Highway Companion (2006)


 
1. Saving Grace 2. Square One 3. Flirting With Time 4. Down South 5. Jack 6. Turn This Car Around 7. Big Weekend 8. Night Driver 9. Damaged By Love 10.This Old Town 11.Ankle Deep 12.The Golden Rose

 

Around the turn of the century, when Petty was pushing 50, he stated that when he was younger, he never thought that he would still be playing rock and roll music when he turned 40, and now that he was almost 50, he had no intentions of quitting anytime soon. That was a good thing, as he was 55 when this album was released and sounded as fresh and vital as ever.

You can hear, however, themes of aging on this album. This seems to be one big reflection of the aging process, and most of the songs seem to be about traveling in a car and looking back at his life (hence the album title). Unless you're a "lyrics" person, none of this really matters that much. It's a Tom Petty album, and it sounds like a Tom Petty album - and a pretty good one too.

Jeff Lynne is back at the helms of the producer, yet this doesn't sound much like a Jeff Lynne album. Lynne's trademark multi-layered vocals, instruments and reverb of sound are absent, and this one is much more pure and simple. Most of the songs here are between "very good" and "great", with only a few tunes that seem a bit unworthy. Highlights are the two singles Big Weekend and the ZZ Top-ish State of Grace. Some of the slowed down numbers have charms as well, such as Square One and the closing number The Golden Rose.

This album feels very quick, but it isn't really - it probably feels that way because so many of Petty's latter albums have 15 songs and are over 60 minutes in length. Had this album gone that same path, it probably would have bogged things down a bit. As it is, some songs like Turn This Car Around and Night Driver (did I mention all the songs seem to be about driving or riding in a car?) tend to be a bit tedious, so it's probably best that he kept it at the length that it is.

It's not a "Heartbreakers" album either, but as I've said in many of my reviews of this artist, I can't really tell a difference. It seemed like the only consistent Heartbreakers were Mike Campbell and Ben Tench, and those guys seemed to be on his "solo" albums anyway (for the record, Campbell is on this one, Tench is not).

A good addition to a very strong existing catalog.

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