The Last DJ
Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers
9 48396-2 on Warner Brothers Records

Includes bonus DVD: The Last DJ Sessions

Music is a business. It's unfortunate, but it's true. Artists receive money from the sale of concert tickets, tee shirts and souvernirs, and record sales.

Because a business is about making money, and because people run businesses, the fact that human beings are greedy can become an issue. People involved in the process between the artist and the music listener all want their cut of the proceeds. Deals are to be made: endorsements, additional merchandising, promotional interests, radio station relationships, and so on. Heck, even a nobody like me can earn a coulpe of cents if you decide to buy this album through the link on this webpage.

With everyone's hands on their cashflow, many artist seems to go through a contract dispute sooner or later. Prince, Lynnrd Skynnrd, Mariah Carey, and Neil Young all became disenchanted with the very business that keeps gas in their cars and food in their mouths. Now, it's Tom Petty's turn.

He's apparently upset with the newer radio stations which feature no disc jockeys and have prerecorded music. Stations like The Funky Monkey here in Washington play commercials only once an hour and don't feature DJs. If you do a little research, it's easy to find that these stations exist in nearly every major market. On top of that, a couple of companies in the United States own a shocking number of radio stations.

"The Last DJ", the title song on this CD, laments the fact that the music itself sometimes becomes secondary to profits. "Joe" is a vocal rant about the human marketing behind music, shunning the choice of people for their looks or image rather than talent.

I know the music industry is a business. I know businesses are sometimes impersonal, and often -- because of their very nature -- bring money to the forefront instead of keeping all eyes on the actual product. But I don't care about that when I buy an album. I want to hear Tom sing and the Heartbreakers play. An album griping about the industry might impress Tom's own musician friends, and rally garage bands, and try to breathe some life into the Napster crowd. But it isn't entertaining for me.

Maybe songs like "The Last DJ" are listenable to typical radio consumer, who doesn't even pay attention to the lyrics and just has the radio on for company or noise. That's irony for you! But records like this leave me wondering why I spent my money. Did the money I put behind the purchase price endorse this anti-profit, opinionated, and nearly bitter messages the record carries? I didn't mean to do that. I just wanted the new Tom Petty record.

The album tries to recover after working its message in by offering some entertaining content. Maybe there's not enough entertainment to recover from being jaded by the messages in the first few tracks. Tom's vocals are is in great form with soothing twangy vocals reminiscent of Southern Accents. Tom and Mike Campbell produced this record. As long time collaborators, they seem to effortlessly make good music. Even the industry-critical songs are well developed and the band sounds tight.

There are more bright spots: "The Man Who Loves Women" comes off as tribute to Queen, complete with harmonized alto vocals and a ringing bicycle bell. Reminiscent of the self-reflective slow tunes on Echo, "Like a Dimaond" is another interesting effort. While "Lost Children" sounds like a petition in prayer, Tom's gentle falsetto helps it along.

While it was worth the purchase (since I'm a Petty fan) it's hard to give this record more than two and one-half stars. It's half music and half critique, and I wanted music.