Into the Great Wide Open by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, July 2, 1991
I’ve already reviewed Full Moon Fever, which was Tom Petty’s first solo effort. This is the first album I’ve reviewed in which The Heartbreakers are present. As I stated in Full Moon… My first album I ever had was their greatest hits. Welcome to the 90’s guys.
The album opens with the powerful Learning to Fly. What a track this is, and it reminds me of simpler times in my life. The song was a single, and I do remember it. The video was interesting. Tom’s vocals shine here. Kings Highway comes next and rocks from the moment it begins. The live version is also good and I recommend that if you have it. The guitar solo is decent as well. The title track tells the story of a rock n’ roller who becomes a one hit wonder. Such is the story of a select group of musicians. This song was also everywhere for a brief period.
Two Gunslingers is the tale of two people who come together for a gunfight, only to rethink their actions. This wasn’t a single, but it received a lot of airplay. The track has decent guitar work and had the hallmarks of a smash hit, but the music industry is a fickle creature. The Dark of the Sun also had single potential written all over it, but was not chosen. The trademark jangly guitars are there and Tom sings from the heart, not just half-assing it. All or Nothin’ is a track I might consider to be filler, but I do not see it that way. I see the lyrics tell a story, something that Tom is very capable of and does so expertly. All the Wrong Reasons is next, and is generally a song I skip, only because it bores me. Despite Tom’s storytelling, I’m just not captivated by it that much. Too Good to be True is the eighth track. The song got considerable airplay on stations like Pixy 103, and is a song I remember being played a lot on the garage radio at R.B. Corcoran. The song rocks along and is quite an enjoyable listen.
My favorite track is next, titled Out in the Cold. The track is a rocking number and it conjures up a love that’s gone bad, or one looking for love. Tom sings a lot about love gone wrong, I’ve noticed; but then so do a considerable number of artists. The tenth track is You and I Will Meet Again. This is a track that is below the “Petty standard.” I avoid this one like one does a cold; you don’t want to get caught up in it. The single Makin’ Some Noise was one I frequently heard on the R.B. Corcoran garage radio. Nothing special here, the track is filler. The album finally closes out with Built to Last. The track is quite below the standard set by Mr. Petty. I see a song that was tacked onto the album at the last minute. The song seems out of place here
So, is Into the Great Wide Open shit?
For the most part this album is not shit. The singles all got considerable airplay, and two of them have stood the test of time: Learning to Fly and Into the Great Wide Open. While the album, aside from those two singles has aged horribly, there was once a time when Tom Petty ruled the airwaves. This came at the tail end of said period. After Full Moon Fever, the Petty train continued to chug along, reaching the end of the line. While some see this album as nothing more than an attempt to get radio airplay, I see it as an album to get the next generation of Petty fans listening. This album and Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough) were recorded for my generation.
Too Good to be True reminds me of those who live on Nantucket, as it is almost too good to be true to live there. The same applies for the Vineyard and the Cape too. Overall this album gets spun a lot and it will be a permanent feature in the collection. Excellent listening, and I recommend you seek this out, if not for Learning… and Into… then for the other singles. While this is not a five-star effort, it ranks quite high. Tom’s guitar work is quite solid here and the Heartbreakers work smoothly.