Friday, February 5, 2010

Tom Petty 13: She’s The One

In a fantastic case of “whoops, I made an album,” Petty started with a couple of songs for a movie, and managed to stretch it into a full-length cohesive set by adding a couple of odd covers and some leftovers from Wildflowers.
As happens on all good soundtracks, She’s The One features a few variations on themes. The key song here is “Walls”, which appears in a “Circus” arrangement and again in a more straightforward rock version dubbed “No. 3”. Tom Petty is one of those rare individuals who can not only twist those same four chords into such a classic as “Walls”, but even have two different versions on the album both that good. If you’re listening closely enough, you can even hear it in the brief instrumental “Hope On Board”, pretty as it is.
The other major theme is “Angel Dream”, which we hear first in its “No. 4” incarnation, and again in a slightly stripped down “No. 2” take. It provides a tender, almost hopeful flipside to the questioning of “Walls”.
Overall it’s not the sunniest album, outside of the ode to “California”. “Grew Up Fast” and particularly the brief “Hope You Never” are filled with angry remorse, while “Supernatural Radio” and “Hung Up And Overdue” are epic glances into an unknown future.
As for the covers, they’re an intriguing pair. On “Change The Locks”, he doesn’t have to stretch too far to sound exactly like Lucinda Williams. And Beck’s little-known “Asshole” goes along with the first verse of “Zero From Outer Space” to guarantee the album won’t be played around young children.
She’s The One is an unjustly overlooked chapter in both his canon and that of the Heartbreakers. And despite a few moments, the songs don’t feature all that much in the movie itself. So we must take it for what it is: a pretty decent Heartbreakers album.

Apparently that wasn’t good enough for the estate, because after expanding the Wildflowers album and reclaiming some of the leftovers used here, somebody decided to “reimagine” the album with less emphasis on its purpose as a soundtrack, and with a new mix by Ryan Ulyate. Angel Dream—still retaining the original title as a subtitle—now begins with the “No. 2” version of its title song, reprised as the instrumental “French Disconnection” as the closer. We only get “Walls (No. 3)”, not the hit “Circus” version, though “Supernatural Radio” is extended by about a minute. “Airport” and “Hope On Board” are gone, but three unreleased songs are supposed to make up the difference. Interestingly, all three date from the 1992-1993 sessions with Stan Lynch, making them further outtakes from Wildflowers and not from the soundtrack period in the slightest. “One Of Life’s Little Mysteries” is an odd vaudeville experiment, and the weary “Thirteen Days” is a J.J. Cale cover, but “105 Degrees” is good fun, cheesy organ and all.
It’s a strikingly different listening experience, especially for those so familiar with the original sequence. Beginning with “Angel Dream” and “Grew Up Fast” makes it darker, and the rest of the sequence seems very random, particularly with not two but three covers in the lineup. Still, the songs stand up. But while new cover art was probably a given, what they used was frankly a swing and a miss.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Songs And Music From The Motion Picture She’s The One (1996)—4
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Angel Dream (2021)—

1 comment:

  1. The same rating as “Wildflowers”? With two covers, two film instrumentals, and two songs with two different versions each, I can’t really agree. But it is very good and has a fair amount of variety.
    “Change the Locks” is even more sneering than the original, amazingly. On the other hand, the Beck cover is full of self-pity, something Petty was never about. “Zero from Outer Space” takes that, on the other hand, to a hilarious parody. “California” is a nice piece of whimsy. “Hung Up and Overdue”, with the presence of Carl Wilson, a quote from “Surfin’ Safari” and droning piano reminiscent of “Smile”, is a triple evocation of the Beach Boys. “Walls” and “Angel Dream” are very touching ballads. As for the rest of the songs, again, one has to wonder if the lyrics have less to do and more to Tom’s personal situation at the time.
    I can’t recall ever seeing the movie. I’ll have to check it out.