I don't know about you, but I've never had even the slightest
inclination to program CDs to play only my favorite tracks. Sure, I
might punch in a particular song at any given moment -- and I've done my
share of search and destroy, er, I mean search and skip, with the old
remote control to move matters along -- but I choose to believe that
track placements on almost all albums are by design and not accident. I
mean, do you ever find the best songs on an average album buried 8th or
9th? Given, especially, current attention spans -- hey, come back here!
-- only fools and superstars try and get away with that sort of thing.
Which brings us to Tom Petty, who's spent the last 20 years blissfully
hanging out at the intersection of fool and superstar. Not much traffic
around there, true (John Mellencamp's about the only one who passes
through on a regular basis), but an interesting place to reside
nonetheless. Half the time he's running on instinct -- a couple of
jangly chords, a few "hey, baby"s and "Uh-oh's" at chorus time -- and
when he's on that side of the road, he is (to quote Jackson Browne) a
veritable "happy idiot" capable of savanting whole slabs of unmitigated,
inspirational rock 'n' roll.
However, as he notes on the terrific "Won't Last Long"
(RealAudio excerpt) -- track 8 out of 15 here -- "Half my brain is so far away" -- an allusion, no doubt, to
that "I'm a big star, I must have big thoughts" side of Petty's musical
personality. It's that lobe that's responsible for such
belly-button-lint-filled navel contemplations as "Room at the Top" (5
minutes), title track "Echo" (6 1/2 minutes) and "One More Day, One More
Night" (5 1/2 minutes). That these three
longest-songs-on-the-album-brain-drains are strategically placed,
respectively, in the 1, 7, and 15 slots clearly demonstrates Petty's
willfulness to make sure we don't miss such grand statements as "I've
got a room at the top of the world -- and I'm not coming down" (ugh) and
the notion that both people in a failing relationship ultimately feel
the "same sad echo" (ugh squared).
So as I said earlier, even though I'm not a big fan of re-arranging
track lists, I'm going to break with tradition here and suggest that you
program Echo in order to get the best songs all in a row. Start
with track 2, "Counting on You"
(RealAudio excerpt) -- "Breakdown" revisited -- then No. 3,
(RealAudio excerpt) -- Dylan by way of the Hombres and the Syndicate of
Sound -- followed by No. 8, "Won't Last Long" (so he hasn't forgotten
"Listen to Her Heart"!); No. 10, "I Don't Wanna Fight" (Mike Campbell
wrote and sang this one and it's the most gloriously idiotic thing I've
heard by a major group since, oh, probably the Clash's "Should I Stay or
Should I Go?," right down to the "Louie, Louie" guitar solo -- Sonics
version, of course); No. 11, "This One's For Me" (we'll give Petty his
one deep thought; besides, it sounds nice and Byrdsy); and No. 13,
"About to Give Out" (highlight: great slophouse piano solo by Benmont Tench).
Yes, yes, I know. I've boiled this 15-cut collection down to just six
songs and reduced it from 62 minutes to just over 20. To which I say:
Art may be long, but life is short. Your move.