Anthology: Through The Years

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

MCA, 2000

REVIEW BY: Mark Millan


Tom Petty is without a doubt one of America’s greatest songwriters. Along with The Heartbreakers, he is the heart and soul of American rock and has provided some of its best music over the last thirty-two years. If anyone is in doubt over this, go out and pick up a copy of Through The Years and let the music speak for itself. The fact that this is the only Heartbreakers album not to break into the Billboard #100 is astounding. Maybe everyone already had the Greatest Hits or were just too cheap to shell out for a double disc set, who knows.

Few bands could fill two discs with their finest work and not have one flat spot or crappy new singles to try and flesh it out, and The Heartbreakers are one of those few. Released in 2000, this compilation groups together the band’s finest movements from their recorded work for the MCA label. It covers every album, from their eponymous 1976 debut through to 1993’s Greatest Hits.  The only new recording is re-recorded version of “Surrender,” which is hardly necessary but rewarding nonetheless.

The first disc covers all the singles from the group’s first five albums. The aforementioned debut disc is represented by the first four tracks.  The slow-burning “Breakdown” kicks off the set and is followed by the band’s breakthrough classic, “American Girl.” Easily two of their best songs, they still sound as fresh and edgy today as they must have upon their release. “I Need To Know,” taken from the group’s second LP (1978’s You’re Gonna Get It!), hits you instantly and at only a tad over two minutes, it never wears out its welcome.

“Listen To Her Heart,” again taken from the second LP, follows, and it’s one of my personal favorites; it really stands head and shoulders with their best work. By now, they were beginning to nail the sound that they would become famous for, and what a sound it is: rock played without too much gloss and fanfare, the emphasis on the blues-fueled swampy jams and great lyrics from Petty.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Two great things happened in mid October 1979: I was born on the fifteenth day and shortly after on the 19th, Petty and his posse released their stunning breakthrough album, Damn The Torpedoes. Four tracks are represented here with the classic “Refugee” being the standout. It’s one of those songs that has a life of its own and by now has become one of the classic rock songs of all time.

“The Waiting” and “Stop Dragging My Heart Around” help to round out the first disc with style.  The former is again one of the group’s finest moments and the latter was recorded with the band’s only honorary member, Stevie Nicks. Unless you’ve been living under a rock since ‘81, you’ll know it and could hum it in your sleep; it’s larger than life and another classic that is still played heavily on rock radio today.

“Rebels,” taken from Southern Accents released in ’85, opens disc two and is followed by Petty’s collaboration with the Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart, “Don’t Come Around Here No More.” The song was a definite departure for the band and a pretty good blending of their respective talents (and The Alice In Wonderland themed video was gold as well). “Jammin’ Me,” co-written by Petty and Mike Campbell with Bob Dylan, is here as well and holds its ground much better here than it does on its patchy, albeit rocking, LP of origin. 

Petty released his first solo album Full Moon Fever in 1989, co-written and produced with fellow Wilbury Jeff Lynne. “Free Fallin’” is one of Petty’s finest moments and Lynne’s signature sound works wonders with his soulful delivery. “Yer So Bad” is another acoustic gem and “I Won’t Back Down” is a Petty classic and contains some of his best lyrics to date. The star of that album, however, was “Runnin’ Down A Dream,” a brilliant rocker with a killer riff and great lyrics, capped off with one the best video clips from the decade.

The mega-selling Into The Great Wide Open gets a look in with the title track, “Learning To Fly” and another favorite of mine “Two Gunslingers.” Once again produced with Lynne, this is a great album  that saw Petty (along with Full Moon Fever) gain his best reviews and biggest sales so far. 

Next up is “Mary Jane’s Last Dance.” It’s a great blues and has become a crowd favorite at their gigs and was recorded for the band’s previously mentioned Greatest Hits set. “Waiting For Tonight” is next and features The Bangles on backing vocals. Recorded for Full Moon Fever but never used, it gets its belated debut here and is probably Petty at his most pop. The re-recorded “Surrender” closes out this two-hour plus set in style.

The Heartbreakers are the real deal, easily one of America’s best ever bands and with the prolific and charismatic Petty at the helm, they were never really in doubt of reaching their now legendary status.

Rating: A

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© 2008 Mark Millan and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of MCA, and is used for informational purposes only.