The past nine months have been a musical gift for Tom Petty fans. His family, producers and fellow Heartbreakers have culled through virtually everything from the Wildflowers era to release an embarrassing amount of amazing music. Last fall gave us Wildflowers & All the Rest, a multi-volume set of bonus tracks, demos and live cuts. Earlier this year, we got Finding Wildflowers, a collection of alternate takes that would’ve been an amazing, complete album in its own right. This week, the final (?) drop from the best era of Petty’s musical life hits stores. Angel Dream (Songs and Music from the Motion Picture She’s The One) is billed as a “reimagined version” of the Ed Burns film that Petty scored in 1996, but the end product is a more cogent Petty album, instead of a loose collection of songs supporting a movie.
Before diving into the music, a word on the movie: don’t. Having not watched She’s the One, at least not in full, 25 years ago, I took it upon myself to check it out in the process of writing this review. It has…not aged well. As far as this new album goes, the project was intended to be much more “spontaneous,” according to Petty, and simpler than the lengthy recording process for most of Wildflowers. The Heartbreakers themselves (Mike Campbell, Benmont Tench, Howie Epstein and Stan Lynch, splitting time on drums with session player Curt Bisquera) provide the bulk of the music. Several of the soundtrack’s original songs were included on the All the Rest release (Petty wrote a number of these tunes during the Wildflowers process, and, really, has any rock artist ever had such a beautifully productive period?). The decision was made to swap out those songs (including “California” and “Hope You Never”) for four previously unreleased tracks, so we’ll look at three of these first. “One of Life’s Little Mysteries” is a Heartbreakers jaunt through bummers both big and small – “You get a little sun/You get a little rain/Get a man and a woman/You get a little pain.” Written in 1992, it presages Alanis Morissette’s “Ironic,” but, you know, better.
The next new track on Angel Dream is a cover of J.J. Cale’s “Thirteen Days,” recalling the shaggy adventures of a barnstorming band in the South. This version finds Petty at his Dylan-esque vocal best and wraps with an outro featuring both Campbell and Tench. The underground 60s rock feel continues on the next (and third new) song, “105 Degrees.” This Petty original carries a surfer-ish guitar riff, a boatland of organ from Tench, and an overheated Petty asking, “What do you want…perfection?”
Although he was known to tear up some classics in concert (“So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” and “Oh Well” were two of his crowd favorite covers), he didn’t record a whole lot of them in studio. However, in addition to “Thirteen Days,” Petty covered two of his (at the time) contemporaries on Angel Dream. His version of Beck’s “Assh@le” (with Lindsey Buckingham chipping in on backing vocals) gives the spare, acoustic strummer a Beatles-esque finish while maintaining the song’s pensive malaise. On “Change the Locks,” though, Petty dials up Lucinda Williams’ already-at-a-10 bitterness to at least 12 as he spits out roughly 50 more ways to leave your lover (and even throws in his own new one – “You can’t hear me laugh/And honey, I’m laughin’ all the time” – just for spite). Driven by slash-and-burn guitars, it’s an absolute house-on-fire rendition of one of Lucinda’s best songs. And it feels just a wee bit more personal than a cover on a soundtrack.
As troubled as this period in his life was, though, Petty made some damn pretty music in the early 90s. “Angel Dream (No. 2)” is a sweet tune about the one who DIDN’T get away – “I can only thank God it was not too late” – featuring gorgeous harmonies (also sung by Petty). “Walls (No. 3)” is a mellow version of the most well-known song from the soundtrack with a line that will remind you of the best person you know – “‘Cause you got a heart so big/It could crush this town.” And, after an extended version of “Supernatural Radio” (now with even more Benmont!), the album wraps with “French Disconnection,” an instrumental nod to the title track that’s nothing more than Petty, Campbell and Tench doing what they do best. It’ll leave you wishing these three masters and friends could play together just one more time.
Angel Dream (Songs and Music from the Motion Picture She’s The One) was produced by Rick Rubin, Tom Petty, Mike Campbell and Ryan Ulyate, mixed by Ulyate, engineered by Jim Scott, Mike Campbell and Sylvia Massey and mastered by Chris Bellman.
Go here to order Angel Dream: https://store.tompetty.com/