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Rock - Released January 1, 2010 | Geffen

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Not long after You're Gonna Get It, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers' label, Shelter, was sold to MCA Records. Petty struggled to free himself from the major label, eventually sending himself into bankruptcy. He settled with MCA and set to work on his third album, digging out some old Mudcrutch numbers and quickly writing new songs. Amazingly, through all the frustration and anguish, Petty & the Heartbreakers delivered their breakthrough and arguably their masterpiece with Damn the Torpedoes. Musically, it follows through on the promise of their first two albums, offering a tough, streamlined fusion of the Stones and Byrds that, thanks to Jimmy Iovine's clean production, sounded utterly modern yet timeless. It helped that the Heartbreakers had turned into a tighter, muscular outfit, reminiscent of, well, the Stones in their prime -- all of the parts combine into a powerful, distinctive sound capable of all sorts of subtle variations. Their musical suppleness helps bring out the soul in Petty's impressive set of songs. He had written a few classics before -- "American Girl," "Listen to Her Heart" -- but here his songwriting truly blossoms. Most of the songs have a deep melancholy undercurrent -- the tough "Here Comes My Girl" and "Even the Losers" have tender hearts; the infectious "Don't Do Me Like That" masks a painful relationship; "Refugee" is a scornful, blistering rocker; "Louisiana Rain" is a tear-jerking ballad. Yet there are purpose and passion behind the performances that makes Damn the Torpedoes an invigorating listen all the same. Few mainstream rock albums of the late '70s and early '80s were quite as strong as this, and it still stands as one of the great records of the album rock era. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Rock - Released January 1, 1979 | Geffen

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Rock - Released November 23, 2009 | Warner Bros.

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It's a commonly held opinion among fans and band alike that Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers' lone live album, 1986's Pack Up the Plantation, didn't quite capture the group at its peak, so there has been a long-standing need for another live set, which 2009's Live Anthology finally provides. Like its closest cousin, Bruce Springsteen's Live 1975-1985, Live Anthology almost overcompensates for the long wait by offering almost too much music, cherrypicking highlights from 1978 to 2007. In its simplest incarnation, Live Anthology is a super-affordable, four-disc box set running 48 tracks, which is eight cuts longer than Springsteen's box, plenty long enough for most fans, but in its deluxe version, there's an additional CD, plus two previously unreleased DVDs -- a 1978 New Years Eve concert from Santa Monica, a documentary called 400 Days shot during the Wildflowers tour -- a Blu-Ray edition of all 62 tracks on the five-CD version, a vinyl copy of the 1976 Official Live 'Leg LP, plus a book and lithograph, along with other assorted bonuses. Certainly, the deluxe edition lives up to its billing, offering enough extras to justify its price tag, but the standard edition is plenty generous as it is, serving up enough consistently strong music from throughout the decades, ranging from expert covers of Willie Dixon and the Grateful Dead to deep treasures from the Heartbreakers catalog. Apart from the tendency to favor performances that stretch on a little too long with jamming -- something that is a matter of taste, as some prefer energy to improvisations -- if there's any flaw to the set, it's how it goes out of its way to prove the band's consistency by skipping through the decades, letting a version of "Louisiana Rain" from 1972 sit next to a 1997 cover of "Green Onions" and "Melinda" from 2003. This certainly goes a long way to illustrating that Petty & the Heartbreakers always delivered the goods, but it's somewhat at the expense of forward momentum; it's hard not to wish that it was arranged chronologically, to be able to hear the raw energy give way to easy skill, but that's just nitpicking -- any way you look at it, this Live Anthology offers an overdose of prime rock & roll. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Rock - Released April 21, 2010 | Reprise

