Damn the Torpedoes (1979)


 
1. Refugee 2. Here Comes My Girl 3. Even the Losers 4. Shadow of a Doubt (A Complex Kid) 5. Century City 6. Don't Do Me Like That 7. You Tell Me 8. What Are You Doin' in My Life? 9. Louisiana Rain

 

On his first two albums, Tom Petty was slowly and quietly emerging as one of rock and roll's up and coming stars. On this, his third album, he exploded. There are quite a few that will maintain that, despite tons of success in the decades to follow, this album remains his crowning achievement.

Producer Jimmy Iovine manages to bring out a style on this record that was missing on Petty's earlier albums. Whereas his first two records, as fun and rollicking as they were, seemed to be lacking that special something that made really good records great. This album has a bit of a "wall of sound" production that goes really great inside a bowling alley or a skating rink - or inside the gymnasium of a high school dance. All of this works to Petty's advantage. Never had Mike Campbell's guitar nor Ben Tench's electric keyboards sounded so good. Not to mention Petty's homage to the Byrds' Roger McGuinn in most everything he wrote and sang.

None of this would mean squat had the songs not been first rate. The album is stacked from front to back with highly memorable material - more than half of the songs seemed to have either been all over the radio back in 1979, or still staples in Petty's show all these years later. Every fan knows Don't Do Me Like That, Refugee and Here Comes My Girl, yet the rest of the record is far from filler with great tracks such as Century City, Shadow of a Doubt (Complex Kid) and the fast paced What are You Doin' In My Life?. All of these songs had the potential of being top ten singles, and fans everywhere are glad that Petty hasn't forgotten any of them - mixing them up more than thirty years after the album's release during his live shows.

The most ambitious song is also arguably the best, as Petty saves it for the closer in the country-ish Louisiana Rain. This song sounds unlike anything he'd ever done, in that there seems to have been meticulous care involved in writing and recording. This isn't a slam against anything else that he's ever done, it's just he's never really needed to go through such trouble to write a great song and one would almost fear that the fact that he does so on this song, might muck things up a bit. He succeed's wonderfully, and it's not any surprise that in future songs, he would sound a bit more "grown up" without sacrificing style or substance.

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