Pack Up The Plantation: Live! (Tom Petty) – Album Review

“Pack Up The Plantation” Was The First Live Album By Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. It Came Out In 1986.

“Pack Up The Plantation” Was The First Live Album Ever By Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. It Came Out In 1986.

Southern Accents” proved so contentious that less than one year after its release Petty and The Heartbreakers issued their first live album, as if they were to exorcise the previous offering from their systems and prove to fans and critics alike that they could still rock like they meant it.

The album was to be named “Pack Up The Plantation”, and many different configurations exist. To begin with, we have the original LP/Cassette release that was accompanied by a live VHS in which some songs were added, all of them good (specially “Don’t Do Me Like That” from “Damn The Torpedoes” and “Don’t Come Around Here No More” from the previous record). The original album (which was a double LP) was repackaged as a single CD that had a different running order and which dropped two tracks: “You Got Lucky” (a great loss) and “I Need To Know”.

Still, the album in any incarnation is a lot of fun. The “Southern Accents” contingent feels more endemic to the band thanks to the rawness that any live setting provides, and “Rebels” in particular is a showstopper.

As it is the case with live albums, some songs have different arrangements – the most noticeable is “The Waiting”, rendered solitarily by Tom until the band thunders in during the middle eight. Elsewhere, “Breakdown” is stretched quite a bit, and the part where Petty starts an adlib that degenerates into an almost babble is amusing, even when it doesn’t precisely make the song any better.

And just like any other good ol’ rock & roll band, Petty and the guys dust off some classic covers like “Don’t Bring Me Down” (a hit single by the Animals in 1966) and The Byrds “So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” (a 1967 song inspired by the meteoric success of The Monkees). The disc also has the Jackie DeShannon UK hit “Needles & Pins”. Stevie Nicks duets with Tom in that song, and she reprises that role on a cohesive “Insider” (both duets come from a different show than the rest of the disc).

The VHS, incidentally, has even more classic covers – both “Route 66” and “Little Bit O’ Soul” are played, and they keep up to the usual live standard of the band. As you probably know, “Route 66” was composed by Bobby Troup and popularized by Chuck Berry  (the Rolling Stones played it as well), and “Little Bit O’ Soul” was a hit for Herman’s Hermits.

It is easy to listen to the album enthusiastically – the guys really sound as if they had something to prove not just to the fans but to themselves, and even the slow-paced cuts like “Stories We Could Tell” and “Southern Accents” are infused with a lot of stamina. Also, the Soul Lip Horns are up to the challenge all the way through, expanding the basic sound of the band in an entirely organic way.

I am giving the album a 7, and that is quite a good score. It didn’t surprise me, and it won’t surprise anybody who is familiarized with the band. If anything, it reminds everybody of their credentials, and if it doesn’t seem like something epoch-making it is because Petty and his unit were not that to begin with. They came up with their own interpretation of some different genres and produced some very enjoyable music. They still do to this day, and they will keep doing it till the end for sure. And this live disc might as well pinpoint the moment that they wanted to remind everybody “We play rock & roll and we play it good. That’s what we want to do. The rest will be… history”.

Rating: 7/10