Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers: "Mojo"

Finally starting to get into this album a bit.   Petty was due to record another album w/ the Heartbreakers - it's been a long time since "The Last DJ".   This album is much better - - completely different vibe.  "The Last DJ" was so serious and angry and darkly bitter... still had some good tunes but overall "Mojo" is far superior.  It's a raw, straightforward rock album. 

Musically opening track "Jefferson Jericho Blues" sounds very much inspired by something on Dylan's "Highway 61 Revisited" album - "Tombstone Blues" perhaps.   "First Flash of Freedom" is a more downtempo tempo tune with a prominent walking bass line and swirling organ; an almost hypnotic vibe.   Like the album as a whole, it's very retro and rootsy.   It's got a cool duet-guitar solo and the longer it goes, it sounds a bit like The Doors.  Very strong track.

"Running Man's Bible" is a driving blues-rocker with some killer guitar licks and a funky, stripped back sound.   It's a bit overlong.   "The Trip to Pirate's Cover" is a story-song, as the title suggests;  has a classic Petty sound to it, and again some great sounding organ. 

"Candy" is a throwaway blues-rocker that would be pleasant enough as a b-side but kinda throws the album for a loop.   But maybe there needed to be something lightweight here to counterbalance some of the other tunes..

"No Reason to Cry" is about as straight an acoustic country song that you'll hear from Mr. Petty.  He delves into the idiom with quite a bit of authenticity;  his voice suits the genre quite well. 

 "I Should Have Known It" is a riff-heavy rocker in classic Heartbreakers style;  it definitely hearkens back to their younger days.  

"U.S. 41" starts as an exercise in folk storytelling before building to a raucous blues stomper.   Doesn't really have the needed spark.  "Takin' My Time", another bluesy rocker, is better although it takes a while to get off the ground.

The rest of the album is similarly hit and miss.

Overall after a couple of listens, "Mojo" is clearly a solid record but it lacks a couple cornerstone classic songs that would make it really memorable.  There are no unforgettable Petty singles here... no "Mary Jane's Last Dance" or "Free Fallin" or "Just Got Lucky" or "Running Down a Dream" or....  there are many many more.   The sound gelled, but material-wise it sticks pretty close to blues/rock formula for the most part.   Will continue to absorb it, but I suspect my final verdict will be:  good, but not great, and a definite step up from Petty's last album w/ The Heartbreakers (but not as good as Petty's last solo album, the suberb "Highway Companion.")

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