Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers: Into The Great Wide Open (1991)
But after he sadly passed away a few years back, I took another spin through his catalog, and was impressed by how much truly great music he'd made in the years since my youth. I'm particularly won over by his '89-'94 run, bookended by the two albums he recorded without his longtime band the Heartbreakers (Full Moon Fever and Wildflowers), with this one falling in the middle. And Into The Great Wide Open is probably my favorite. Yeah, you've got those perfect singles in the title track and "Learning to Fly." But the whole album is unusually compelling. Maybe it's the prevalence of those inherently lovable jangly mid-tempo tracks. Jeff Lynne's production, often the bane of an album, is restrained and supportive of the music.
Perhaps the most unexpected realization was that the album sounds a lot like the pastoral jangle of the Feelies' The Good Earth -- presumably an album Petty had never heard, but a personal favorite; the similarity between Petty's Southern rasp and Glenn Mercer's Lou Reed roughness really grabbed me.
Anyway, yeah, it's just one more solidly comfortable Petty album among many. But it's the one I find myself spinning more than the rest.
Here's that classic video for the title track: