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What makes a good blog? I think thematic consistency, a little exhibitionism, and honest writing. I can promise you the last one.

Most of my posts seem to be about music or politics. Some of them are funny. But all of them would love to hear a comment from you.

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I was born at a relatively young age. Growing up consumed the better part of my childhood. As a young man I chased a lot of girls. But they kept getting away. Then I got older and even slower, so I got married. I've lived in New York City almost since before I moved here. I summer in Manhattan, which is like New York City, but with more humidity.

Here's me, without baby, thinking big thoughts. (Actually, what I'm thinking is, "Hey, these aren't Pringles!") I think I look better with baby.

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Review: Tom Petty, Highway Companion
Friday, August 04, 2006
"Rock'n'roll will never go out of style," said Tom Petty in a 1999 interview. "The design is flawless."

This summer Petty and the Heartbreakers celebrate 30 years together, with a big tour that revels in his biggest hits and best-loved songs, both with Heartbreakers ("Refugee," "American Girl," "Mary Jane's Last Dance") and without ("Free Fallin'," "I Won't Back Down," and Traveling Wilburys hit "Handle With Care.") And he has a new record out, his first since 2002 (the longest he's ever gone without a record).

Frankly, I thought the tour was a little... rote. I'll see it again to make sure. It hit all the high points, but as a fan who's seen the Heartbreakers maybe 25 times, I'd have preferred a few less hits and a few more... misses. Still, Petty never disappoints, and if the show seemed a tad too "arena-ready," well, he's a pro, and as arena shows go it delivered the goods and rocked the house. I'll see him later in August at an outdoor shed, and I'm hoping the vibe will be different.

But the record... damn, I'm pleased with it. Here's the review I wrote on Amazon (if you like it, go vote me as "helpful.")

A new Tom Petty record is always a welcome occasion (even the ones produced by Jeff Lynne.) Highway Companion is Petty's third solo album, and the previous two (Full Moon Fever and Wildflowers) are generally considered to be among the best in his now-30-years-long history.

Jeff Lynne produces with a lighter touch than usual, which is a good thing; he lets the music breathe, and as a result it sounds earthy and organic, which is how Petty should be recorded. Many of the best songs harken back to the breezy, wistful Wildflowers, especially the lovely "Square One," which Petty introduced in concert this past June by calling it one of the songs he was especially close to.

Guitarist (and Heartbreaker "co-captain") Mike Campbell is, as usual, the secret weapon here. Campbell is absolutely meticulous about guitar sounds; he manages to get precisely the right tone on each solo, each track. Listen to the way his brief but poignant solo pierces like an arrow when he steps up during "Down South;" prickly, trebly, a little bit of echo. If you listen closely, you can hear just how much effort Campbell puts into sounding so effortless. Listen to his full, rubbery tone on "Night Driver;" he manages to speak volumes just by the sound of his guitar, almost regardless of what he plays. And what he plays is going to be note-perfect and spot-on.

Indeed, the credits list only three players-- Petty (who covers the drums), Lynne (bass, among other things) and Campbell. The record has a casual feel to it, a gentle, friendly and inviting vibe. After repeated listens, the message-- about the passage of time-- begins to seep in ("Turn this car around/I'm going back...") "You can look back, babe... but its best not to stare," Petty sings in "Big Weekend." "If you don't run, you rust."

I liked Echo (1999) a lot, and was unmoved by The Last DJ (2002). Highway Companion is a "small" record, in the way the Wildflowers was small compared to Damn the Torpedoes. But it is full of grace and easy, confident singing and playing, by a guy (and his musical cronies) who has little left to prove, and yet manages to prove he's still vital. It isn't a pump-your-fist-in-the-air record; it is a sway-in-the-breeze-in-Indian-Summer record. But I'm already sure it will end up one of my favorites from the Petty canon.

Petty is on the road with the Heartbreakers, celebrating 30 years together. The tour is a big, boistrous celebration. This record is also celebratory, but in a very different way. It is an adult record, full of tasty and tasteful playing, confronting the passage of time but ultimately finding an easy peace with it. A gently strummed, unilateral cease fire with the passage of time. Bravo.


Posted by: --josh-- @ 10:54 AM  

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