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Tom Petty has been fronting the Heartbreakers off and on (mostly on) for over 30 years now, and he and his band have been delivering a high level of no-frills, classy, and reconstituted American garage rock through all of it. Petty often gets lumped in with artists like Bruce Springsteen, whose careful and worked-over lyrics carry a kind of instant nostalgia, but Petty's songwriting at its best cleverly bounces off of romance clichés, often with a desperate, lustful drawl and sneer, and he’s usually been more concerned with the here and now than he is about musing about what’s been abused and lost in contemporary America, although he's certainly not blind to it. Petty has always been more immediate than that -- until now, that is. Mojo is Petty's umpteenth album, and technically the first he’s done with the Heartbreakers since 2002’s sly The Last DJ. This time out he’s tackling the blues, trying to graft the Heartbreakers' (Mike Campbell on guitar, Scott Thurston on guitar and harmonica, Benmont Tench on keyboards, Ron Blair on bass, and Steve Ferrone on drums) patented 1960s garage sound to the Chicago blues sound of Chess Records in the 1950s. Sonically it certainly works, mostly because this is a wonderful band, but then it all seems a little tired, worn, and exhausted, too, and not a single song here has that certain desperate, determined defiance that Petty has always delivered in the past with a knowing sneer and a little leering wink. The opener, “Jefferson Jericho Blues,” is a case in point. It starts by being a song about Thomas Jefferson’s dalliance with one of his black maids, and it could have been a scathing indictment of an out-of-date Southern attitude, contemporary racism, and so much more. Instead, it tumbles unfocused into, well, a song about missing a girl and how time moves slow, and one can’t help but wonder why Petty dragged Thomas Jefferson and his maid into any of it in the first place. Petty has never sounded so emotionally drained and detached as a vocalist as he does on this album, and while it’s nice to hear the Heartbreakers flirt with the blues -- and to hear Campbell's clear, precise slide guitar playing -- there’s no excuse for not having solid songs to scaffold it. There’s a worn-out, regretful, and boringly meditative tone to so many tracks here -- this is not what one expects from a band that rocks as fine as this one can. Again, the playing is solid, but one wishes Petty & the Heartbreakers had simply covered some of those old Chess classics rather than trying half-heartedly to write their own -- it would have made for an album closer to intent. ~ Steve Leggett
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Rock - Released January 1, 1991 | Geffen* Records

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Rock - Released July 28, 2014 | Reprise

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Rock - Released March 26, 1985 | Geffen*

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Pop - Released January 1, 1981 | Geffen*

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Rock - Released July 25, 2014 | Reprise

Looking back, it's clear the 2008 Mudcrutch reunion was pivotal for Tom Petty, helping him re-focus and re-dedicate himself to playing in a band. Like the original band, Mudcrutch Mach II didn't last long -- long enough to play a few shows and record a warm, gangly beast of an album -- but it reinvigorated Petty. Afterward, he reveled in the sound of how the Heartbreakers played, digging deep into his catalog to shake up his set lists, letting the group exercise some blues muscles on 2010's Mojo, a record that stood as the Heartbreakers' rowdiest record since the '70s but which is easily overshadowed by the trashy psychedelic pulse of 2014's Hypnotic Eye. Teeming with fuzz, overdriven organ, and hard four-four rhythms, all interrupted by the occasional blues workout or jazz shuffle, Hypnotic Eye comes across as a knowing splice of Petty's own XM radio show Buried Treasures and Little Steven Van Zandt's Sirius channel Underground Garage, a record that celebrates all the disreputable 45s created in garages so they could be played in garages. Occasionally, the band evoke memories of their own past -- "Shadow People" has guitar tones straight out of Shelter Records -- but they're largely dedicated to the sounds that provided them with their original inspirations. What prevents Hypnotic Eye from sliding into the arena of soft, desperate nostalgia is a combination of muscle and savvy, a combination that gives the album a strong infrastructure -- Petty strips his songs to the bone; they're so lean they feel as if they clock in at two minutes, even if they run twice that long -- and a sonic wallop. Much of that visceral thrill is due to co-producers Petty, guitarist Mike Campbell, and Ryan Ulyate accentuating the intuitive interplay in the Heartbreakers with sharp, striking slashes of color; this gives the record immediacy and complexity, which means there is enough aural activity that repeated plays do not dull the LP's initial bracing impact. Ultimately, Hypnotic Eye is a record about the pure joy of sound, a rush that doesn't lessen upon repetition -- a sentiment that's true of those old '60s garage rock singles and early Heartbreakers albums, and this is a surprisingly, satisfyingly vigorous record. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Pop - Released November 2, 1982 | Geffen*

