Home / Single Review: “Saving Grace” – Tom Petty

Single Review: “Saving Grace” – Tom Petty

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The Wife to Whom I'm Married and I are apparently in exclusive company.  We are, it seems, the only two people on planet earth who love Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers' Into the Great Wide Open.  Sure, a lot of people like the song but they love to take the piss out of the album.  Most of the album's detractors, from what I can tell, pin the failings on album producer Jeff Lynne. 

Petty fans had to be tearing at their clothes with the news he was once again making a solo record with Lynne if one accepts the premise the ex-ELO frontman ruined Great Wide Open.  It is a ridiculous premise.  Great Wide Open has great songs with a unified sound and that makes it at the very least a really good album even if it is not quite a classic.  

The counter to that is Lynne's production was too fussy and too mannered and it left fingerprints all over the record.  I dare anyone to bitch about Lynne after listening to "Saving Grace."

Talk about a Highway Companion.  This song screams to be played in a car stereo – it just makes more sense that way.  This song makes more sense if you saw Petty & The Heartbreakers terrific performance on Soundstage.  Mixed in with the band's classics were covers of Chicago blues and early rock 'n' roll standards.  Petty is reaching back to his roots on "Saving Grace" and he sounds completely comfortable.  Maybe it is because he never strayed too far from them in the first place.  Maybe it is because as he reaches the 30th anniversary since releasing his first album he understands now more than ever what he does best.

"Saving Grace" is the first single off Petty's upcoming disc, Highway Companion.  This is barebones rock 'n' roll: guitar, organ, bass, drum, and some terrific slide guitar work from Mike Campbell.  If ZZ Top covered Canned Heat's "On the Road Again" it might sound like this.  Three and a half minutes, get in, get out.  This is a song written for the AM radio era.  It would have sounded great then.  It still does. 

The song opens with a chugging, boogie riff and Petty's distinctive vocal.  Slowly, new elements are added to augment the guitar and vocal for the first minute of the song at which point bass and drums pick up the low end and the song finds its groove.

The first line of the song: "I'm passing sleeping cities."  The highway.  Petty has written about "Kings Road" and "King's Highway."  I wonder how many sleeping cities he has passed in 30 years on the road.  The journey, grace and redemption, the highway- these are staples of the great rock songbook.  Dylan, Springsteen, Petty – they have all traveled that lonely highway searching for something. 

If "Saving Grace" is any indication, Highway Companion is another winner in a career that has had a lot of them.

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About Josh Hathaway

  • dammit, this single is sitting on my dining room table. i just knew i shoulda picked it up this morning.

  • It’s a compact, sturdy little number that I think bodes well for what we are about to hear in a couple weeks.

    I cannot wait for Highway Companion.

  • DJRadiohead, you are not alone: ItGWO is one of my favorites, too, eclipsed only relatively recently by Full Moon Fever. For years Great Wide Open was the only Petty I owned, actually – it served me so well that I saw absolutely no need for any other TP albums. Now that I’ve come to love FMF, I see that ItGWO is actually kind of a rehash of FMF, but that’s okay – I can do with two albums like that.

    Still really dig the Highway Companion artwork, as I said before. Kinda makes me yearn for the days I would hang posters up – I’d go for a poster of that painting.

  • I always liked Full Moon Fever because to me it sounded so damn much like classic Dave Edmunds, who I love. Tell me you don’t hear just a little bit of “Queen Of Hearts” in “Running Down a Dream.” Go ahead, I dare ya.

    Great Wide Open is also a great one that I agree went somewhat unappreciated. This new one sounds like it’s gonna be a great one too if “Saving Grace” is gonna be the tone-setter.

    Like you guys, I can’t wait.


  • Thanks, fellas.
    I actually don’t hear a lot of similarity between FMF and ITGWO for some reason beyond the obvious- it’s Tom Petty. I think over the years he has staked out a certain amount of territory from which to work and he has spent 30 years mining it and mostly coming up with winners. That said, both albums are favorites of mine.

    Tom, allow me to pimp my own work and offer you a suggestion: Wildflowers is my favorite Tom Petty album. If you don’t have it, you really should. It is a magnificent record. A real victory of sound and song.

