Music Reviews – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – Mojo
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers have created an all new vibe with their appropriately titled new CD “Mojo.” This record does what few of his more recent efforts have done–it showcases the true “Mojo” of the band—one song after another. Mojo offers the seasoned grit and polish of a veteran band, delivering one credible blues-jam after another.
I’ve had a love-apathy relationship with Tom Petty over the years. His best music occupying hallowed ground in my own personal life Soundtrack—and comprising a very solid 2 CD length “best of” compilation. At their best, Petty & the Heartbreakers are timeless, Southern perfection. At their most listful……well, I didn’t really pay attention to some of it. Mojo on the other hand, immediately grabbed my interest and keeps me coming back again for more.
For my money, Full Moon Fever was the Gold standard for Petty albums—easily at the top of my Album of the Year list back in 1989. That’s when I first fully appreciated how captivating Tom Petty could be. From then forward, I always hoped he would recapture that whole album, start-to-finish brilliance that Full Moon Fever did with “mojo” to spare.
And now, I have to say that Mojo has set a new Gold Standard for me. 1994’s Wildflowers and 1999’s Echo both delivered some very good songs…..but start to finish, Mojo delivers more consistently and show sides of Petty & the Heartbreakers that we’ve only briefly glimpsed before. And I’ll admit that I am more than a little surprised that Tom Petty can still surprise me. It is a more than welcome surprise at that.
Among the standouts on Mojo, are Running Man’s Bible, Trip to Pirate’s Cove, I Should Have Known It, Let Yourself Go, and Good Enough. All are songs that quickly leaped onto my recently revised “best of Tom Petty” compilation.
Most of the songs on Mojo were purportedly recorded by the whole band in the studio in 1-2 takes each. They impart a “raw” feel, while also clearly showcasing the band’s energy, chemistry,..and yes “Mojo” such as it can be defined. They’ve finally made the blues record that was in them all the time.
And at the forefront of shaping this newfound “mojo” is Mike Campbell’s guitar work. Long connected to Petty’s best works, Campbell’s riffs just seem to work. And the rhythm section of Ron Blair on bass and Steve Ferrone on drums does some of their best work too. The bass-drum groove of “I Should Have Known It” has a distinct “Bonham-Zeppelinesque” drive to it–(first recognized and commented on by Cousin Judi–nice call)– that just amplifies the brilliance of Campbell’s lead guitar-work. Check out the video on YouTube to see/hear for yourself)
Likewise, Good Enough also showcases the band’s live in the studio brilliance well. It tells a familiar Southern tale of the girl all of us knew…..
“she was hell on her mama, impossible to please, she wore out her daddy….got the best of me and there’s something about her that only I can see and that’s good enough.”
Check it out for yourself here
Mojo not only delivers the Petty magic and Heartbreakers chemistry like few previous works, it also plows some new ground too. Don’t Pull Me Over has to be a first Petty foray into Reggae. And even that seems to work.
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers have long since passed the point of having anything to prove on new albums. They can do and play what they want. They’ve certainly earned that right. But that said, Petty & the boys delivered here on Mojo like they were required to demonstrate their chops. The album just exudes a magical “mojo.” I loved the recipe. I’d like to see and hear more of this purist, straight-forward, roots-oriented, blues-making, rock ‘n roll. Check out the videos on YouTube and decide for yourself.