Review Redux: Mudcrutch “2” (Full Album) A Very Strong, Tighter Return

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First and foremost, I must apologize to any of you who read my original review of the full album “2” by Mudcrutch. I wasn’t happy with my original title, which included the words, “A Band Having Fun.” I felt like that title was misleading and made the album sound more upbeat than it is. I do think, in terms of fun, Petty is ┬áhaving a great time playing bass, playing with different musicians and having the entire band contribute songwriting, but that doesn’t mean all the music is happy. So, I went in and tried to edit the title. Being the Luddite that I am, I didn’t realize that changing the title would delete all the actual text under the title in the body of the post. Technical SNAFU’s seem to be my specialty. I will attempt, in this Redux Review, to recreate what I wrote earlier from my notes. Again, I am sorry for my technical stupidity.

If anything, these few extra days have only made my esteem for this record grow… leaps and bounds, in fact.

I’ve always been a huge Tom Petty fan… I can still remember buying “Damn the Torpedoes,” my first Petty album, on vinyl at the record store in the mall. That album was a certified masterpiece. I’ve always felt Petty’s career had a bit of an ebb and flow to it until “Fool Moon Fever” came out. Petty’s popularity exploded. I can still remember driving to the office when I was exiled to Arkansas and hearing “I Won’t Back Down” on the radio and thinking, “this is my new theme song…” It didn’t work, I ended up backing down, I quit. It was the best thing for me at the time. As Keith Richards once sang, it was time for me to “walk before they made me run…” but those records are also sealed.

After “Full Moon Fever” Petty seemed to have had the Midas Touch. Everything the guy did, with or without the Heartbreakers, turned to gold. That purple patch lasted him from “Full Moon Fever” through the whole Wilbury’s thing up to “Wildflowers.” Even the departure of founding drummer Stan Lynch during this time period seemed to make the Heartbreakers even stronger, which many times is not the case with a band member’s departure. Then came the superb and highly under-appreciated “Echo” album. For reasons unclear, the album didn’t reach the heights of Petty’s then recent successes. I will say, “Echo” had a bit of a melancholy fog hanging over it likely caused by Petty’s recent divorce. Petty did not react well to the lukewarm reception of “Echo” and recorded what seemed like a very angry follow-up, “The Last DJ.”

But after “The Last DJ,” the strangest thing happened. It’s as if Petty decided, “fuck it,” and started making music that made him happy and music that the Heartbreakers clearly enjoyed playing. He has a trio of great, late-career. kick-ass albums – “Highway Companion,” “Mojo,” and “Hypnotic Eye.” These are the types of albums that inspired me to start writing BourbonAndVinyl in the first place. All three are on the highly recommended list.

During this late period surge, in 2007, Petty agreed to doing a documentary on his and the Heartbreaker’s history, “Running Down a Dream,” and I must say it’s a must see for Petty fans. In the documentary, they dedicate a section to Mudcrutch, Petty’s first band out of Florida. Randy Marsh (drums) and Tom Leadon (guitar/vocal) were in the band with Mike Campbell of the Heartbreakers and Petty on bass guitar. Later, after Leadon left, Benmont Tench (keyboards) joined. The band recorded a few singles that were completely ignored before disbanding. Petty switched to guitar, kept Campbell and Tench, formed the Heartbreakers and the rest, as they say, is history. But something in the documentary must have inspired the whole “what might have been” thought process…usually that leads to calling an ex-girlfriend, but in this case, Petty pulled together Mudcrutch in 2008 and recorded the album “Mudcrutch.” It was a loose-limbed, “jammy” affair, but I really liked that record.

I had always assumed “Mudcrutch” was a one-off affair, but then late last year the rumors began that Petty was reassembling Mudcrutch to record another record. This past weekend saw the release of “2,” the band’s second record. Clearly with album names “Mudcrutch” and “2” it’s clear that Petty and the lads don’t put a lot of time or thought into their album titles. Having had some recent “title problems” of my own, I get it. Damn technology. The record starts off with an old outtake from Petty’s “Playback” box-set, “Trailer.” “Trailer” is one of those wistful, looking back tunes about a relationship that failed. At first, I was surprised he dug out that old tune for this album, but the sentiments in the tune sort of sum up the whole Mudcrutch enterprise. It’s a great version of the song.

Petty required everybody in the band to write a song. My favorite band contribution is “Beautiful World” by Randy Marsh. I think he sings it. I do wish, as I stated when the single came out, that Petty had sung it, but it’s still a kick ass rock song. It and “Dream of Flying” (which Petty sings) are the closest you’ll get to a Heartbreaker-y sound here. “Dream of Flying” is superb. I do think Petty is enjoying this different group of collaborators but that doesn’t mean the songs are all as upbeat as “Beautiful World”.

The centerpiece of the record for me remains “Hungry No More.” It’s a defiant song about resilience that makes Scarlett O’Hara’s vow to never be hungry again seem tame in comparison. Mike Campbell’s guitar is all over “Hungry No More” and his performance here is why he’s one of the greatest to ever strap on a guitar. “I Forgive It All” is a beautiful, spare ballad in the manner of “Highway Companion”s song “Square One.” It and “Beautiful Blue” are the best love songs here. “Beautiful Blue” simply shimmers. “Victim Of Circumstance”is Campbell’s writing effort here and it’s another exceptional tune.

The only tunes that left me cold are Leadon’s “The Other Side of the Mountain” mostly because there’s a banjo (not to sound like the Rock Chick, but I am “banjo-interolerant) and Ben Tench’s “Welcome to Hell.” I love Tench’s boogie woogie piano on the song, but the lyrics are like a joke that just misfires. But these are minor complaints, neither song is terrible. Mudcrutch’s first album, as I mentioned, was such a loose jam, it’s nice to hear these guys so focused. The songs are finely crafted, much tighter than the first record and well played.

