Sound — 9
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers first album, released in 1976, is a classic (yet seemingly underrated) staple of American rock 'n' roll. Recorded when the band was literally brand-new (the Heartbreakers having been put together by keyboardist Benmont Tench - after the break-up of Petty's previous band Mudcrutch featuring Tench and guitarist Mike Campell - under the name "The Drunks" until Petty saw them and offered them to throw their lot in with him) it contains songs that are written under the blue print of classic american and British rock 'n' roll. The album was produced by Shelter Records (who the band signed to at the time) owner Denny Cordell and seems to abandon the stiff production sound of records made around that time to make a vibrant sound that could have been produced today. The members of the Heartbreakers are excellent players and to the musically experienced what they play may seem simple at times but that doesn't matter because they way they play has a urgency like they are playing for their very lives. Drummer Stan Lynch provides 9as he always has) a solid backbeat that drives the other instruments like a mac truck when needed ("Fooled Again", "Rockin' Around With You" and "American Girl") and plays slowly so that the other instruments can flow across the top when needed ("Breakdown" and "Luna". Bassist Ron Blair is right on the money with his playing and whilst following Lynch he also adds his own licks and lines that correspond with the guitars. It is not too bold to say that Mike Campell is one of the most underrated guitarists ever and even saying that seems like an understatement. His guitar lines (though to some "shredders" they may seem simple) are fluid and fit perfectly when they are played (the lead lick in "Breakdown" is a perfect example) and that is what makes him one of the most imaginative guitarists I've heard. Of course no Heartbreakers record would be complete with Benmont Tench's keyboard/organ/piano playing and how he seemingly plays his ass off yet never gets in the way of the other instruments, also the atmosphere he adds to the arrangements and general feels to songs is excellent.
Lyrics — 9
As any Petty fan knows, he is a damn solid songwriter. With subjects on this album ranging from relationships that are bright ("Rockin' Around With You"), falling apart ("Breakdown, "Fooled Again"), people who are unsure about their life and where they are headed ("American Girl," "Hometown Blues"), the joy and attitude of rock 'n' roll ("Anything That's Rock 'N' Roll") and violence ("Strangered in the Night"). The lyrics are great and Tom sings them so effortlessly that it seems he is just making them up on the spot and in the mood of whatever he is singing. This being Tom Petty singing you get the Dylan/slurred style that matched the music, also the backing vocals are a fitting addition that doesn't go into overkill (as some backing vocals often do in other bands/artists).
Overall Impression — 9
Of their first three albums I'd say this is the true rocker of the bunch although I highly recommend seeking out all three (the two others being "You're Gonna Get It" (1978) and "Damn the Torpedoes" (1979)). It one of those rare albums (expecially in this day and age) where each of the songs stand up against one another as great songs. The only thing I don't like from it is that it's a little too short for my liking and that there were songs like "Surrender" (not to be confused with the Cheap Trick song) that weren't put on this or "You're Gonna Get It". If this were stolen I'd buy it again and let the person who stole it keep it because even thieves need some good rock 'n' roll.