Tom Petty
" The Live Anthology "
Reprise Records

Blueswax 8
Rating 8

Greatest Hits, Blues, Soul, and Rock Classics Nicely Offered Here, (01/06/10)

Retailing for less than $25, this four-CD set features excellent sounding concert material that spans 1978 to 2007. The fifty-nine-year-old Petty handpicked the forty-seven live tracks and, as expected, many of his hits are included, but there are some pleasant surprise covers of Willie Dixon, Bobby Womack, Ellis McDaniels, Koko Taylor, Speedy Keen, Rod Argent, Jerry Garcia, Jeff Lynn, Van Morrison, Bob Dylan, Booker T. & the MG's, the DC 5, Peter Green, and James Brown! There's a big time span, yet the tracks which are not chronologically in order flow so well, plus the sound quality is even from tune to tune. The performances are of a high magnitude, and the listener cannot tell that some of the live cuts range over twenty-six years. This is an amazing accomplishment; obviously a lot of care went into the making of this fine box, as the remix and re-mastering is superb. This box-set is a technological work of audiophile art.. That said, this is not a full concert but a collage of Petty's favorite live performances. Most of his hits are included, but what struck me most was the interesting choice of Blues-based of covers. For example, you get a double-shot from Willie Dixon's songbook with "I Just Want to Make Love to You" and "Diddy Wah Diddy," the later co-authored with Bo Diddley, which are both true to their original versions. Speaking of Diddley, also covered is his co-written (with Koko Taylor) "I'm a Man" which will also bring cheers from Blues fans. Bobby Womack's "I'm In Love" is also a delight, the MG's "Green Onions" is a hoot too, Peter Green's "Oh Well" is smoldering and scintillating and really portrays what a hot and intense band the Heartbreakers are. Near the end of Petty's "Breakdown" there's also an uncredited nod to Brother Ray, where the band hauntingly shifts into a slow-mo rendering of "Hit the Road Jack."

From the rock side some of the chosen material includes Thunderclap Newman's (Speedy Keen) "Something in the Air," Rod Argent's "I Want You Back Again," the Grateful Dead's "Friend of the Devil" all smartly rearranged and showing Petty's appreciation for all genres and eras of music.

Want more oddities? How about an extended take on Van Morrison's "Mystic Eyes" with an outstanding piano solo from longtime Heartbreaker Benmont Tench and sharp drumming from veteran session player Steve Ferrone. From the James Bond soundtrack we get "Goldfinger" where the band seems to be having a good old time, plus the Dave Clark 5's "Anyway You Want It." Last but not least they tackle James Brown's "Good, Good Lovin'" which expectedly lacks the soul as the Godfather's original take. One of my favorite originals is the high-speed "Runnin' Down a Dream'" with a burning guitar solo from Mike Campbell who also co-wrote this killer tune with Petty.

For the obsessive compulsive this collection is also offered in four other configurations, including a massive deluxe edition, which adds a fifth disc of music, two DVDs (a documentary and late-'70s concert) and other bonuses.

All in all this, four-CD set gave me another perspective of what makes Tom Petty tick. Sure, some of the cover versions are a bit bizarre, but it's a fun romp that assuredly offers something for any music fan, which is always executed in hip and creative fashion. High marks are well deserved for Petty for releasing such a diverse offering which really works well for me, and I suspect it will for most of you too- enjoy!

Bob Putignano: