I'm reading bits and pieces on Tom Petty.com's Message Board about Tom Petty vs. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers in the context of Tom's new album being a solo one.
I supposed I was a bit surprised to find that many people don't view Into The Great Wide Open as favorable as other later Heartbreaker albums, mostly because of Jeff's involvement. At the same time though, Full Moon Fever gets high marks from the same people (by in large) for being a Tom Petty solo disc.
Full Moon Fever is a classic album... that's pretty much without debate. But, it's shame most people didn't recognize that Into The Great Wide Open was (in my opinion) a step-up in Tom Petty's songwriting/poetry, and about 2 steps up on Jeff Lynne's production. Jeff's producing hit such a stride on this record and should have won more fans over. Go back and listen to the absolutely amazing musicianship on that record. From everyone. It was a good direction for Tom, the Heartbreakers and for Jeff, even if it was temporary.
So, now we're coming up to Highway Companion, a third Tom Petty/Jeff Lynne collab. Square One is out and may be a hint of what we're in for. I hope they blow the lid off convention like they did the last two times... because they can.