Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, who remain one of my favorite American rock bands, are back with new material. My review of the CD was published recently in Las Vegas City Life
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Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Mojo (Reprise)
That old appealing Heartbreakers sound is all there on Tom Petty's first official studio recording with his reliable bandmates in eight years. It's a durable blend of rootsy garage rock and Americana--Petty's pleading, drawling vocals and jangly rhythm guitars, Mike Campbell's bluesy leads, Benmont Tench's oozing B3 organ and sturdy rhythm-section grooves. There's a certain aural spaciousness at work, too, as listeners can hear every snap of the snare and crackle of a pick on the string of a guitar, each one of which is identified by year, make, model and, in some cases, color.
The Heartbreakers' songwriting mojo, though, is another matter. Nothing on this set of music, recorded live without overdubs, smacks of instant classic.
Still, fans will warm to the jazzy sprawl of the Allmans-esque First Flash of Freedom," the gritty R&B bounce of Running Man's Bible" and I Should Have Known It," a surprisingly raw rocker with Led Zeppelin writ large all over. The closing Good Enough" is a laidback-to-nervy ode to an American girl, a song equipped with some of the disc's most vivid images. Throughout, Campbell, sounding newly invigorated, is given more space than ever to wail, and he does.
Pleasant, and occasionally engaging? Yes. A fully satisfying return to form? No.