Tom Petty & the Heartbreaker’s Damn the Torpedoes was the band’s breakthrough album, launching an ascent to rock icon status via a painstaking (and often painful) creative process. The combination of the band’s third album in an expanded package with a simultaneously released DVD would’ve made for a truly deluxe edition.
The audio remastering illustrates how Damn the Torpedoes marked a greater progression in production for TP & co than in songwriting or in performing. In fact, the album contained its share of lightweight tunes such as “Century City” and “Don’t Do Me Like That” made memorable only by the highly-polished sound of the original quintet’s nimble musicianship. Yet it’s in this re-released context too, the moments where the sound and style become tougher, as on “Refugee,” represent high points in the band’s discography to this day.
On the ‘Classic Album’ DVD from Eagle Vision, the content originally broadcast on VH1 is expanded to include more insightful footage recorded for that project, all of which is well complemented through David Fricke’s customarily insightful and passionate liner notes on the CD booklet. As Petty, guitarist Mike Campbell and keyboardist Benmont Tench, plus producer Jimmy Iovine and engineer Shelly Yakus, good-humoredly recount the process through which they fashioned the final product of their labor, it seems almost surprising they were able to collaborate so successfully. Concentrating on the technical and musical aspects of the work doesn’t exclude discussion of the business aspects surrounding Damn the Torpedoes either, in the form of veiled but nonetheless emotionally pointed observations on the relationship with the MCA label with whom they engaged in more than one standoff during this interval.
Because of the extensive archiving Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers have already done, in the form of the box set Playback, last year’s multi-discs in The Live Anthology, not to mention the Peter Bogdanovich documentary Running’ Down A Dream, it’s not altogether surprising this double CD set (shorn of the plastic slipcase that adorned titles in the series previously) falls short of fulfilling its expansive concept. Tracks on the half-hour long second disc exhibit the style though not the substance of the official album (except for the demo of “Refugee”), alongside selected live cuts that might well have been included on on audio disc with the original album, then paired with the DVD (or Blu-Ray). Such packaging would be a more accurate reflection of Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers as the superior rock and roll band they have been for over three decades now.