I've followed Tom Petty nearly his whole career. He's meat and potatoes. I'd probably take him, overall, a little above Bruce Springsteen — which is pretty good. On that basis then, I'm conscious of not wanting to be overly generous for sentimental reasons.
Still this album is pretty good, even judging it somewhat critically. Some of these songs are more memorable than others, but they're all consistently well crafted. They pretty much all sound real good while I'm actually listening to them. Every song has at least some bit of a hook, and well-conceived arrangements.
This album isn't going to make you forget Damn the Torpedoes, but you could come in a couple of notches below that and still make a worthwhile album. Petty has been mostly more of a steady-state artist rather than experimental and progressive. I'd love to see him get more freaky and experimental again like some of that Southern Accents stuff.
But he continues to excavate little nuggets of gold from the
verities of Beatles production, Byrds guitar, and Southern rock. "Turn This Car Around" sounds particularly sharp as an expression of classic Petty determination.
Above all this album boasts one clear new classic for his next hits collection. "Saving Grace" doesn't break new ground for Petty stylistically or lyrically — running the roads
looking for something missing inside and such. But it's a classic new example of his basic style. Those are sharp new hooks, and that thing kicks into overdrive in the last part. He's got enough skill and a broad enough basic palette to still be making at least somewhat new sounds. "Saving Grace" is sort of like a lot of Tom Petty songs, but not that obviously close to any one in particular.
Basically then, Petty's made a good album topped off by one clear out-of-the-ballpark hit that justifies the whole enterprise. This isn't the first place to start if you're new to Tom Petty, but if you've got a good Petty collection, this will be a fine new addition.