    I have nearly finished reading a book called Conversations with Tom Petty, a book that compiles a series of interviews he did. He talked about loving LPs in part because of the album art- something that seems to have died in the CD era. No question the artwork for Highway Companion would have looked great on a vinyl album jacket.

  • the main riff reminds me of Chris Isaac’s “Baby Did A Bad Bad Thing”

  • That was my other frame of reference for the riff- totally correct.

  • now the only other issue that needs to be resolved is: can Tom Petty beat up Glen Danzig.

    oh sorry, wrong thread.

  • I’m saying no, but I still like “Saving Grace.”

  • JP

    Glen–funny, only recently prior to Petty and G. Harrison, Lynne had produced Edmunds. Funny..

    I like the song a lot. I’m sort-of a Lynne fan, but I must say I have to list the ‘great wide open’ album as one of the more difficult to listen to at this point. Too metronomic in my opinion, far moreso than the organic FMF. I hear his signature all over GWO–compressed snare, high hats, EQ’d harmony vocals.. and as for rehashing Full Moon, I believe they called one of the songs “Re-Falling” while making it!

  • Beat up Glen Danzig? Petty can’t even beat up Glen Boyd…well okay, maybe he almost could. Definitely can sing, play, and write me under the table anyway.

    But as a true “Glen”…Danzig incidentally spells the name incorrectly with two “n’s” rather than one…I know these things.

    When I worked at Def American in the nineties by the way, I encountered Mr. Danzig a couple of times. Scary guy for such a short dude. Built like a freaking brick shithouse too.

    Can you say “I Yam What I Yam And I Yam Evil?” Then you too have no doubt also encountered Mr. Danzig.

    -Glen (Boyd with a single “n”)

  • By the way, Saleski and DJR, don’t get too pissed at me for saying this (it’s meant in fun, honest), but…

    When are you two just gonna get a room?


  • Jealousy is such an ugly thing.

  • It is. And I am truly ashamed of myself. LOL…


  • chimbo

    Full Moon Fever is one of TP best efforts and its Lynne´s contribution that makes it such a gerat record. Into The GWO is also a fantastic record. Both have Lynne stamped all over them. It came as nos supresie to me that TP asked Lynne to produce HC. In fact, I think Lynne is one of the best producers/songwriters we have seen in rock n roll ever.

  • beltanetrex

    Into the Great Wide Open is a fantastic album! It is very much a record that has its most potent effect in Summer. The multi layered acoustics with the chiming electrics create a real soaring sonic aesthetic throughout the entire thing. Songs like “All the Wrong Reasons” “You and I Will meet Again” and “Built to Last” just scream of blue skies and big white clouds and America’s dreams and broken dreams. It also has its rockers as well. All or Nothing and Out in the Cold are scathing. I love this album (and I’m just a youngin’ at 25 compared with you guys (I’m conjecturing, but am fairly certain that’s young in your eyes). But anyways, Petty’s albums are great. Can NOT wait for Highway Companion.

  • The Wife to Whom I’m Married has forever claimed “All the Wrong Reasons” as one of her all-time favorites (and she’s 26, so you’re not to much of a youngin’).

    I am with you- can’t wait for Highway Companion.

  • Journeyrob

    re: Saving Grace

    Hi, I have been a Tom Petty fan for many years. Seems everything he writes is hit worthy from the git-go. I’m sure that will also be the case with Saving Grace. However, I think it is a bit formulatic. Seems like he got a little lazy on this one. Yes, I still kind of like it, and it still is better than 90% of the new crap out there, but it seems a little weak for Tom to me.

  • Smart Alex

    First off, I agree with DJRadiohead on pretty much everything he has said here. Wildflowers is hands down my favorite Petty album. The songwriting, the flow, the subject matter, the instrumentation… there isn’t a mediocre track on the album.
    Secondly, Into the Great Wide Open. It’s a classic from beginning to end. Some of Petty’s strongest tracks (in my opinion of course) are here: Learning To Fly, King’s Highway, Two Gunslingers, and of course the title track. And he doesn’t lose any steam the whole way through.
    Oh, and as much as I love Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Danzig would rip him apart if it came to blows. Nobody f*cks with Satan incarnate. At least not to his face.

  • Cam S.

    This Song OWNS ALL!