Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers (Reprise Records)
Every now and then comes an album from a tried-and-true mega rock star that takes you back to when he or she wasn't quite so polished, wasn't quite so choreographed, and wasn't quite so much an image crafted by a corporate marketing machine.
This is Petty's, a very welcome throwback during an era of mixed musical signals and a refreshing slap in the face to those who claim rock and roll is dead or, at least, no longer deserving a strong footing in the mainstream as offshoots and sub-genres of it continue to emerge.
Does Hypnotic Eye have the innocence, charm, and raw power of his 1976 self-title debut, 1978's You're Gonna Get It!, or Petty's 1979 double platinum breakthrough, Damn the Torpedoes, the album that launched him into rock's stratosphere? No, but it has the passion. It has guitarist Mike Campbell's fiery licks in full force and Petty sounding like a grown up, wise-for-the-years, reinvigorated, and road-weary poet with a lot of game left, not a 63-year-old resting on past laurels or actually trying to rekindle his past.
Though not exactly psychedelic, there are a few passages in which the music is joyously trippy, too. Listen hard and you'll hear Gainesville, Fla.-native Petty's Southern rock roots merging with the more mellow, wayward Southern California sounds that have influenced him over the decades.
While I confess to being a geek about river metaphors and soulful introspection, I can't shake this beautiful Byrds-like refrain Petty has in "Red River," one of the album's many fine singles: Meet me tonight at the Red River, where the water is clear and cold. Meet me tonight at the Red River and look down into your soul, look down into your soul.
Two other singles, "American Dream Plan B" and "U Get Me High" are being trotted out as highlights, but listeners should be just as pleasantly surprised by the parallels between "Forgotten Man" and one of Petty's first hit singles, "American Girl."
Hypnotic Eye is Petty's first studio release in four years. As Rolling Stone said, it comes across "like buddies out on a weekend garage-jam bender."
Petty's tour isn't slated to come through Ohio, but there's an Aug. 24 show scheduled for the DTE Energy Music Theatre in Clarkston, Mich. The tour has a very interesting marketing experiment that other stars in the music industry are sure to watch: Every concert ticket buyer gets a copy of Hypnotic Eye.
— TOM HENRY,
FROM BRAZIL TO NEW ORLEANS
Charlie Dennard (Self-produced)
A wonderful melding of instruments and eclectic sub-genres of jazz, From Brazil to New Orleans is at times a rapid journey into modern fusion and a beautiful re-examination of what binds two continents together through music.
The conceptual marriage of Brazilian beats and the always unpredictable New Orleans gumbo of anything from funk to R&B to jazz was there waiting to be tapped and Dennard found the sweet spot, with the help of an awesome cast of 20 musicians from New Orleans, Brazil, London, Lebanon, Germany, and New York. Most noteworthy are his hot, saucy instrumental arrangements that have everyone boppin' along to lively and frenetic, yet tight tempos in multicultural and multi-layered dimensions.
The wide assortment of keyboards, accordion, percussion, synthesizers, brass, guitars, and woodwinds takes immense coordination, but the sound's loose, smooth and alluring — again, a testament to Dennard's pitch-perfect arrangements and momentum-building musical vision. You won't find traditional songs per se, but recognizable styles from those of underrecognized Brazilian composers to those of Dixieland jazz and Delta blues and that of a brassy New Orleans street parade.
It's a fun, all-instrumental romp.