Tom Petty: An American Treasure (Reprise) | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Sunday, May 24th, 2020  

Tom Petty

An American Treasure


Oct 02, 2018 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

As the title states, Tom Petty is an American treasure. His passing in 2017 was a tragedy of epic proportions. Petty's music is essentially American. Like him or not, his songs seem to be imprinted on our DNA. An American Treasure, the first posthumous release, curated by his wife and daughter, along with bandmates Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench and producer/engineer Ryan Ulyate, is proof of his eternal genius, and one of the best box sets this reviewer has listened to in quite some time.

While a Standard two-disc collection is available, the Super Deluxe edition of An American Treasure is the best representation of Petty's legacy, featuring 60 tracks spread over four CDs, arranged chronologically by decade. The set is heavy on unreleased songs, alternate versions, and live tracks. While album cuts are sprinkled in, they are always deep tracks included to round out the musical picture. The hits, while represented here, are always done so in live or alternative form. All this makes for a particularly satisfying, rewarding, and comprehensive view of Petty's legacy, while remaining a completely fresh listen for even the most ardent fan.

Digging into specifics, the first disc begins with "Surrender," a previously unreleased track from the sessions for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' self-titled 1976 debut. "You're Gonna Get It," from the album of the same name, is included here in an alternate version with strings layered overtop the guitar solo and building to the end of the track, which provides an interesting ELO-type touch to the vicious breakup song. And the disc ends with "Lost In Your Eyes," a beautiful unreleased ballad from the original 1974 Mudcrutch sessions, featuring yearning piano and stately horns.

Disc two examines the '80s, starting with "Keep a Little Soul," an unreleased track from the Long After Dark sessions in 1982, an up tempo tune with call and response vocals on the chorus. "Even the Losers" is represented via a fine down-tempo, piano-driven live cut. "The Apartment Song," which surfaced on 1989's Full Moon Fever, is present here in demo form, a duet recorded with Stevie Nicks five years before the studio version saw the light of day. Live versions of "King's Road" and "A Woman In Love (It's Not Me)" from 1981 find Petty at the height of his powers, and the disc ends with an early take of "King of the Hill," a song Petty wrote with Roger McGuinn and which ended up on McGuinn's 1991 album Back From Rio.

The third CD begins with a stunning slowed-down rendition of "I Won't Back Down" from 1997, and features two unreleased songs from 1998's Echo sessions and three from the Wildflowers sessions, including the rollicking rockabilly "Lonesome Dave." The final disc reminds of how strong Petty's later albums were. A couple of unreleased tracks from Hypnotic Eye are included, and even The Last DJ and Highway Companion albums are represented here. The real gem on the final disc of this set, however, is "Insider," a song from 1981's Hard Promises, recorded live with Stevie Nicks in 2006 and accented with mandolin.

Altogether, An American Treasure is the perfect posthumous compilation for an artist that deserves a perfect posthumous compilation. It reminds you of the fire Petty started out with and the dignified songwriter he became, and how he never lost a step. It also reminds how depressing his passing remains. How much more Tom Petty could have offered in the next 20 years. We can never underestimate how much he is, and will continue to be, missed. This set makes all of this crystal clear. (  

Author rating: 9/10

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