For four years, Tom Petty kept us waiting for new material. And now as a seasoned veteran of all things classic rock, he along with his Heartbreakers offers audiences Mojo. Mojo – magic, charm, self-confidence, raw sex appeal…not really the kind of term that people would think of when describing Tom Petty’s music. This album should have been simply titled “Blues” because that is in its very essence what it is.
Tom Petty’s repertoire has always lent towards that Southern-fried sensibility yet maintained a contemporary pop sound that lent itself to countless hits. There have been touches of blues licks on albums like Echo and Highway Companion but the blues never really dominated.
Nevertheless, Mojo has had mixed reviews. This mature offering could be described as one-faceted, music for musicians…but I’m not from this camp. I love it. And Tom Petty fans are digging it.
The album was originally announced as a back to basics, no overdubs, no frills, no re-takes album. And with that it is refreshing and quite rightly shows off the band’s established talent. The album art boasts the equipment used and a lovely collaged photograph of the band – a little grey and wrinkled and remarkably unrock-n-roll. The best bit is the teasing pictures of the guitars in the background, hanging on the wall – an impressive array of vintage axes and Rickenbacker logos galore.
The album starts off with a fast-paced, rhythm-matic track in Jefferson Jericho Blues complete with fuzzy guitar riffs, pounding piano and Tom Petty’s iconic nasally vocals. Start as you mean to go on is what it says to me.
This is followed up by a scalular, sliding guitar intro of First Flash of Freedom before breaking into a laid-back jazzy ¾ time instrumental as Tom Petty’s vocals emerge, listless and poetic – “Love it is hard, Like an overdue train. We felt so much more, than our hearts could explain” and “A fistful of glory, a suitcase of sin”.
Tom Petty’s talent for the narrative lyric is also felt in later tracks particularly in the Clapton-esque reggae tune Don’t Pull Me Over and The Trip to Pirate’s Cove.
By the middle of the album, a seasoned listener would pick up on that naked recording with the occasional sloppy fingering of guitar solo like on the kickin’ I Should Have Known Better. But rather than turning you off, it should sorta give you that impression of a live performance.
Americana is another stark theme to this album. Tracks like Candy ooze 40s American South with its references to coca-cola, moonshine and fruit jars. US 41’s acoustic styling, vocal drawl and effects that sound like it is being played on vinyl. And a more modern country ballad with mournful guitar like that of No Reason to Cry.
With 15 tracks, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers certainly aren’t stingy to listeners with Mojo. Classic rock aficionados, Petty lovers and fans of music like Clapton and BB King should really get into this CD.
Watch the video for Jefferson Jericho Blues here…