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Pop - Released January 1, 1982 | Geffen*

Riding high on the back-to-back Top Five, platinum hits Damn the Torpedoes and Hard Promises, Tom Petty quickly returned to the studio to record the Heartbreakers' fifth album, Long After Dark. Truth be told, there was about as long a gap between Dark and Promises as there was between Promises and Torpedoes, but there was a difference this time around -- Petty & the Heartbreakers sounded tired. Even if there are a few new wave flourishes here and there, the band hasn't really changed its style at all -- it's still Stonesy, Byrds-ian heartland rock. As their first four albums illustrated, that isn't a problem in itself, since they've found numerous variations within their signature sound, providing they have the right songs. Unfortunately, Petty had a dry spell on Long After Dark. With its swirling, minor key guitars, "You Got Lucky" is a classic and "Change of Heart" comes close to matching those peaks, but the remaining songs rarely rise above agreeable filler. Since the Heartbreakers are a very good band, it means the record sounds pretty good as it's playing, but apart from those few highlights, nothing much is memorable once the album has finished. And coming on the heels of two excellent records, that's quite a disappointment. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Rock - Released April 21, 1987 | Geffen*

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Pop - Released April 2, 1999 | Warner Bros.

Although the stripped-down, immediate production of She's the One was reminiscent of Wildflowers, Tom Petty's forays into Lindsey Buckingham-inspired pop turned out to be a passing thing, since Echo, his first full-fledged record with the Heartbreakers since 1991's Into the Great Wide Open, is an extension of Wildflowers, at least in terms of sound and feel. The weird thing is, Echo sounds like a sinewy band recording, but its sentiment makes it feel like a solo record. To be blunt, much of Echo feels like a by-product of Petty's divorce from his wife of over 20 years; even the intoxicating hard rock of "Free Girl Now" has a layer of sorrow and regret. That weary melancholy is the bond that keeps Echo together, bridging the gap between the ballads and the rockers, providing an emotional touchstone that makes the record more than just another Petty record. Then again, the music on Echo manages to sound like every other Petty album, yet it stays fresh. Petty, Mike Campbell, and Rick Rubin (along with some help from George Drakoulias) keep the spirit of Wildflowers alive by keeping the production uncluttered, direct, and muscular -- which just reveals what a strong, versatile band the Heartbreakers are. And while there are no surprises, Petty once again delivers an album that works as a whole while having several clear highlights -- which is a pretty neat trick, actually. At times, the disc feels a little long, but all the pieces work individually and illustrate that Petty is the rare rocker who knows how to mature gracefully. Although the album is spiked with sadness and regret, nothing on the album feels forced or self-conscious, either lyrically or musically -- and he is one of the few rockers of his generation that can make such a claim. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Rock - Released January 1, 2010 | Geffen

Not long after You're Gonna Get It, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers' label, Shelter, was sold to MCA Records. Petty struggled to free himself from the major label, eventually sending himself into bankruptcy. He settled with MCA and set to work on his third album, digging out some old Mudcrutch numbers and quickly writing new songs. Amazingly, through all the frustration and anguish, Petty & the Heartbreakers delivered their breakthrough and arguably their masterpiece with Damn the Torpedoes. Musically, it follows through on the promise of their first two albums, offering a tough, streamlined fusion of the Stones and Byrds that, thanks to Jimmy Iovine's clean production, sounded utterly modern yet timeless. It helped that the Heartbreakers had turned into a tighter, muscular outfit, reminiscent of, well, the Stones in their prime -- all of the parts combine into a powerful, distinctive sound capable of all sorts of subtle variations. Their musical suppleness helps bring out the soul in Petty's impressive set of songs. He had written a few classics before -- "American Girl," "Listen to Her Heart" -- but here his songwriting truly blossoms. Most of the songs have a deep melancholy undercurrent -- the tough "Here Comes My Girl" and "Even the Losers" have tender hearts; the infectious "Don't Do Me Like That" masks a painful relationship; "Refugee" is a scornful, blistering rocker; "Louisiana Rain" is a tear-jerking ballad. Yet there are purpose and passion behind the performances that makes Damn the Torpedoes an invigorating listen all the same. Few mainstream rock albums of the late '70s and early '80s were quite as strong as this, and it still stands as one of the great records of the album rock era. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Rock - Released January 1, 1985 | Geffen*

