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TheSameOldDrew

Highway Companion Re-Sequence Challenge

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In my view the Highway Companion album was a bit of a botched release.  I feel that Home and Around the Roses, which were part of a "Special Edition" re-release about 10 months after the original album, should have been part of the original.  Furthermore I feel that the track sequences of both the original and special edition releases don't serve the songs very well.  But there are some very good songs here, and there's a general theme in the album, not always adhered to but present at least in "feel" and sometimes more directly in the lyrics. 

The challenge is to use all 14 songs from the special edition (not using the demos) in a new track order that "flows" well, and perhaps tells or suggests a story, as befitting of a theme album.  MJ2LD has noted that the Hypnotic Eye album is very well sequenced in that it is paced well, flows well.  Highway Companion on the other hand, is more of a jumble that seems to jump around in style without the usual deep thought that TP typically put into his track sequencing, particularly when the 2 extra "SE" songs are tacked on rather than integrated into the original album.  

I have given a lot of thought to this, and I have made my own new sequence which I think works reasonably well with the 14 songs.  But I'd like to see what other Petty/Heartbreakers fans can do with the 14 tracks in a resequencing.  Here they are in alphabetical order for reference, I used alphabetical to avoid the influence of the original track order, though of course you can look at that sequence for inspiration/improvement if you wish.    

Ankle Deep

Around the Roses

Big Weekend

Damaged by Love

Down South

Flirting with Time

Home

Jack

Night Driver

Saving Grace

Square One

The Golden Rose

This Old Town

Turn This Car Around

 

Again note that the above are merely the 14 songs in alphabetical order.  I do not think that the above would necessarily make a good track order for the album.  I'll add my own sequence after a while, but I'd like to see what others can do first.   Feel free to take your time on this, but I hope there will be some entries by the end of next weekend (which might or might not be a "big weekend").  I doubt we'll have voting and there's no prize for this, though we can comment on which sequences we feel have done good service to the songs, and why we feel that way.     

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Here's my version of how the 14 tracks might be arranged.  The total length is now 50 minutes, longer than the 1980's albums like Hard Promises, Southern Accents, Let Me Up, and Full Moon Fever - which are each about 40 minutes long.  But shorter than Wildflowers, Echo, and Mojo which are each over 60 minutes long.   

I have various reasons for putting the songs in this order.  I think this works well in terms of introduction, pacing, conclusion, and overall story telling/theme.  It's also somewhat "back loaded" (some of the "best" songs - in my view - are now in the second half), with the hope that the listener stays interested along the entire trip.         

Down South

Big Weekend

This Old Town

Home

Damaged by Love

The Golden Rose

Jack

Saving Grace

Ankle Deep

Flirting with Time

Around the Roses

Turn This Car Around

Night Driver

Square One

 

I'd be interested to hear comments about this order, and would also be interested if someone has a different idea on how to re-sequence the 14 tracks, or if they just think the original order should be left as it is.   

    

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Alright.. this I've been thinking about on and off, over the years. It's been discussed, in loose terms at least, I believe, when the perceived strenghts and weaknesses of HC, album reviews and so on, been up. Don't think anyone ever presented an actual alternative running order, though, so thanks for getting around to it. Most interesting. 

This album is a tricky one for me. I go back and forth on exactly how it lands with me and I've shared quite a few of my opinons on this elsewhere. Most of which opinions surely have impact on the task at hand... so my excuses if I leave somethings uncommented this time.. or if I make certain comments I have already made elsewhere... so it goes.. Here goes.. 