“2” is a highly recommended purchase from BourbonAndVinyl. Play it loud and often… and the best part of this album is that for the first time Mudcrutch is playing concerts outside the state of California… which means I’ll be heading to Denver for Memorial Day Weekend with one of my best friends Stormin’ and Mudcrutch. If you get a chance to see these guys, run to the concert, don’t walk. I’ll post an update after I’ve seen the show!!

Again, my apologies for accidentally deleting the original review of this superb record and as always, Cheers!

 

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Review: Mudcrutch “2” – Three Songs Released So Far

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I got a text a few weeks back from one of my oldest and dearest friends, Stormin. Storm and I roomed together with GP and some other dudes back in college but those records are sealed until twenty-five years after my death. Storm’s text was in reference to Tom Petty’s side project, Mudcrutch and their upcoming concert in Denver. “My wildest dreams have come true and Mudcrutch is finally coming to Denver. I’ve purchased 2 VIP tickets…” Now this was interesting… The next thing I knew I was booking a trip to Denver to see Mudcrutch.

Storm and I saw Petty together on the “Full Moon Fever” Tour. We weren’t going to go to the concert, but a few of our friends were attending so we went down to the old Kemper Arena and stopped in Sutera’s Tavern for a few quick brews. We made the cursory walk over to check on scalped tickets and a guy approached and asked if we thought twenty dollars was a fair price for the two tickets he had… they were 10th row, center on the floor. Other than seeing Van Halen on the “Fair Warning” tour it was one of the best concerts of my illustrious concert career. Best 2o bucks I ever spent.

To describe Mudcrutch as a “side-project” is probably a misnomer on my part. Mudcrutch was Petty’s first band. They had all moved together from Florida to LA and actually recorded a few singles. Those songs never really broke and I didn’t even hear them until Petty released his monumental box set “Playback” in the 90’s. Mudcrutch’s line up changed a bit but it consisted of Randy Marsh on drums, Tom Leadon (whose brother Bernie was a founding member of the Eagles) on guitar/vocals, Petty on bass guitar/vocals and Mike Campbell on lead guitar. Later after Leadon left Benmont Tench joined on keyboards. After Mudcrutch broke up, Petty moved to rhythm guitar, Stan Lynch took over drums and Ron Blair took over bass, they dubbed themselves Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers and the rest, as they say, was history.

In the excellent 2007 documentary “Running Down a Dream” chronicling the Heartbreaker’s history, they touched on Mudcrutch. I don’t know if it was revisiting his ┬áhistory, or this was something that Petty had been considering for a long time, but merely one year later in 2008, Petty regrouped the Mudcrutch lineup and put out the great record “Mudcrutch.” It was written and recorded in like, 10 days. To support the album Mudcrutch did a two week, 10-concert residency in some LA theater. I think they might have done a few nights in San Francisco, but my mind gets foggier with time. I really loved the “Mudcrutch” record but I figured that was going to be the end of the story for these guys. It was like going to see an ex-girlfriend, Petty was curious, checked it out and realized he was better off where he was… so to speak… not that I’ve ever done that, I’m just saying’… it happens.

Now, eight years later, Mudcrutch is set to return. The second album is creatively titled “2.” Naturally I’v done the pre-buy and they’ve released three very strong tunes so far. The first track “Trailer” was actually originally released on the box set “Playback.” I think it was recorded around the “Southern Accents” timeframe. The “Southern Accents” album was supposedly Petty revisiting his roots, and telling the he and the Heartbreaker’s story. It got a little weird when he brought in Dave Edwards from the Eurythmics to produce it but such is life. “Trailer” got left in the can, as they say. Like returning to Mudcrutch “Trailer” is a wistful look back at a relationship long gone. It’s a great song, but like I mentioned in the Peter Wolf review a few weeks ago, when a band redoes a song already released, it feels a little like cheating to me. Unless of course the song is significantly different like Sting’s solo version of “Shadows In the Rain” which is a radical reinvention of that song vs the Police version. So I liked “Trailer” but I’d already heard a very similar version on “Playback.”

The second song, “Beautiful World” is a great, upbeat and hopeful tune. It’s got a nice little riff and I think it’s going to be a lot of fun to hear live. It was written by Randy Marsh, the drummer and I don’t know if it’s him or Tom Leadon who sings it but it’s not Petty singing. Petty wanted a more “group” feel for this album so each member was asked to write one song. Marsh’s “Beautiful World” is a superb tune so we can only hope the other contributions from band members are as strong. I do sort of wish Petty had sung this one though. Still, it’s a great rock song.

Finally, the third song was released last week, “Hungry No More,” and it is awesome. It is certainly the pick of the litter so far. It clocks in at over six minutes and it allows Mudcrutch to stretch out quite a bit. It’s a mid tempo tune but has some blistering lead guitar work from Mike Campbell. Whatever he’s doing to his guitar is probably illegal in a number of states, but it sounds fantastic. The song has an impassioned vocal from Petty. It’s a down on your luck story but it’s sung with a beautiful, defiant vocal. “You can’t live on nothin’ at all, and I ain’t gonna be hungry no more…” Wow. With the economy like it is, it’s hard not to feel that this song was ripped from the headlines… but as usual, I digress.

I have to say, so far, so good on “2.” Petty has been on a hot streak since his solo album “Highway Companion.” Everything the guy touches lately is gold. There’s an exploration in his music – blues, country, jam-band – that is adventurous and always interesting. I am really looking forward to hearing the rest of this album… and actually seeing these guys destroy it live in Denver with my buddy Storm!

Until then, I’ll keep you posted as I hear more Mudcrutch. Check it out!

Cheers!