Hypnotic Eye/ Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
Sony Music-Warner/ Rs 499
THOUGH he released his debut album way back in 1976 and eventually became one of the biggest-selling artistes in rock music, Tom Petty debuted at number one on the Billboard charts for the first time only recently, with his 13th recording ‘Hypnotic Eye’. Released in late July, the 11-track set features his band Heartbreakers yet again.
Petty’s music is rooted in classic rock ‘n’ roll, with doses of the blues and American folk thrown in. As such, it is a very pure sound, filled with charming guitar lines, played here by old-time companion Mike Campbell. In fact, with his brilliant and consistent riffs, Campbell is as much the star of this album as Petty.
To be sure, the album begins on a rather commercial and not-too-great note on the first two numbers ‘American dream plan B’ and ‘Fault lines’. While the former is a David Bowie-like piece with ambition-filled lines like “I got a dream I’m gonna fight till I get it right,” the latter is an expression of personal turmoil.
There’s nothing extraordinary about both these tracks, but Petty hits the right note from the third piece onwards. ‘Red river’ has smart guitar solos, an abrupt change in tempo and catchy lines like “So meet me tonight at the Red River, Where the water is clear and cold, Meet me tonight at the Red River, And look down into your soul.”
With its jazz feel and moody riffs, the slower ‘Full grown boy’ is one of the album’s highlights, with Petty singing in a manner reminiscent of Bob Dylan. On ‘Take what you can’, he increases the tempo, uses a sound akin to Neil Young’s Crazy Horse band, and sings “Take what you can, All you can carry, Take what you can, And leave the thoughts behind.”
For more variety, the outstanding ‘Power drunk’ is pure blues with some first-rate slide passages, and ‘Forgotten man’ gets into hard rocking fuzz guitar space, with Petty’s voice filled with anguish on the words “I feel like a forgotten man.” ‘Sins of my youth’ is a simple, nostalgia-filled song with a pop feel and a mellow guitar portion.
The quality drops slightly with ‘You get me high’, which has a very predictable structure and lacks an extraordinary hook. But Petty is in super nick on ‘Burnt out town’, another Dylan take-off with a blues pattern, raw harmonica, tight guitars and Benmont Tench’s smooth piano.
The icing on the cake comes on the last track ‘Shadow people’. Though lengthy at six minutes and 40 seconds, it’s the kind of song which grows on repeated hearing, thanks to its organ, guitar and bass backdrop, and the catchy line “Shadow people in shadow land.”
The end result is an album that’s definitely one of Petty’s better ones, especially over the last two decades. It’s got the compositions, it’s got the guitars, it’s got the variety and most important, it’s got the meat.
RATING SCALE: * Poor; ** Average; *** Good; **** Excellent; ***** Simply outstanding