Tom Petty – Highway Companion (2006/2015)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96kHz | Time – 43:42 minutes | 895 MB | Genre: Rock
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download – Source: HDTracks | © Warner Bros. Records
Recorded: 2005-2006 at Bungalow Palace and Shoreline Recorders in Los Angeles, CA.
Exclusively on HDtracks, images of the master tapes are included with every download, along with a note from the remaster producer, Ryan Ulyate.
Highway Companion, Tom Petty’s third solo album, was recorded at Bungalow Palace and Shoreline Recorders in Los Angeles, CA. Jeff Lynne produced the album with Tom Petty and Mike Campbell. Both “Saving Grace” and “Big Weekend” were released to radio as singles. The record peaked at number 4 on the Billboard 200 chart and hit number one on the US Rock Albums chart in 2006.
Tom Petty’s concept for his third solo album is laid bare in its very title: it’s called Highway Companion, which is a tip-off that this record was made with the road in mind. As it kicks off with the chugging Jimmy Reed-via-ZZ Top riff on “Saving Grace,” the album does indeed seem to be ideal music for road trips, but Petty changes gears pretty quickly, down-shifting to the bittersweet acoustic “Square One.” Although the album ramps back up with the ’60s-styled pop of “Flirting with Time” and the swampy, Dylan-esque “Down South,” the quick move to the ruminative is a good indication that for as good as Highway Companion can sound on the road, Petty looks inward on this album just as frequently as he looks outward. Perhaps this is the best indication that this is indeed a solo affair, not a rock & roll record with the Heartbreakers. Petty of course doesn’t go it completely alone here: his longtime guitarist Mike Campbell is here as is producer/co-writer Jeff Lynne, who helmed Petty’s 1989 solo debut, Full Moon Fever, and the Heartbreakers’ 1991 Into the Great Wide Open and now returns to the fold 15 years later. Lynne’s previous Petty productions were so bright, big, and shiny, they would have been suitable for an ELO album, and given that track record, it would be easy to assume that he would follow the same template for Highway Companion, but that’s not the case at all. Highway Companion has as much in common with the rustic, handmade overtones of 1994’s Wildflowers as it does with the pop sheen of Full Moon Fever — it is precise and polished, yet it’s on a small scale, lacking the layers of overdubs that distinguish Lynne’s production, and the end result is quite appealing, since it’s at once modest but not insular. But Highway Companion also feels a little off, as if Petty is striving to make a fun rock & pop record — a soundtrack for the summer, or at least a good drive — but his heart is in making a melancholy introspective album, where he’s grappling with getting older. This gives the album a sad undercurrent even at its lightest moments, which makes it ideal for driving alone late at night. Since it arrives after the bombastic The Last DJ, it’s refreshing to hear Petty underplay his themes here, and it also helps that Lynne helps toughen up his songcraft. All this makes Highway Companion at the very least another typically reliable collection from Petty, but at its core, it’s moodier than most of his records. It has a lot in common with Petty’s divorce album, Echo, but it’s coming from a different place — one that’s content, yet still unsettled. That may mean that this album isn’t quite as fun as it initially seems on the surface, but that bittersweet undercurrent does indeed make Highway Companion a good partner for long nights on the road. —Stephen Thomas Erlewine
1 Saving Grace 03:47
2 Square One 03:26
3 Flirting With Time 03:13
4 Down South 03:26
5 Jack 02:27
6 Turn This Car Around 03:58
7 Big Weekend 03:15
8 Night Driver 04:27
9 Damaged By Love 03:22
10 This Old Town 04:15
11 Ankle Deep 03:22
12 The Golden Rose 04:44
Tom Petty – vocals, backing vocals, rhythm guitar, 12-string guitar, lead guitar, bass guitar, keyboards, electric piano, drums, harmonica
Mike Campbell – lead guitar, 12-string guitar, vibraphone
Jeff Lynne – rhythm guitar, bass guitar, keyboards, autoharp, backing vocals
Producer’s Note: Tom Petty Hi-Res Remastering :: The Hi-Res (24bit 96K) remastering of the Tom Petty catalog reveals a level of detail that was only previously heard by a select group of musicians, producers and engineers in the studio. It’s as close to the sound of original stereo master as you can get. We’re very happy with the way it came out, and believe it’s an important way to preserve the legacy of this great body of work.
If hearing the highest possible sound quality is important to you, then this is where you’ll get it.
The remastering was done in the fall of 2014 by Chris Bellman at Bernie Grundman Mastering. I supervised it and Tom approved it. Great care was taken to find the original first-generation masters and transfer them with minimal eq and little or no dynamic range compression. In cases where the first-generation masters were unusable, we used the best sounding second-generation masters.*
To allow for full dynamic range, and to let the music “breathe” the Hi-Res versions have about 6-8db less digital level than a typical “loud” peak-limited CD or mp3. To enjoy these albums to their fullest extent, play them back though a good system and turn up the volume.
With this increased level of detail and sonic impact, we hope you’ll enjoy rediscovering these great albums as much as we did! —Ryan Ulyate, April 2014