An American Treasure (Reprise / WB)
Reviewed by Tim Stegall, Fri., Dec. 7, 2018
Compiled by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers co-captains Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench along with their late bandleader's widow Dana and daughter Adria, An American Treasure is hardly your standard regulation best-of. The deluxe 4-CD version offers an alternate Petty timeline composed of deep cuts, obscurities, and live and alternate takes. Yes, early hits "Breakdown" and "Listen to Her Heart" are present – as live takes recorded for 1977 FM broadcasts. "Here Comes My Girl"? Yep; same Damn the Torpedoes sessions, different take.
All of which may possibly constitute exactly the sort of posthumous tribute this most atypical Florida man deserves.
There's gem outtakes such as the 1974 pre-Heartbreakers Mudcrutch demo "Lost in Your Eyes," 1976's "Surrender" (not Cheap Trick's anthem), and a 1987 version of Roger McGuinn collaboration "King of the Hill." Everything herein demonstrates how Petty and his Heartbreakers eschewed pompous, boring Seventies/Eighties rock orthodoxy with tools obtained from 1965: Stonesy raunch, Dylanesque lyricism, and Byrdsian 12-strings.
And with the solo career he enjoyed from 1989 onward, Petty began reimagining how to use those tools. The music remained classic rock with the "& roll" restored. Comparatively, the surrounding tunes on the radio were pandering nonsense.
An American Treasure demonstrates everything we're missing with Tom Petty's absence. The loss is profound.