Tuesday, November 14, 2017

CD Odyssey Disc 1072: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Between my job and volunteer work it ended up being a long day, but I’m getting this review in before it is over.

Disc 1072 is…Songs and Music from the Motion Picture “She’s the One”
Artist: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Year of Release: 1996

What’s up with the Cover? A couple scenes from a movie (less on that later), on either side of a shot of Tom doing what Tom does. Also, a whole lot of yellow. That’s right, album cover, I called you yellow. Care to make somethin’ of it?

How I Came To Know It: For the longest time I skipped getting this record, thinking that because it was a soundtrack to a movie I’d never seen, it wouldn’t resonate. Finally I bought it last year. Sorry, Tom – I should’ve had more faith.

How It Stacks Up:  I have sixteen Tom Petty albums, which I think is all of them. I like them all but competition is fierce and “She’s The One” was only able to land at number 12.

Ratings: 3 stars

Usually when I buy a soundtrack it is because I heard the music while watching the film, and having never seen “She’s the One” it was a bit weird reviewing the record. I tried to just think of it as another solid Tom Petty album (which it is) but I couldn’t help but wonder how these songs fit into a movie.

I have deliberately decided not to find out. Whatever mysteries “She’s the One” the movie will reveal to me will have to wait until I see it – this one is for Tom and the Heartbreakers. I will say that I bet “She’s the One” is some kind of romance or romantic comedy, because these songs are focused on relationships, not all of them healthy.

“She’s the One” borrows from a lot of different aspects of Petty’s music. It comes immediately after Petty’s 1994 solo masterpiece “Wildflowers” and incorporates a lot of the sparse and understated indie folk sounds of that record. However, with the return of the heartbreakers the grime and dust of southern rock returns with a vengeance and Petty seems equally willing to explore a blues riff as he is a lilting melody.

Generally I love when Petty showcases his range, but even though “She’s the One” is only slightly overlong - 15 songs in 51 minutes – it feels disjointed. No doubt being a movie soundtrack it had to cover a lot of emotional ground when telling the story of…whatever the hell “She’s the One” is about. Let’s guess it is boy meets girl/boy loses girl, boy meets girl again and it may or may not work out before one of them moves to California. I mean, there is a song about going to California. But I digress…

One of the reasons I eventually bought this record was the presence of a cover of Lucinda Williams’ “Change the Locks.” The Heartbreakers do a solid version of it, but Petty’s vocal delivery is a bit too “Don’t Come Around Here No More” to make it feel as nasty and visceral as I wanted it to be.

Much better are the original tracks “Walls” and “Angel Dream” both of which have multiple versions present on the record and were likely recurring themes in the film. While I didn’t need a whole bunch of versions of both songs, it helped that they were two of the best songs on the record.

 “Angel Dream (no. 4)” is a bit more up tempo, whereas “Angel Dream (no. 2)” is slower and stripped down. “Angel Dream (no.4)” is a rolling tune best suited to thinking kind thoughts about the woman you love while looking wistfully out a car window. “Angel Dream (no. 2)” is more about looking out through a rainy window wondering when that love is going to pull into the driveway. With songs like this, the movie writes itself.

A similar decision is made with “Walls” where the “circus” version is a bit more jangly and up-beat, and “Walls (No. 3)” which feels thin and drawn out, and fills the lyrics with a heartfelt resignation – like no one was at fault, but things still didn’t work out.

Incidentally, there is no sign of “Angel Dream” nos. 1 and 3 nor does either “Walls” nos. 1 or 2 make an appearance. They were either left on the cutting floor of the studio, or preserved for movie-goers only.

More than anything, “She’s the One” reminded me that even when he is constricted to writing for some limited release art film, Petty is a master storyteller that can knock out timeless melodies in his sleep. Whatever the hell the movie was about, the film makers should feel damn fortunate they managed to get Petty to do their soundtrack.

Tom Petty was taken from us too soon, and while “She’s the One” isn’t his greatest work, it was nice to hear his voice again so soon after he left us all and headed out into the great wide open.

Best tracks: Angel Dream (No. 2 and No. 4), Hope You Never, Asshole, Walls (No. 3), California

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