INTO THE GREAT WIDE OPEN
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (MCA 40317)
Like Bob Dylan, Tom Petty has one of rock's best deadpans, a drawling, laconic delivery which, on record, seems to carry all the menace of a floating log. But just as floating logs sometimes turn out to be alligators, Petty's seemingly affectless singing can conceal quite a bite. That's certainly the case with "Into the Great Wide Open," his latest with the Heartbreakers. As the album ambles through its mid-tempo ballads and low-key rockers, Petty's sly tunefulness almost lulls the listener into accepting these songs at face value. Listen closely, though, and beneath those amiable melodies lie biting insights into American life, from the raucous "Out In the Cold" to the wry title tune.
WHAT YOU SEE IS WHAT YOU SWEAT
Aretha Franklin (Arista 8628)
Go by the album credits, and Aretha Franklin's "What You See is What You Sweat" looks like a pretty good album. Not only are there duets with both Luther Vandross and Michael McDonald, but the song selection ranges from a remake of Sly & the Family Stone's "Everyday People" to two new songs by Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager. So why doesn't it sound as good as it looks? Partly because the duets don't work out quite as planned and partly because the new songs don't amount to much -- but mostly because, like too many of Franklin's recent albums, it tries so hard to be everything to everybody that what we get from "What You See . . ." is not very much at all.