It's only fitting that Dwight Twilley's new single, "Girls," includes vocal support by Tom Petty. Twilley, like Petty, is a mainstream American rocker with melodic gifts and killer instincts who was locked in a legal limbo for several years and unable to record or perform.
Now with "Girls" and nine other hook-laden songs on "Jungle," Twilley's second album since emerging from that contractual twilight zone, he is finally fulfilling the promise suggested when this Beatles fan from Oklahoma first emerged in 1975.
Pumped up by synthesizers played with bar band verve, Twilley's songs grab you as though they just jumped off a 1966 AM radio. "Girls" is not the only song here with an infectious melody and an instant momentum; every song is written and recorded like a single. Twilley's ringing, marching plea, "Why You Wanna Break My Heart," is the best Tom Petty song Petty never wrote. "You Can Change It" is addressed to a girlfriend, but its anthemic optimism suggests a larger idealism. "To Get to You" updates Buddy Holly's popabilly with modern production. The album ends with a Lennonesque joke song about the legless "Max Dog" ("He can't rock, but he sure can roll.")
DWIGHT TWILLEY -- "Jungle" (EMI ST-17107); appearing at the Wax Museum Sunday.