A1. Down South

A2. Saving Grace*

A3. Big Weekend

A4. Night Driver 

A5. Square One

 

B1. Flirting With Time  

B2. Ankle Deep

B3. Damaged By Love

B4. Home  

B5. Golden Rose

 

So.. as you can tell.. I don't see how this album is telling a coherent story.. nor that it even could, given the material at hand. It does invite for a few "scenes" though.. a few "archs" of introspective drama or dreaming behind the wheel as it were, some kinda loosely coherent movement. It really may be heard as one of Tom's most successful "concept" albums that way even, as it stands. To me, the way I hear some of the songs, my suggested order strengthen some of that mutual DNA inside the songs and the stuff that holds them, together. Not all the songs are included, you say.. I know. It's just that I don't think the songs omit match neither the quality nor feeling of the other. Jack to me is one of Tom's worst ever songs. Around The Roses are neither great nor easy to fit. Others like This Old Town, Turn This Car Around may well have fitted, but to me kinda ruins the dynamics and sinks the spirit of this album, musically. Don't know.. this is mighty hard.

So what do we learn from all this? Not much.

Don't dream and drive! 

 

-----

*The energy and the imagery kinda belongs somewhere early... Worth noting how I always thought this as an opener did send the album off on a wrong note. There have been times when I feel this song doesn't fit the album at all.. but the overall energy balance that can be achieved by including a song like Home and cutting one or two of the other out, incidentally becomes its saving grace... 

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Interesting takes here. I never would have thought to remove "Saving Grace" from the lead-off spot, but you know what, "Down South" could work there. I still think "Saving Grace" is too perfect of an opening track to mess with, even though it doesn't "represent" the rest of the album. And "Down South" feels like the heart of the album to me, so it works best in the third spot. Shelter, I don't know how anyone could remove essential tracks like "Turn This Car Around" and "This Old Town" from the album!

I was a fan of Highway Companion when it came out, and I really don't think I would change too much about it. That said, there are a few tweaks I would make. Here's my take:

1. Saving Grace
2. Flirting With Time
3. Down South
4. Square One
5. Turn This Car Around
6. Big Weekend
7. Night Driver
8. Home
9. Damaged By Love
10. This Old Town
11. Around the Roses
12. Ankle Deep
13. Golden Rose

Regarding the changes:

  • "Jack" is just too weak of a song to hold up. Easy to let that one go.
  • "Square One" never worked in the second spot. It flows better at 4.
  • Adding "Home" and "Around the Roses" to the back half does enhance an already-very-good album.

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14 minutes ago, High Grass Dog said:

Shelter, I don't know how anyone could remove essential tracks like "Turn This Car Around" and "This Old Town" from the album!

Yeah.. wild, hu? I had a feelings that move would upset.

Like I implied, it's not that those songs don't fit the bill. Especially TTCA really DOES feel kinda key in a lot of ways... and it features some great playing too. I 'm not just sure where to put it at this point, without derailing. (A cool b-side to a Saving Grace single? You betcha.) TOT are decent too, by all means. Just not quite exciting enough of a composition - moreover: play the intro seconds of both those songs back to back and find that they are built around the same exact click track, pacing on in a very kin fashion too. Including both those songs adds an element of confusion, and sinks the flow. IMO. 

But yeah.. I just felt like really shaping up the experience for this experiment, to try to really make it lean and mean, keeping it core and reasonably swinging. To put both those songs back on there (and Around the Roses too), again.. too me.. creates a certain kind of dull sameness, a stagnation of sort, to an album that is in effect about movement, inner or outter. Cutting it a bit rough handedly like this, including Home to the mix and moving FWT to a more central position (opening up a slightly dreamier b-side) it makes for a more fascinating experience, a totally different balance and dynamic - simultaneously more dreamy and more swinging. Not that that is what HC may need, but to me it makes for an interesting alternative.

 

 

 

 

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8 minutes ago, Shelter said:

Yeah.. wild, hu? I had a feelings that move would upset.

Like I implied, it's not that those songs don't fit the bill. Especially TTCA really DOES feel kinda key in a lot of ways... and it features some great playing too. I 'm not just sure where to put it at this point, without derailing. (A cool b-side to a Saving Grace single? You betcha.) TOT are decent too, by all means. Just not quite exciting enough of a composition - moreover: play the intro seconds of both those songs back to back and find that they are built around the same exact click track, pacing on in a very kin fashion too. Including both those songs adds an element of confusion, and sinks the flow. IMO. 

