“Rock ‘n’ roll is here to stay,” Tom Petty said during a recent interview on “The David Letterman Show.” Petty and the Heartbreakers prove the point in their new album, Echo (Warner Bros.), which shows rock ‘n’ roll’s staying power despite changing times and changing musical styles.
Although the album doesn’t have pop-driven hits like older Petty classics such as “Free Fallin'” or “Last Dance with Mary Jane,” Echo has a soothing lineup of songs that take listeners back to days when highway rebels still were considered romantic.
The album begins with “Room at the Top,” which wistfully sums up running themes about accepting the past in order to appreciate the present. Petty’s effortless, directed line of vocals, accompanied only by acoustic guitar, begin the song. After the first verse, drums and electric guitar join in for dramatic effect. “Room at the Top” unassumingly stirs emotions. It would work well as background music for a post-break-up scene.
A notable track, “Swingin'” is a narrative about a 21-year-old girl who is “standin’ by the highway in her boots and silver spurs.” Apparently the girl is running from the law or a bad relationship, and “she went down swingin’.”
Colorful rebels and outcasts, many of which are played by Petty, are cast as the tragic heroes in this album. “This One’s For Me” is a bouncy track that explains the plight of someone who keeps botching up and finally decides to make a commitment. The chorus goes, “I threw all I had into the sea/I wanna little back/This one’s for me.”
A misunderstood romantic, Petty addresses issues of love gone bad in the title track, “Echo.” In this song, Petty softly growls words to a swaying song about love-induced bitterness. Drenched in sentimentality, the song isn’t one of the album’s best.
Other low points on the album are “About to Give Out” and “Won’t Last Long,” which are stereotypical 1970s inspired tracks that easily could fit in on compilation albums such as Freedom Rock. But this is expected considering The Heartbreakers ’70s roots.
Other than anachronisms such as “About to Give Out” and “Won’t Last Long,” Echo offers a fresh musical perspective from rock veterans. Messages are clear and honest. Petty and the Heartbreakers do not value complexity – they prefer a direct song-writing approach, lyrically and musically. Echo may not be in style, but the album offers grounded, polished compositions only legends are capable of creating.