Thursday, August 4, 2011

Decent Song, Poor Use Of The Medium, “Mary Jane's Last Dance” Isn't Worth Buying.

The Good: Catchy tune, Decent performance, Collectible value?
The Bad: Poor use of medium, Unremarkable cut.
The Basics: A disappointing one-track c.d. single, “Mary Jane's Last Dance” offers nothing the album it was from does not already have.

C.d. singles take a beating from me as a reviewer, but it is hard for me to have compassion for them, especially in the age of digital downloads and especially when the producers of such things are wholly unimaginative about them. C.d. singles, at one point, sought to overcome the limitations of the cassette single by providing more than just the single and a b-side. For a long time, b-sides were tracks that weren't even released on the album the single was associated with. And with the emergence of the c.d. single, listeners often got tracks not from the album as well as remixes of the named single. Thus, when scouring the internet for rarities from one's favorite artist or performer, there is little more disappointing than a one-track single, like the single for “Mary Jane's Last Dance” by Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers.

“Mary Jane's Last Dance” appeared both commercially and at radio stations as a one-track c.d. single intended to promote the first Greatest Hits album by the band. It was a successful single for the band with its catchy lyrics and easily grooveable sound. The song did well, but on its own single it is truly a waste of money. The reason for that is simple: the one-track single contains only the album cut of the song. As a result, those who hunt this down are not getting anything they couldn't already get on a very common c.d.

With only one song occupying less than five minutes of space on the disc, “Mary Jane's Last Dance” is hardly an inspired use of the c.d. medium, but it is a fair example of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, at least as they were in the mid-1990s. The band wrote the song, Tom Petty provides lead vocals and the band played all the instruments on it. No one in the band produced the single, but because their long-time producer was involved, one suspects this is the sound the band wanted for the single.

“Mary Jane's Last Dance” is a musical storysong with a very simply tune which is plucked out on guitars and bass. The percussion is minimal until the choruses, but the song is very danceable and fun with a quirky undertone that comes from the lyrics and vocal performance. This is a surprisingly poppy performance from the classic rock band.

Tom Petty’s vocals on the song are fun and actually sound almost like he is doing a parody of Bob Dylan. Petty drawls many of the lines and one can almost hear him smirking through the simple rhyme scheme and amusing story of Mary Jane, even though it is arguably the story of a young woman killing herself. Petty’s vocals are smooth and articulate but come out with a twang that is uncharacteristic for the artist. Petty actually strains to the lower registers of his vocal range – keeping the lyrics clear the entire time – while the backing vocalists go for falsetto accents to his lines.

Lyrically, “Mary Jane's Last Dance” is a simple musical storysong. With obvious rhymes like “. . . she grew up tall and she grew up right / with them Indiana boys on an Indiana night / Well she moved down here, the age of 18 / She blew the boys away, was more than they had seen / I was introduced and we both started groovin’ / She said ‘I dig you baby but I got to keep movin' . . .” “Mary Jane's Last Dance” has a singsong feel to it that masks the depth of the musical protagonist's depression. The song is well-written and enjoyable, if a bit simple.

Sadly, the simplicity might be fun, but wasting time and money is not. There is nothing but the one track on this c.d. single and fans deserve more. There are better ways to get “Mary Jane's Last Dance” than shelling out for the c.d. single.

For other c.d. singles, please check out my reviews of:
"Gimme More" - Britney Spears
"Don't Look Back In Anger" - Oasis
"Was It Worth It?" - Pet Shop Boys


For other music reviews, please click here to visit my index page with a listing of all of the c.d. and singles reviews I have written!

© 2011, 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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