But yeah.. I just felt like really shaping up the experience for this experiment, to try to really make it lean and mean, keeping it core and reasonably swinging. To put both those songs back on there (and Around the Roses too), again.. too me.. creates a certain kind of dull sameness, a stagnation of sort, to an album that is in effect about movement, inner or outter. Cutting it a bit rough handedly like this, including Home to the mix and moving FWT to a more central position (opening up a slightly dreamier b-side) it makes for a more fascinating experience, a totally different balance and dynamic - simultaneously more dreamy and more swinging. Not that that is what HC may need, but to me it makes for an interesting alternative.

 

 

 

 

That is interesting, and reasonable. Nice work. One point I would say about Highway Companion: Aside from any tracklist changes, the one thing that would elevate the album is the presence of a real drummer. It's cute and all that TP can play just enough to be pieced together with Jeff Lynne's studio magic, and the album holds together well enough as is. But I think bringing in someone like Steve Ferrone or even Phil Jones to lay down some real rhythms would've created a noticeable difference by comparison.

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On ‎10‎/‎22‎/‎2019 at 8:46 AM, High Grass Dog said:

I never would have thought to remove "Saving Grace" from the lead-off spot, but you know what, "Down South" could work there. I still think "Saving Grace" is too perfect of an opening track to mess with, even though it doesn't "represent" the rest of the album. And "Down South" feels like the heart of the album to me, so it works best in the third spot. Shelter, I don't know how anyone could remove essential tracks like "Turn This Car Around" and "This Old Town" from the album!

Great points by all here.  I agree that Saving Grace is a great lead-off track, though has been observed it also doesn't represent, doesn't have the same feel as the rest of the album.  It implies a different type of trip, to use the traveling metaphor.  It's a bit like Jammin' Me is to Let Me Up, a strong starting song for "some" album but maybe not that album.  Though I've actually come to enjoy the LMU album as it is laid out, and maybe I should just enjoy HC as it is.  Nope, I can't do that, it needs tweaking if not outright full re-sequencing. 

I agree Down South better represents the album, so for me (and Shelter) it works as the lead-off track.  It's also peppy enough to lead off, even though not as strong as Saving Grace. Nice to see that HGD is on the same page with those thoughts, despite not wanting to give up Saving Grace as the opener (which I can understand).  My thinking is that if Petty were a "new" artist, Saving Grace for sure should be the opener.  But since he was already well-known and had a large audience at this point, he could afford to go without the biggest "grabber" up front. 

I like certain things about Shelter's list also, but I too disagree with removing Turn This Car Around and This Old Town; those are some of the best tracks IMO.   If I were to remove tracks to tighten up the album, I'd drop Damaged By Love (just not a good song in my view, and too Jeff Lynne-y/ELO sounding), possibly also The Golden Rose, which is not bad but it's the longest song at nearly 5 minutes, and it's kind of slow/draggy on an album that already has a lot of slow paced songs.  Golden Rose also leaves the "driving" theme for a sea adventure, though I suppose this could be viewed as a second trip or a side trip.   For me The Golden Rose was the hardest to fit into the album, which may be why everyone else (including TP with the original album) has it "tacked on" at the end, a bit like Louisiana Rain on DTT.  But I don't like it at the very end - it seems too fatiguing to go on that slow-paced, nearly 5 minute trip, after the other 13 songs.   

I can understand people not liking Jack, it's a very slight song both musically and lyrically.  Not as bad as Joe from TLDJ though.   And Jack is not all bad, it has an interesting, near surf-guitar part in the second half.  Also it's helpful for pacing the album; it's short and kind of punchy, on an album that has too many long/draggy/slow songs (even when they are otherwise good).  Further, Jack shows a bit of anger and motivation "gonna get my baby back" to a possibly implied loss/denial/anger/bargaining/acceptance theme which might be present.  So Jack stays, on my version.  Plus I was trying to include all 14 songs from the Special Edition.    

