There's a common thread running through Tom Petty's catalog, and it's the Heartbreakers. Even albums ostensibly released as solo records or side projects like Mudcrutch inevitably included members of his core band.

The lineup of the group remained remarkably stable over the years too. They only lost two members, co-founding drummer Stan Lynch (who left in 1994) and the late bassist Howie Epstein, a member from 1982-2002. He replaced founding bassist Ron Blair, who then returned for a stint that lasted until Petty's death in 2017.

Petty didn't look far for collaborators when he decided to strike out on his own with 1989's Full Moon Fever, 1994's Wildflowers and 2006's Highway Companion. Original Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell played a key role in all three albums. Founding keyboardist Benmont Tench and Epstein were on Full Moon Fever and Wildflowers; Steve Ferrone, who replaced Lynch, also appeared on Wildflowers.

Petty was similarly loyal with outside collaborators. After achieving multi-platinum success with Full Moon Fever, he invited producer Jeff Lynne to oversee the next Heartbreakers album, 1991's Into the Great Wide Open – then worked with him again on Highway Companion. Rick Rubin produced Wildflowers and then the Heartbreakers' late-'90s albums She's the One and Echo. Ryan Ulyate co-produced the final two Heartbreakers albums and both studio projects from Mudcrutch, a pre-Heartbreakers group featuring Campbell and Tench that regrouped in the '00s.

That helps to give Petty's output a uniformity of voice, even when he swerved into the more technologically focused ethos of the '80s or Lynne's sleek and sometimes more mechanical approach in the next decade. You'll hear that voice loud and clear, through successive but often very different eras, as we select the Best Song From Every Tom Petty Album below.

The Best Song From Every Tom Petty Album

There's a common thread running through Tom Petty's catalog, and it's the Heartbreakers. 

Gallery Credit: Nick DeRiso

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