The very foundation of a career that would lead Petty and his band, The Heartbreakers, into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the group's breakthrough album sounds as timeless today as it did 31 years ago. What's changed, of course, is perspective, as the passage of time is wont to do.
Today, Petty, his band and his music are the living, breathing embodiment of "classic rock," a radio-created genre that didn't exist in the late '70s. Back then, Petty and Co.'s sound was somewhat confounding, was it tied to the past or pointing to the future? Some saw it as "revivalist," harking back to Sixties influences like the Stones and the Byrds. Others lumped the group in with the nascent punk/new wave movement, showing how out-of-step their sound was with the prevailing art rock and hard rock of the era.
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In the 21st century, it's easy to see that Torpedoes was simultaneously tied to the past and pointing to the future -- and maybe that's the best definition of what makes a record "timeless." Signature songs help, too, and there's plenty of those here: "Don't Do Me Like That," "Here Comes My Girl," "Even The Losers" and lead-off track "Refugee." And the less-well-known numbers are nearly their equals, there's not a dud in the nine tracks and 37 minutes and the remastering sounds terrific.
The second disc of the deluxe edition is the usual collection of B-sides, live cuts, demos and alternate takes. A lead guitar-less version of "Refugee" amply demonstrates how crucial the song's co-writer Mike Campbell and his instrumental prowess are to the band. The highlights here are the previously unreleased out-takes "Nowhere" and "Surrender" (a concert staple that was re-recorded for 2000's Anthology: Through The Years compilation, but this original version could have easily fit onto the album). There's also a nice booklet with period photos and an essay by David Fricke, the heavyweight champ of reissue liner notes.