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On ‎10‎/‎22‎/‎2019 at 9:40 AM, High Grass Dog said:

one thing that would elevate the album is the presence of a real drummer. It's cute and all that TP can play just enough to be pieced together with Jeff Lynne's studio magic, and the album holds together well enough as is. But I think bringing in someone like Steve Ferrone or even Phil Jones to lay down some real rhythms would've created a noticeable difference by comparison.

Almost certainly the album would have benefitted from a real drummer.  Though given TP's history with drummers, it is kind of nice that he could do all the drumming as he pleased, on an album with his name on it (i.e. not a "band" album).  Interestingly, TPATH did play Turn This Car Around a few times on the 2005 tour (best examples might be Estero FL, and Milwaukee) where TP introduced it as "we" have an upcoming album (the actual album was released about a year later, in mid 2006) .Probably meaning TP originally expected it to be a band album rather than "we" being himself and Mike. 

But in the live performance, Steve's drums just weren't right for the song.  What makes the song work so well on the album is the subdued nature for much of the song, contrasted with the very rocking "I'm going back, hey!" chorus.  Steve's drums on the live versions sounds too much like YDKHIF on the slow part and not that interesting on the chorus.  I bet Stan could have done an awesome job with it, and possibly Phil Jones, but IMO Steve already failed - and that might be a strong reason why TP decided to do the drumming himself (with help from Jeff Lynne's production, as you've noted).  

Mike's slide guitar on the 2005 live versions of TTCA is interesting, and Benmont was starting to do some keyboards which might have been further developed if it had become a band song.  All of which is beyond my thought of mere re-sequencing the tracks as they stand, but when viewing them as  songs to be tweaked, perhaps the band could have done better.  Overall I think the songs are well-performed, they have both the pluses and minuses that come with Jeff Lynne's production as on the ITGWO album - clean sound but could possibly benefit from more of a "band" contribution/feel.  Still, this became more of a "personal" album than usual for TP, so maybe it not being a full band project is right for it. 

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I like Shelter's thought of an A-side and a B-side, like the old LPs.  With that in mind, and also with the comments that there's a bit of same-yness to some of the songs on the album, I've decided to revise my own list.  I think this is much better than my earlier one.   Possibly the biggest change is that I felt that either Down South and Big Weekend could be introductory songs, but I shouldn't have put them back-to-back as dual introductory songs.  They are just too similar to each other, and as such they risk boring the listener right away.  This Old Town might be a somewhat jarring change of pace from Down South, but at least it's not as abrupt of a downshift as could have been done going from Saving Grace to This Old Town (not that anyone did that).  So I think it provides a needed change of pace.  And in my mind there's still an implied "story" going on, which this sequencing still supports. 

In terms of being LP-like, mine would be a bit long for that, but otherwise mainly fits the format.  LPs were not generally longer than 22 minutes/side, due to sound quality issues when having closely packed tracks.  Under my revised Highway Companion the first side would be 24:46 long and the second side 25:39.  It would have The Golden Rose ending the first side, and Saving Grace starting side two, somewhat mirroring the original album, but in a flipped way.  I think this would work as a CD or as an LP (other than the difficulty of fitting the length onto an LP side).  

