbed up the charts.
His success is worth noting because it's happened even with critics wondering if his style of music is on the way out and because the average rock 'n' roller doesn't stick around much longer than the average baseball player. (Few players are still in the game at 40 and far fewer than that are still productive.)
Petty is neither trying to keep up with new music nor struggling to recycle old hits. Like Bonnie Raitt, Neil Young and a few other peers, he seems to be building on his craft rather than repeating himself. He also seems to be having more fun.