Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Tom Petty 18: Mojo

Obviously invigorated by both the Mudcrutch experience and his recent trip through the vaults, Tom decided to take a direct approach for only the second Heartbreakers album since the turn of the century. Mojo sounds like nothing else in his catalog, and that can be taken any way you want.
Right off the bat “Jefferson Jericho Blues” sports a heavy harmonica riff over fairly standard changes. Then “First Flash Of Freedom” delivers chords that wouldn’t sound out of place on an Allman Brothers album, taken to the extreme on the solo section with dueling guitars and organ swells. The soul groove continues on “Running Man’s Bible”, with a classic Petty chorus sure to please concertgoers. “The Trip To Pirate’s Cove” (sadly, not a Hardy Boys homage) is a little more gentle, but still tries to add some mystery early on in the proceedings. Unfortunately, “Candy” isn’t very exciting, with stereotypical blues sentiments repeated over a fairly staid rhythm. “No Reason To Cry” is a definite step up, and a very gentle change of pace.
The volume goes up again on “I Should Have Known It”, an excellent rocker with a snaky riff, pounding drums, a wonderfully snotty vocal and a double-time section. It barely fades away before “U.S. 41” comes in with more country blues. “Takin’ My Time” is pretty plodding until Mike Campbell takes his first solo, and the tightness of the band reveals itself. “Let Yourself Go” borrows the feel of “Spike” from Southern Accents, speeds it up a bit, and throws some different dirt on it.
“Don’t Pull Me Over” has something of a reggae beat, and a fairly direct plea to highway patrolmen, but we wonder when was the last time he would have had to deal with highway patrolmen directly. “Lover’s Touch” brings back something of an Allman vibe, and more of a ‘70s sound frames “High In The Morning”. “Something Good Coming” is quiet, but sounds more like typical Petty. And they end with a bang on “Good Enough”, a minor key waltz anchored by a dramatic guitar and a story about a girl.
Petty said Mojo was written under the influence of old blues records, and for the most part, it shows. The liner notes helpfully detail when each song was recorded and with which instruments. The three heaviest (read: best) tracks are co-written by Mike Campbell, who spends most of the album playing a vintage Les Paul, and it still sounds just like him. The snare doesn’t quite pop enough for our taste; perhaps the vinyl edition has more bite. Ultimately, the album’s a little long, and he’s just not that convincing as a blues man.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Mojo (2010)—

1 comment:

  1. My favorite tracks are the sort of psychedelic blues tracks “First Flash of Freedom” and “The Trip to Pirates Cove”, hands down. “Jefferson Jericho Blues” is the strangest track ever to open a Petty album. Tom rarely, if ever, referred to real world events in his lyrics. I wonder what point he was trying to make. “Candy” is just an intentionally silly song along the lines of “Honey Bee”. “No Reason to Cry” could have found a home on “Wildflowers”. Unfortunately, we then hit a monotonous stretch with the next three, which sound like I thought the whole album was going to sound like. Things perk up with “Let Yourself Go”. For what I understand, Tom never had a driver’s license, so the next track stretches credibility, but Tom’s take on reggae works. After that, only “Something Good Coming” stands out. So, in the end, I must agree that the album is too long. Cut it down by about 20 minutes, and there’s an album that would get bumped up to at least a 3.