Album review: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Pack Up the Plantation (1985)


By Steve Newton

One of my fondest concert memories dates back to 1978, when Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers played the Commodore Ballroom. Petty had just released his second album, You’re Gonna Get It, and was his band hot–I mean sizzlin’. I saw him again a year or two later at the Gardens, this time on the Damn the Torpedoes tour, and his show was still a thrill from the word go. I figured then that if Petty ever put out a live disc, it would definitely be worth checking out.

With 1986 fast approaching, Petty has finally gone ahead and released a live album–a four-sider no less–and now those unlucky few who’ve never seen him live have got something to ask for for Christmas.

Aside from bassist Ron Blair–who only plays on four tracks here–the Heartbreakers lineup is the same as it ever was. Howie Epstein has taken Blair’s place, but keyboardist Benmont Tench, lead guitarist Mike Campbell, and drummer Stan Lynch still accompany rhythm guitarist/vocalist Petty with the sharp percussion and tasty solos they’re known for. With the exception of one track, all the songs on Pack Up the Plantation were recorded in the U.S.A., in cities like L.A. and Irvine, California; Richfield, Ohio; and Boston, Massachusetts. Petty’s version of John Sebastian’s “Stories We Can Tell” comes from a date at the Hammersmith Odeon in London, England.

Other choice covers include the Isley Brothers’ “Shout”, the Byrds’ “So You Want To Be a Rock & Roll Star”, and “Needles and Pins”, which was co-written by Eagles producer Jack Nitzsche and Sonny Bono. Stevie Nicks sings on the latter tune–returning the favour for Petty’s vocals on “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around”–and also on Petty’s own “Insider”. Petty delivers well his most famous tunes–“You Got Lucky”, “American Girl”, “The Waiting”, the sultry “Breakdown”, “Refugee”, and “I Need to Know”–although horn arrangements on the latter two tunes don’t do anything for me. Nothing against horns, it’s just that they don’t complement a hard-rocking tune like “I Need to Know”.

Three songs from Petty’s last studio album, Southern Accents, also make an appearance, “Rebels”, “It Ain’t Nothin’ To Me”, and the title track. The selection of tunes on Pack Up the Plantation–especially the covers–is fine, but a party pooper like me has to admit that the inclusion of “Don’t Do Me Like That” and “Anything That’s Rock and Roll” would have been nice too.



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