Tom Petty: Full Moon Fever


ON THIS DATE (23 YEARS AGO)
April 25, 1989 – Tom Petty: Full Moon Fever is released.
# ALL THINGS MUSIC PLUS+ 4.5/5
# allmusic 4.5/5

Full Moon Fever is an album by Tom Petty, released on this date in April, 1989. It is officially his first solo release, though it features contributions from several members of his backing band, the Heartbreakers, along with fellow members of the Traveling Wilburys.

The album became Petty’s commercial peak as an artist, helped by favorable critical reviews and three hit singles. The album was released on April 24, 1989 and rose to eventually peak at #3 on the Billboard 200 and number 8 in the UK. There were five singles released from the album, two hitting the top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100 and three topping the Mainstream Rock chart. The RIAA certified Full Moon Fever 5x platinum on October 5, 2000 and the CRIA certified it 6x platinum on September 18, 1991.

This album is just damn good fun–a great collection of easy-going rock songs, crafted not to change the world, but certainly to make it just a little brighter. Petty’s first solo project (without the Heartbreakers), Full Moon Fever shares the goodtime feel of the Traveling Wilburys’ contemporary “Handle With Care.” This is not altogether surprising; Jeff Lynne co-produced and George Harrison and Roy Orbison guest. The only non-Petty composition is a version of Gene Clark’s “Feel A Whole Lot Better,” while “Zombie Zoo,” a bewildered parent’s diatribe on the kids of today, comes perilously close to social commentary.


REVIEW
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine, allmusic
Although Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough) found the Heartbreakers regaining their strength as a band and discovering a newfound ease at songcraft, it just didn’t sell that well. Perhaps that factor, along with road fatigue, led Tom Petty to record his first solo album, Full Moon Fever. Nevertheless, the distinction between “solo” and “Heartbreakers” is a fuzzy one because Full Moon Fever is essentially in the same style as the Heartbreakers albums; Mike Campbell co-wrote two songs and co-produced the record, and he, along with Benmont Tench and Howie Epstein, all play on the album. However, the album sounds different from any Heartbreakers record due to the presence of former Electric Light Orchestra leader Jeff Lynne. Petty co-wrote the lion’s share of the album with Lynne, who also is the record’s main producer. In his hands, Petty’s roots rock becomes clean and glossy, layered with shimmering vocal harmonies, keyboards, and acoustic guitars. It’s a friendly, radio-ready sound, and if it has dated somewhat over the years, the craft is still admirable and appealing. But the real reason Full Moon Fever became Petty’s biggest hit is that it boasted a selection of songs that rivaled Damn the Torpedoes. Full Moon Fever didn’t have a weak track; even if a few weren’t quite as strong as others, the album was filled with highlights: “I Won’t Back Down,” the wistful “A Face in the Crowd,” the rockabilly throwaways “Yer So Bad” and “A Mind with a Heart of Its Own,” the Byrds cover “Feel a Whole Lot Better,” the charging “Runnin’ Down a Dream,” and “Free Fallin’,” a coming-of-age ballad that could be Petty’s best song. Full Moon Fever might have been meant as an off-the-cuff detour, but it turned into a minor masterpiece.


TRACKS:
All songs written by Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne, except as indicated.
“Free Fallin'” – 4:14
“I Won’t Back Down” – 2:56
“Love Is a Long Road” (Mike Campbell, Petty) – 4:06
“A Face in the Crowd” – 3:58
“Runnin’ Down a Dream” (Campbell, Lynne, Petty) – 4:23
“I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better” (Gene Clark) – 2:47
“Yer So Bad” – 3:05
“Depending on You” (Petty) – 2:47
“The Apartment Song” (Petty) – 2:31
“Alright for Now” (Petty) – 2:00
“A Mind with a Heart of Its Own” – 3:29
“Zombie Zoo” – 2:56

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Filed under Benmont Tench, Del Shannon, george harrison, Howie Epstein, I Won't Back Down, Jeff Lynne, Jim Keltner, Mike Campbell, Phil Jones, Roy Orbison, tom petty

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