Tom Petty

Highway Companion

Highway Companion, Tom Petty’s third solo release, is his most consistent batch of songs since Wildflowers, which was his most consistent since Full Moon Fever. Those two records were also solo projects, suggesting Petty should ditch the Heartbreakers altogether and just keep Mike Campbell for lead-guitar duties. And for once in his career, producer Jeff Lynne has laid off the bombast and kept the tracks spare, with Petty playing almost everything but bass and lead guitar (played by Lynne and Campbell, respectively). The result is contemplative but assured. The highlights are “Saving Grace,” which makes decent use of the riff from Norman Greenbaum’s otherwise wretched “Spirit in the Sky”; the wry “Down South”; the hummable “Jack”; and the quietly rocking “Turn This Car Around.”