Posted in Album Reviews

Tom Petty – An American Treasure Deluxe Edition (2018)

An American Treasure (Deluxe)

Almost exactly a year after his death in the fall of 2017, Reprise Records put out the 4CD deluxe boxset by Tom Petty entitled An American Treasure.  The set was compiled by Petty’s daughter Adria and wife Dana along with old bandmates Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench, plus Ryan Ulyate.  Rather than just listening to the greatest hits, the set includes 42 never before released tracks comprised of outtakes, live versions and alternate mixes that plays like a mixtape made by a massive Tom Petty fan.

The deluxe edition is separated into four different decades with the first being the 1970s. The first track “Surrender” is an outtake from the self-titled debut album that sounds like it could be on the Greatest Hits collection. “The Wild One, Forever”, an album track from the debut sounds a bit like a young Springsteen. Both “Listen To Her Heart” and “Breakdown” appear in live form with the darker “When the Time Comes” from the second album You’re Gonna Get It appearing in an alternate mix as does one of Petty’s finest pop songs “Here Comes My Girl”. (9.5/10)

The 80s disc starts with “Keep a Little Soul”, an outtake from Long After Dark, which had never been released until this compilation.  The midtempo rocker sounds like it’s been played on the radio forever. Two tracks later, Petty matches it with another outtake from that same album, “Keeping Me Alive” that is a particular highlight from this disc. Fan favourite “Even the Losers” appears in live form with not much more than an acoustic guitar and some piano. Not released until Full Moon Fever in 1989, “The Apartment Song (Demo)” shows up as a terrific duet with Stevie Nicks which is now the go to version. “Rebels (Alternate Take)” features a nice bit of horns while Full Moon Fever B-side “Don’t Treat Me Like a Stranger” sees Petty pleading not to be forgotten. Amusingly, Kareem Abdul Jabbar appears halfway through the disc introducing the band to a LA crowd. (9/10)

An acoustic version of massive hit “I Won’t Back Down” from 1997 opens disc 3. The crowd cheering sends a shiver through the listener. A straightforward version of “Into the Great Wide Open” also comes in a live version just behind that album’s track “You and I Will Meet Again” which is a standout here.  The rest of the disc is dominated by Wildflowers era songs including outtake “Lonesome Dave” named after Foghat’s Dave Peverett and the lovely “To Find a Friend” where Petty makes the simple yet sad statement, “it’s hard to find a friend”.  “Accused of Love” from the Echo album is a late disc highlight. (8.5/10)

The fourth disc opens with three terrific tracks from the generally poorly reviewed The Last DJ album with the clubhouse version of “You and Me” being a particular highlight. The South gets namechecked in the laidback groove of Hypnotic Eye outtake “Bus to Tampa Bay” and going to see his Dad’s mistress on “Down South”. A spare yet moving live version of “Southern Accents” from 2006 is another highlight. Two of the last three tracks are dedicated to early band Mudcrutch. The first being the upbeat “Save Your Water” and in a touching ending, the set closes with a live version of “Hungry No More” where Petty says goodbye to the crowd before it fades into a dream. (8.5/10)

The extraordinary thing while listening to these tracks is that it’s hard to separate the big hits from the outtakes and the live tracks sound like they could have been done in a studio with crowd noise pumped in. Unlike other vocalists, Petty sounds similar in every form and variation.  Not mentioned above is the wonderful Heartbreaker band who are master musicians that add skill, support and warmth throughout. American Treasure stands as a towering achievement to the great Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers that leaves the listener wanting to hear more of their legendary American rock and roll music.

9/10

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Lana Del Rey – Chemtrails Over the Country Club (2021)

Chemtrails Over The Country Club

During the past year, all most of us have wanted to do is escape life for at least a little bit. The COVID pandemic has restricted not just daily life but the ability to explore other places.  Lana Del Rey is no exception to this with several tracks from her seventh studio album, Chemtrails Over the Country Club speaking of escaping. On “Let Me Love You Like a Woman” she sings, “80 miles north or south will do” and her voice floats over the percussive track “Tulsa Jesus Freak” where Del Rey remembers it’s Arkansas where “the kids in their hoodies, they dance super slow”. First single “White Dress” breathlessly escapes back to the early years of listening to jazz, The White Stripes (when they were white hot), and the Kings of Leon.

Once again working with Jack Antonoff for most of the tracks, Chemtrails gets better as it goes along. “The cameras have flashes, they cause the car crashes/but I’m not a star” she sings on what sounds like a fading 70s star falling apart. “Not All Who Wander Are Lost” borrows the title from a Tolkien quote and is mostly acoustic guitar and a repeated chorus. She works with Rick Nowels on the haunting “Yosemite” and adds a 70s strut to “Dance Til We Die” where she further namechecks Stevie Nicks, Joan Baez, Courtney Love and Joni Mitchell.

