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Five More Underrated Tom Petty Songs (1990-2006)


Last week, I shared my favorite five underrated Tom Petty Songs from 1976-1989. In 1989, Petty released his first solo album Full Moon Fever which garnered critical acclaim. To me, none of the tracks really fit my "underrated" criteria - essentially all of Side A got a ton of airplay and Side B, while it had some solid tracks, weren't exactly the cream of the crop. That being said, I'll being my list in 1991:

1. "The Dark of the Sun" - from the 1991 album Into the Great Wide Open

Jeff Lynne, co-founder of Electric Light Orchestra and fellow Traveling Wilbury, led the production of the eighth Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers album. Powered by bright 12-string chords, "The Dark of the Sun" showcases Petty's knack for provocative yet simple lyrics. Although the track did not achieve mainstream recognition, I feel this is the star of the album. With classic Heartbreaker harmony vocals provided by Howie Epstein and honorary Heartbreaker Jeff Lynne, this song pumps a bright spirit that can uplift your soul even on the darkest of days.

2. "To Find A Friend" - from the 1994 album Wildflowers

Although technically it's Petty's second solo album, Wildflowers featured four members of the Heartbreakers. Most of the songs eventually became part of the band's live repertoire. "To Find A Friend" is a bouncy little ditty musically, paired with somewhat melancholy yet quite relatable lyrics about how things are always changing. If you listen closely, you can hear Mike Campbell deliver an outstanding performance on the electric sitar. Who's at the drum kit for this number? None other than the legendary Ringo Starr!

3. "California" - from the 1996 soundtrack Songs and Music from "She's the One"

Admittedly, I have never seen the movie "She's the One." From all indications, it appears to be a chick flick and not one that would hold my interest for very long. That being said, and funnily enough, I've listened to the soundtrack more than a few times. My favorite track here is "California," which is a typical 4/4 Petty rocker led by that driving 12-string acoustic sound he loved so much, popularized by Roger McGuinn of The Byrds. It's short but sweet and hits all the notes just right.

4. "Billy the Kid" - from the 1999 album Echo

Petty's song writing ability is on full force here, as his whit shines through. Led by strong organ and funky clavinet performances powered by Benmont Tench and a hypnotizing tremolo guitar during the verses, "Billy the Kid" defines underrated to me. I've mentioned this song to several people when Tom Petty comes up in conversation, and no one has heard of it. This track is truly a hidden gem.

5. "Down South" - from the 2006 album Highway Companion

Petty's third solo album, Highway Companion, is perhaps his greatest work. He performs virtually every instrument on the album, with Heartbreaker guitarist Mike Campbell and long-time collaborator and producer Jeff Lynne providing some assistance. "Down South," to me, is the quintessential Petty song. By 2006, he his lyrical writing had fully developed and hits its stride on this track. It seems to be semi-autobiographical (like most of Petty's material) and his wit is on full display "Create myself down south / impress all the women / pretend I'm Samuel Clemens / wear searsucker and white linens." The track is lined with Campbell laying down a spacey lead guitar, fitting well with the album cover. 

There it is, another five underrated Tom Petty songs from 1990-2006! Perhaps there is another on this; there are certainly more underrated tracks in the catalogue. Until next time!


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