Saturday, June 12, 2010

Mojo - Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

America's truest Rock & Roll band finally makes a comeback, making their first album in eight years (since 2002's The Last DJ). Initially the big question we've been asking ourselves is could they make another great record, having not done anything new in such a long time? The answer my friend, is YES, and boy do they do it in style. Enter Mojo, the Heartbreakers' loosest album to date, and their best since 1991's Into The Great Wide Open. This album captures the band at the absolute top of their game, in terms of musicianship. It is unlike anything they've ever done before. Tom Petty said he wanted to present the band as it was in the studio with very little overdubbing, and without any after-tweaking or auto-tuning or any of that production shit. He has done the right thing. Think Polaroid.

Mojo is a very blues-sounding name. And you'll hear plenty of intense blues on Mojo, and a good mix of light-hearted rock & roll tunes like Candy, Running Man's Bible and High In The Morning. Most of the stuff sound familiar, yet fresh at the same time. The record opens with Jefferson Jericho Blues, with Mike Campbell's guitar and Scott Thurston's harmonica playing in perfect sync. There's a very 'live' feel to it, like it's been done in just one take (maybe those Mudcrutch sessions a few years ago paid off!). And that goes the same for most of the other fourteen songs here. Yes, there are lots of songs, but they are all sequenced in a particular order for more emotional impact, and not only that, the transitions from song to song are incredibly seamless. First Flash Of Freedom moves into some psychedelic 'jam-band' territory where the music evokes the Grateful Dead. I love Mike's solo here, with Benmont Tench's ever-trusty keyboards propelling the music forward. There's one part where the band stops playing and you just hear the guitar, and then everything comes in together. It's just so damn bad.

No Reason To Cry is a country-sounding ballad reminiscent of the classic Wildflowers album. This is followed by another high point -- a blues-tinged I Should've Known It. Drummer Steve Ferrone and bassist Ron Blair play it pretty tight on this one. Again Mike shines here, providing some Led Zeppelin influenced riffs. U.S. 41 has Tom singing through a bullet mic, making him sound like a classic blues-man from way back, and has Mike doing some awesome slide guitar. The blues continue into Takin' My Time, paying homage to Muddy Waters' Hoochie Coochie Man. Then a surprise comes in Don't Pull Me Over -- the Heartbreakers finally doing a reggae song! And may I say Tom can pass off as a great reggae singer too. The album ends with a somewhat dark Southern mystical blues number, Good Enough.

If there's a MVP for this entire album, it has to be Mike Campbell. We all know how great a guitar player he is, but his solos have been rather restricted in the past few Heartbreakers' records. Here in Mojo, he's finally let out of his cage and is on fire, using his Sunburst Les Paul throughout the entire record. And let's not forget that he's also surrounded by the best musicians in the business. Now I'm just waiting for Tom to bring this tour out of the States and to the rest of the world, who've been dying to see him for the past twenty years!