Anthology: Through the Years
There's something to be said for getting the balance right, as borne out by this sharp double-disc chronicle of the 17 years Tom Petty spent on MCA Records. Far more expansive than his previous Greatest Hits album -- itself a multi-platinum seller -- and not as overwhelming as the everything-plus-the-kitchen-sink Playback, this collection gives fans a focused view of the Heartbreakers at their most vital. All of the band's staples are represented, and the more or less chronological sequencing makes it easy to trace Petty's development from edgy tough guy ("Breakdown") to pure-pop purveyor ("Here Comes My Girl" and "The Waiting") to wry storyteller ("Mary Jane's Last Dance"). The extended live version of "So You Wanna Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star" showcases the power the Heartbreakers possess in concert, while offbeat inclusions such as "The Wild One, Forever" prove the band knows its way around a studio as well. The 34-song set ends with the seething "Surrender," a song Petty wrote in the '70s but didn't get around to recording until summer of 2000 -- proof that good things come to those who wait. Through the Years is accompanied by a booklet containing an essay by Almost Famous director Cameron Crowe and reminiscences from fellow Traveling Wilburys George Harrison and Jeff Lynne.