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Rock - Released January 1, 1979 | Geffen

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Rock - Released October 8, 2002 | Warner Bros.

Tom Petty has always battled corporations and the music industry -- fighting for lower retail prices for Hard Promises, complaining about videos, and always fighting for old-school, artist-first '60s rock aesthetics. There's a lot to admire about this stance, especially since he's essentially right about corporations having too much of a stranglehold on pop music, but it doesn't provide a solid foundation for an album, as the stultifying The Last DJ illustrates. Not every song on the record is about the death of rock & roll and the evils that corporations do, but it sure feels that way, since it begins with the one-two punch of "The Last DJ" and "Money Becomes King." The former is a bitter lament for the loss of free thought in pop culture, using the DJ as a truth-telling seer; the latter is a rewrite of "Into the Great Wide Open," all about a favorite artist who sells out. Both are didactic with their tortured metaphors and stretched narratives, but they seem subtle compared to the fourth song, "Joe," a heavy-handed tirade about a record company CEO that is unbearable in its awful, vulgar lyrics and is rendered unlistenable by Petty's hammy vocals; it is easily the worst song he's ever written. These front-loaded tracks obscure the lovely "Dreamville," the best song here, and effectively offer an early deathblow to an album that alternately finds Petty muddling through ballads and stumbling through rockers. Though his songcraft serves him well on occasion, it's only on occasion -- the aforementioned "Dreamville," "You and Me," "Have Love Will Travel" -- and the record's spare, black-and-white production doesn't add color to compositions that need it. Throughout The Last DJ, Petty sounds utterly lost -- and instead of liberating him like it did in the past, it paralyzes him, boxing him into a corner where he can't draw on his strengths. It's the first true flop in a career that, until now, had none. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Rock - Released January 1, 1991 | Geffen* Records

Since Full Moon Fever was an unqualified commercial and critical success, perhaps it made sense that Tom Petty chose to follow its shiny formula when he reunited with the Heartbreakers for its follow-up, Into the Great Wide Open. Nevertheless, the familiarity of Into the Great Wide Open is something of a disappointment. The Heartbreakers' sound has remained similar throughout their career, but they had never quite repeated themselves until here. Technically, it isn't a repeat, since they weren't credited on Full Moon, but Wide Open sounds exactly like Full Moon, thanks to Jeff Lynne's overly stylized production. Again, it sounds like a cross between latter-day ELO and roots rock (much like the Traveling Wilburys, in that sense), but the production has become a touch too careful and precise, bordering on the sterile at times. And, unfortunately, the quality of the songwriting doesn't match Full Moon or Let Me Up (I've Had Enough). That's not to say that it rivals the uninspired Long After Dark, since Petty was a better craftsman in 1991 than he was in 1983. There are a number of minor gems -- "Learning to Fly," "Kings Highway," "Into the Great Wide Open" -- but there are no knockouts, either; it's like Full Moon Fever if there were only "Apartment Song"s and no "Free Fallin'"s. In other words, enough for a pleasant listen, but not enough to resonate like his best work. (And considering this, perhaps it wasn't surprising that Petty chose to change producers and styles on his next effort, the solo Wildflowers.) ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Rock - Released November 29, 1977 | Cult Legends

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Rock - Released June 7, 2010 | Reprise

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