Picks and Pans Review: Full Moon Fever

updated 05/29/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/29/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Tom Petty

It seems kind of foolhardy to venture out for a solo album when you're blessed with one of the best backup bands in the business, as Petty is with his Heartbreakers. Well, Tom isn't full-moon loony. This project is in fact addition by subtraction. Not only did he take along the cream of the Heartbreaker crop with him—namely, guitarist Mike Campbell (pianist Benmont Tench also makes a cameo)—but by calling this a solo record, Petty also made it easier for himself to invite in a stellar cast of extras, including drummers Phil Jones and Jim Keltner, George Harrison and left" Lynne, who co-produced with Petty and Campbell. In fact, with the exception of Bob Dylan, all of the Traveling Wilburys are present or accounted for, since the late Roy Orbison contributed background vocals on one song of this album.

The result is a tastefully understated and exceedingly evocative record. And one that covers a lot of ground. You get the churning rock of "Love Is a Long Road" and the misty, dreamlike mood of "A Face in the Crowd." "Free Fallin' " has a deceptively spare acoustic feel at first. But that gentle beginning is just kindling waiting to flare up when the searing chorus kicks in. There's also a sly, jangly cover of "Feel a Whole Lot Better," written by the Byrds' Gene Clark. "Yer So Bad," which Petty wrote with Lynne, allows T.P. to exercise his mordant sense of humor in a skiffle-band setting: "My sister got lucky, married a yuppie/ Took him for all he was worth/ Now she's a swinger dating a singer/ I can't decide which is worse." Listeners won't find themselves faced with a dilemma like that with Full Moon Fever. The "solo" Tom Petty offers the best of both worlds. (MCA)

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