Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
First Appeared at The Music Box, October 1999, Volume 6, #10
Written by John Metzger
Over the past decade, Tom Petty has subtly toyed with his sound, working in a wide array of classic rock influences. In some ways, Echo is a return to Petty's harder-edged earlier habits of scripting albums full of all-out rockers. Yet there are plenty of softer moments scattered throughout Echo as well. The music seems to ride the ups and downs of the disintegration of a relationship and the development of a new one. Therein lies the key to understanding exactly what Petty has done.
Echo is exactly that what its title implies -- a reflection of Petty's own personal life that resonates with the emotions that he has endured over the past few years. It also embodies that sad and lonely emptiness felt when a lover walks away. The introspective songwriting that Petty embraced on Wildflowers has merged head-on with the driving force of The Heartbreakers with an explosive urgency that pushes this album onward.
For every act of rebellion and anger, there's a pervasive sense of sorrow and insecurity. Petty may defiantly refuse to come down from his room at the top of the world, but he still has a need to connect with someone. At first he sings, "I've got a room where everyone/Can have a drink and forget/Those things that went wrong in their life." Later, he whispers with desperation, "I love you/Please love me/I'm not so bad."
Echo's title track is the album's centerpiece and is perhaps its best song. The emotion in Petty's voice is matched by the Heartbreakers' fitting accompaniment. Most notably, the piano fills of Benmont Tench are delivered with a hollow intonation that captures the emptiness in Petty's heart and the sadness in his voice. The psychological consequences from his loss run deep. Even as he meets someone new, the echo of his emotional turmoil makes it so that he "can't trust anyone no more." His new love interest might be his soulmate, and he sings, "It could be fate/I'm just not sure."
Echo also seems to be a turning point for Petty. The latter half of the album is his rebound. He's "down, but it won't last long." He unleashes his anger through guitarist Mike Campbell's I Don't Wanna Fight, and takes a moment for himself on This One's for Me. It's the beginning of his healing process, something he realizes he must take one day at a time. He urges his new love and himself to hold out just a little bit longer and things will surely work themselves out. On the concluding One More Day, One More Night, Petty begins to see the light at the end of the tunnel, giving hope for a happy beginning to the next chapter of his life.
Of Further Interest...
Echo is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 1999 The Music Box