New and improved (for me) sequencing:

Down South

This Old Town

Big Weekend

Home

Damaged by Love

Jack

The Golden Rose

 

Saving Grace

Ankle Deep

Around the Roses

Flirting with Time

Turn This Car Around

Night Driver

Square One

 

  

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16 hours ago, TheSameOldDrew said:

I like certain things about Shelter's list also, but I too disagree with removing Turn This Car Around and This Old Town; those are some of the best tracks IMO.   If I were to remove tracks to tighten up the album, I'd drop Damaged By Love (just not a good song in my view, and too Jeff Lynne-y/ELO sounding), possibly also The Golden Rose

Right, right.. About that.. DBL is the weak spot on my list -by all means. TTCA actually is a better song. I think I may have lost myself a little focusing on dynamics and sequence, and I realize that there is a way to "solve" this particular dilemma, to actually cut the first and add the other. Although, I would make a minor sequence change to make that work, and find myself with an actually even better b-side, thank you. Works great this way:

B1. Flirting With Time  

B2. Ankle Deep

B3. Home

B4. Turn This Car Around  

B5. Golden Rose

    

As for Golden Rose, I think that one is generally misunderstood. Certainly a very good and interesting song, both in its own right and as part of the HC context. I would even call it briliant. A masterpiece. And to fully grant it its full potential it has to be the closer. I don't say this often, but to me the song could have gone on even further, longer and preferably lost itself beyond the horizon, so to speak. That is the whole point. End of the road. Eternity. The letting go. Literally. Not to be overly dramatic.. but this is where the album drives off the cliff. Perhaps also, while hanging there in mid air.. this is where all the other great and intense imagery of the album plays out behind the eyelids.. what all led up to this. This understanding of the album really gets intensified by my suggested take on it. And actually, getting TTCA back on there, may in fact have been the missing piece. I'm very happy with that, so thanks for insisting, so to speak..  

As for  the full 14 song approach that you cling to - that, to my ears, is what drags the whole project, the possible "drive" (yeah, yeah..) of this album down, what blurs the vision and where it's losing both direction and movement. Too much filler, too much sameness, in terms of atmosphere. Dreary... We all seem to agree on Jack. (A bad song and an introduction of a character that basically just complicates matter and makes them too literal, for my taste.) And ATR, TOT and DBL don't add much, musically or otherwise. Again.. charming as they may be in some of their details, they make the album lose it's core element - movement.

And in terms of album production -- it's interesting about the drummers, mentioned. I agree. A certain demo-like quality to this album - or at least to some of the songs (TOT perhaps most of all) certainly could be attributed to the minimalist in the extreme rhythm tracks. Again.. TOT and TTCA exposing their bare ankles on their respective set-offs, shows a bone structure both simple, and limited - and extremely similar. Could be a strength, but I'm afraid it could also be boring. And not a good basis for dancing.. or even swaying really. Some songs lack more than others in this department, but at least to my mind, the most lackluster and stagnant moments of the album has been removed on my redux HC - making it at long last something to lean on.

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15 hours ago, TheSameOldDrew said:

New and improved (for me) sequencing:

Thanks for noticing my LP take on your challenge here. 

I would strongly suggest that you make yours a so called 3-sided LP., given certain limitations of the format, that you yourself mention. Gives you some more opportunities - and challenges - in terms of how to sequence three sides.. What fun!

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On ‎10‎/‎24‎/‎2019 at 3:00 AM, Shelter said:

Right, right.. About that.. DBL is the weak spot on my list -by all means. TTCA actually is a better song. I think I may have lost myself a little focusing on dynamics and sequence, and I realize that there is a way to "solve" this particular dilemma, to actually cut the first and add the other

Nice that you see it that way also, and I love your improved Highway Companion "LP".  I didn't want to cut anything myself, but Damaged By Love is an incredibly weak song IMO, worse than Jack.  On the other hand, Turn This Car Around is a very interesting song.  As you've mentioned the "trip" of HC is both geographical and personal ("introspective drama" and "dreaming behind the wheel"), and TTCA is a prime example of that, as well as key in the implied "story" here.  The way I view TTCA is that when the singer (yes it's TP singing, but as a character) sings "I'm going back" he really wants to turn the clock back and go back to the past.  And it's a more exciting, energetic, rock and roll past.  I love the way the music shifts from plodding to energetic rock and roll, and there's a feeling of excitement that he's really going back.  But ultimately he seems to realize that he can't truly go back in time.  Even if he can turn the car in another direction, or geographically head home. 