That last name is where the album ends, with a cover of Michell’s 1970 track “For Free” that she performs with Zella Day and Weyes Blood. While not as consistent as career highpoint Norman Fucking Rockwell!, Chemtrails still offers up it’s share of memorable moments. While the world seems to stop somedays, Del Rey keeps busy having released a poetry book/spoken word album last year and has already announced her next album will be out on July 4th.

7.5/10

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Bob Dylan – Another Side of Bob Dylan (1964)

Another Side Of Bob Dylan

A mere 8 months after releasing The Times They Are A-Changin‘, Bob Dylan returned with his fourth studio release, Another Side of Bob Dylan.  The album title is appropriate.  While Dylan continued to mostly feature just guitar and harmonica, all of which were played by himself, the songs take on a more personal nature versus the politically charged folk songs of previous efforts. All the tracks were recorded in just one day of recording with Producer Tom Wilson.

“All I Really Want to Do” is more of his new style as he sings and yodels, “…is baby be friends with you”. Dylan adds piano to “Black Crow Blues” that has a 50s rock and roll mixed with a bit of blues. Lighter tracks like “I Shall be Free No. 10” and “Motorpsyco Nitemare” add a dose of humour to the album. Even though it’s just played with an acoustic guitar, “Spanish Harlem Incident” could be a garage rocker where Dylan sings of a girl who’s “temperature is too hot for taming”. “I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like We never Have Met)” describes the morning after the night before with a lover where the “morning’s clear/It’s like I ain’t here/She acts like we never met”. The refrain really brings “My Back Pages” home with its earworm lyric, “Ah, but I was so much older then/I’m younger than that now”.

Dylan returns to his political folk song roots on the seven minute “Chimes of Freedom” where he watches a rain storm that tolls “for the luckless, they abandoned and forsaked”. The only track here that appears on most compilations is the vulnerable, “It Ain’t Me Babe”.  Here Dylan tells a girl that he’s not the one for her and that she should find someone else.  It’s one of his classics that has endured to present day and was later covered by The Turtles and Johnny Cash.  Many other tracks here were covered by The Byrds and popularized through their folk rock movement including “Chimes of Freedom”. While Another Side of Bob Dylan may not be as beloved as some of his other massive albums from the 60s, it is one that newcomers to Dylan may be able to get into easier as it mixes some of the political with love, humour and a healthy dose of genius.

10/10

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Jane Weaver – Flock (2021)

Flock

Flock marks Jane Weaver’s first album to hit the top 40 in the UK.  The English singer from Liverpool’s 11th album is a varied recording taking in many different sounds. This is the follow-up to her remix album of tracks from Modern Kosmology and a reimagined soundtrack for the animated movie Fehérlófia. The title track here sees Weaver exploring cosmic 70s soul. “Stages of Phases” uses cascading synths before turning into a dreamy stomping glam number.

Weaver gets funky on first single “The Revolution of Super Visions” and adds a chiming guitar to second single “Heartlow”. The album really shines on the six minute “Modern Reputation” that is powered by a throbbing beat where “ahhhhs” are sung at various tones. The album closes on a its poppiest note with the upbeat dance track “Solarised”. Flock is experimental, atmospheric and organic sounding.  The contrasting styles come together, often in the same song, taking the listener for a starlit pop journey.

7.5/10

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The National – The National (2001)

The National

In Lizzy Goodman’s excellent book, Meet Me In the Bathroom that focuses on the New York rock scene of the early oughts, tellingly The National appear in a chapter entitled, “The Uncool Kids”.  However, over the years they would become one of the biggest bands to emerge from that burgeoning scene having now released 8 studio albums.  Back in 2001 though, they would release their self-titled debut on Aaron and Bryce Dessner’s Brassland Record label.

Featuring drummer Bryan Devendorf on the cover, this is before Bryce had officially joined the band but plays on several tracks.  “Cold Girl Fever” is a catchy acoustic led track with a squiggly synth and a drum that kicks things up before the end. “Beautiful Head” and “The Perfect” are solid college rock songs. Elsewhere the album strays into country influenced sounds on the upbeat “Pay For Me” with a twang in Matt Berninger’s vocals. The laid back “Bitters & Absolut” has fine backing vocals courtesy of Nathalie Jonas and a lovely piano towards the end.  The National’s debut is a well-played album with Berninger still trying to find his voice that would eventually lift the band to far greater heights.

6.5/10