Echo (1999)

1. Room at the Top 2. Counting on You 3. Free Girl Now 4. Lonesome Sundown 5. Swingin' 6. Accused of Love 7. Echo 8. Won't Last Long 9. Billy the Kid 10.I Don't Wanna Fight 11.This One's For Me 12.No More 13.About to Give Out 14.Rhino Skin 15.One More Day, One More Night


Throughout Tom Petty's career, whenever he managed to release a really good record (Damn the Torpedoes or Full Moon Fever, for example), he would try to immediately replicate it on his very next release. Although he would always do a pretty good job and come up with a solid effort, the follow-up never quite measured up to the past album. This record is another example. Following what was arguably his best record ever, Wildflowers, Petty again teams up with producer Rick Rubin and goes for a very similar sound. Now, to be honest, if you're keeping track, this one is a "Heartbreakers" release whereas Wildflowers was a solo record. However, at this point, I could never tell the difference and no one really seemed to care. The differences are minimal. Speaking of the Heartbreakers, they were now down to a foursome as drummer Stan Lynch had left the fold. Again, no one really seemed to notice.

Back to the music. This record is very solid. It takes a bit to warm up to because Petty doesn't necessarily sound like the branded Petty that everyone knows. Normally you can count on his southern style drawl, complete with some cool Byrds like guitar riffs coupled with simple, yet off the wall lyrics that dignified Petty's personality. These are many of the trademarks that make Petty so endearing to his fans, yet he uses these traits minimally on this album. They're present on a few tracks - most notably A Room at the Top, which, not surprisingly, manages to be the best song on the whole album by far. Some of the more familiar Petty elements also creep into such songs as Billy the Kid and Swingin', so they're equally as lovable.

A lot of the album, though, sees Petty going into a bit of unfamiliar territory. Songs like Free Girl Now and I Don't Wanna Fight sound like he's trying to be a young hipster and incorporate more music styles from the 90's than the 60's (which, really, was always his trademark). He then gets a bit mellow and introspective on Lonesome Sundown, No More and the song Echo, which aren't immediately accessible, but do become pleasant once given the chance.

With 15 songs clocking it at over 60 minutes, it's very easy to say that this album "feels like it runs too long", but that's being generous. It is too long, but the argument is that, since you don't have to pay per song (at least back in 1999), why should you really care if there are a few extra songs? So,yes, it's a bit bogged down but there are enough nuggets to go around, and it's perfectly acceptable for an artist of his stature to shed his skin every now and then and try to do something a bit different and unexpected.

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