Tom Petty

Highway Companion
(American)

The first time Tom Petty decided to cut a solo record with Jeff Lynne of ELO producing, it ended up being his biggest collection of pop hits since Damn the Torpedoes. While there's not much chance that Highway Companion will do what Full Moon Fever did on radio — it's been too long since Petty's had a hit and, well, he had to piss some people off with 2002's The Last DJ — this is actually the better record. Lynne's production here is less attention-grabbing, more in keeping with the spirit of Rick Rubin's work on the Wildflowers album. And Petty? He promised a quieter album. And he clearly brought his share of wistful ballads to the table. But other tracks are surprisingly raucous, from a leadoff cut that boogie-rocks like vintage ZZ Top to a spirited tip of the Alice in Wonderland hat to the British Invasion on "Flirting With Time," his most infectious song in ages. And although it is a solo record, you know Petty doesn't leave the house without Mike Campbell, who, as usual, rewards the boss' loyalty with all the right guitar parts for that classic Petty sound.

 
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