On ‎10‎/‎24‎/‎2019 at 3:00 AM, Shelter said:

As for Golden Rose, I think that one is generally misunderstood. Certainly a very good and interesting song, both in its own right and as part of the HC context. I would even call it briliant. A masterpiece. And to fully grant it its full potential it has to be the closer. I don't say this often, but to me the song could have gone on even further, longer and preferably lost itself beyond the horizon, so to speak. That is the whole point. End of the road. Eternity. The letting go. Literally. Not to be overly dramatic.. but this is where the album drives off the cliff. Perhaps also, while hanging there in mid air.. this is where all the other great and intense imagery of the album plays out behind the eyelids.. what all led up to this. This understanding of the album really gets intensified by my suggested take on it. And actually, getting TTCA back on there, may in fact have been the missing piece

Very interesting take regarding The Golden Rose.  For me it does have a very cinematic quality, so I can see why everyone likes it at the end of the album, as if it's the closing and go-to-the-credits part of a movie.  There's also a very dream-like quality to TGR  It starts out with a distorted sounding piano, deliberately out of tune to my ears.  As if we're supposed to know that this a dream, and not really part of the physical trip.  By the way, some online lyrics claim something about a "first maid" which obviously should read "first mate" when viewed in context. 

I've struggled with putting TGR at the end, and I will probably burn CDR versions of the album in my preferred sequence as noted above (my "improved" version), and then burn another one in the same order - except with TGR moved to the end.  That might work, I think I'd have to hear both to find a preference.  My thinking still though is that TGR is too long and draggy for a final song, after already going 46 minutes through the first 13 songs.  But I could be wrong about that.  I do like the repeated "Goodbye Golden Rose" lyric as a kind of album closer.  On the other hand, I also like Square One as the final track.  Also, by starting with Down South and ending with Square One, the album is bookended by songs that sound clean and crisp, starting with an optimistic plan and ending with a destination/acceptance.  But TGR could also be a good closer - especially for a shorter album, as you've made your version.  In my version I see TGR as a kind of dream or side-trip (if taken literally) along the way.     

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On ‎10‎/‎24‎/‎2019 at 3:10 AM, Shelter said:

I would strongly suggest that you make yours a so called 3-sided LP., given certain limitations of the format, that you yourself mention.

Thanks for the idea, but I think it would be too hard to put together HC's 14 songs as a 3-sided LP.  What I might do in burning my preferred sequence to CD is to put a longer gap between the 7th and 8th songs than normal, as a brief indication of "side one" and "side two".  A bit like TP's "Hello CD listeners" on the FMF CD, which was a brilliant way to give CD listeners a similar experience to flipping over the LP.   But I wouldn't want a long gap of silence, maybe 4 seconds, 5 seconds at the most.

I'm not really a dedicated LP guy, though I did grow up listening to that format and got used to the Side A/Side B delineation.  As for sound quality, yes LPs sometimes have a "warmer" and even "more musical" sound than CDs, but I feel a properly mastered CD played on reasonably good equipment has the overall advantage over and LP.  Such as convenience, durability, and clearer highs (such as cymbals, bells, drumsticks, plucked strings).  I do have a tube-based DAT which I sometimes use to give overly digital sound more of an analog texture, though frankly I view that as distortion akin to a tone control (which I also sometimes use).   

Overall I'm mostly dedicated to digital (high quality digital though, wav-file bit rates as a minimum, if at all possible) and solid state music reproduction.  Yes those old 12" LP covers were kind of fun to look at, and even affected one's perception of the music to a degree, but overall I think the  LP sound is a bit overrated and just "different", not really better.   Not that you were saying I should try to make an actual physical LP.  I was just noting that I thought my preferred track sequence could work for a 2-sided LP, except that (in general) high-quality audio should not be put on an LP side exceeding 22 minutes.   But my plan would make use of Saving Grace as an "opening track", albeit for side two.   

  

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