Originally in The Oklahoma Daily on November 8th, 2007.

It’s no surprise that record labels operate differently now than they did in the past. Thirty years ago, bands were given the chance to grow and find success at their own pace. Now, bands are dropped if their debut isn’t a massive hit. If Florida band Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers had emerged in today’s climate, they probably would never had made it, because it wasn’t until their third album, “Damn the Torpedoes,” that they found success.

The album followed a long legal dispute between Petty and MCA Records. MCA had purchased Petty’s label, ABC Records, and Petty refused to be transferred to a new label without any say. After nine months of negotiations and Petty delclaring bankruptcy, “Damn the Torpedoes” was finally released on MCA subsidiary Backstreet Records.

The main focus of the album is Petty’s superb songwriting, and his frustration and anguish from his legal difficulties seems to have affected the songs. There is a sense of melancholy felt throughout the album, even on the more upbeat, seemingly happy songs.

The album’s strongest track is the opener, “Refugee.” The driving rock song showcases all that was great about the band. Petty’s southern, Dylan-esque vocals are anchored by a simple but solid rhythm section, memorable guitar riff, and hints of piano. During the more intense, emotional moments of the song, Petty’s voice cracks and waivers, which seems to make him even more charming.

Most of the vocals on “There Goes My Girl,” are simply Petty talking. Often spoken-word passages just seem silly, but here they work perfectly when coupled with the song’s soft, melodic chorus. “Don’t Do Me Like That” brings to mind a 50’s doo-wop feel without seeming retro or gimmicky. “Century City” is the one weak track on the album. It’s not that it’s a bad song — it just doesn’t live up to the greatness of the rest of the album. It’s just a typical late-70’s arena rock track.

Though the album is nearly thirty years old, it never feels dated, and is undoubtedly just as strong now as the day it was released. At only nine tracks the album is brief, but it never loses steam and there isn’t the slightest bit of filler. It’s one of the standouts in the album-centric era of classic rock.