Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
Angel Dream (Songs from The Motion Picture “She’s The One”)
We’ve been lucky to receive a lot of great Petty reissues in the wake of his death. Not too much to get your head around, nothing so cynical it feels like a cash-in, and all respectfully done. The Wildflowers album/era was a favourite for a lot of fans – and so the alternate versions and deluxe reissue have been welcomed. This was the start of a real second (or third) wave in Petty’s career. His post Wilburys reinvention as an elder statesmen (despite only just entering into his 40s) got the band on track again, ironically fueled by a couple of ‘solo’ albums.
One of the projects from this era – many of the songs were written as part of the Wildflowers sessions, several others arriving just on the back of it – that was a part of the re-focusing of Petty, in at least a musical sense, was his soundtrack for the Edward Burns film, She’s The One.
This was just a horrible film. And I see no need to revisit it – it won’t have aged well at all. But the music was sublime. So this reworking of the soundtrack is welcome. The subtitle is still there – but now it gets a chance to stand divorced somewhat from the movie. I remember the feeling of being torn – I loved the music at the time, rushed to get the soundtrack, loving the hot streak Petty was on. And then watching the film I cringed hard. I even had to have a conversation with myself as to whether I could keep the soundtrack to a dud film in my CD collection (lol, true).
Anyway, here it gets a second life as just a Tom Petty album. And a few songs are removed, a few from the sessions are added. And it makes for a whole new listening experience. One of Life’s Little Mysteries is Petty at his Bob Dylan-aping best, in fact it feels closer to the Dylan of the last decade, pre-figuring it by 20 years.
Joining the terrific covers of Beck (Asshole) and Lucinda Williams (Change The Locks) we get J.J. Cale’s Thirteen Days, which opens with the familiar grumble of Mike Campbell’s slid and again has Petty in Dylan-esque ramble mode. It’s sublime. A real highlight.
The organ-drenched rocker, 105 Degrees, is vintage Heartbreakers and is also new to this version of the soundtrack’s songs – something from the cutting-room floor that is in no way a classic song but is a rocking-good performance; reminder of how any configuration of this band could just turn n a dime.
There’s a slightly longer version of Supernatural Radio and a lovely little acoustic 12-stringer that rings out proud, French Disconnection. It’s basically an instrumental coda of Angel Dream (No.2). Which, here, has been lifted to introduce the record. So the bookending of this really shapes the new arrangement of the soundtrack songs as an album in their own right. Another decision that works is burying the lede – taking Walls (which exists in a few variations) away from the top of the record (it opened the original album and was a hit single) and placing it near the end of this newly shaped running order.
Petty was in deep, contemplative mode in the 90s. And he was on a winning streak in terms of the command of his artistry – he was both a living legend, elevated through his Wilburys association, and still a contemporary player.
There’s so much to lament about him no longer being here to bring new music into the world, but thoughtfully curated versions of his back-catalogue allow us to revel in the artistry as well as consider possibilities.
Something about the decision to re-think and re-release this music also pleases me for wresting it from the terrible fucking film that inspired it.