Substandard at Best
R.J. | 02/10/2005
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Far and away the weakest Pretenders album. Most of the songs come across as little more than Chrissie Hynde with a bunch of studio musicians and while a few songs such as the glorious "Sense of Purpose" manage to shine through the otherwise mundane proceedings there is a good reason why this remains the sole Pretenders album out of print."
Kevin Kochanski | Atlanta, GA USA | 10/06/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is a notoriously bad album. Out of print for years, most people seem to think it was the essence of everything that "went wrong" with the Pretenders when it became a pseudonym for "Chrissie Hynde and various musicians." But honestly it's one of my favorite Pretenders albums! Sure it's more produced and more ballad-friendly than early Pretenders albums, but it's not bad at all. Nothing terribly schmaltzy like "I'll Stand by You," and a few really great songs like "Never Do That," "Criminal," and "Sense of Purpose.""
R. Josef | New Haven, CT United States | 12/04/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"After the tour for the below par "Get Close" album, the latest version of the Pretenders pretty much disintegrated. Although Chrissie Hynde brought along drummer Blair Cunningham from this lineup, this fifth album could really be considered Chrissie Hynde's first solo album, recorded, like "Get Close", with session men.
Fortunately, this album sounds nothing like "Get Close", which was largely a product of overdone 80's pop sounds. Hynde hired a new producer, Mitchell Froom, and he returned to the guitar-centered rock that was the trademark of the group's earliest albums. The occassional keyboards are only used for flavor. The sounds lacks the in-your-face power of original producer Chris Thomas, but it sounds like very much a piece from beginning to end. Even the group's best records (even the first, still the top choice) had at least one track that sounded out of place due to differing personnel, producer, or recording session.
Anyway, the songwriting is top notch here. The album starts off strong with a lovely Byrds-like pop-rocker, "Never Do That". There's also a fun attempt at rockabilly ("Millionaires"), Hynde's first successful attempt at reggae ("How Do I Miss You?), moving ballads ("Criminal", a great cover of Hendrix's "May There Be Love" ), and best of all, fun hard rockers like "Downtown", "Hold A Candle to This" and "No Guarantee". Forthright statements like "Sense of Purpose" and "Let's Make a Pact" show that Chrissie wasn't ready to give up, despite all the problems.
It's a high-quality release, but it was a bomb both critically and commercially, and at that point there were no "Pretenders" to tour and promote it. For reasons I don't get, it's got a bad reputation among fans. It doesn't deserve to be out of print, and maybe Rhino's reissue campaign will get it the reassessment that it deserves. In the meantime, although most of the other albums have individual songs that are better and rock harder, this is a consistently strong album that fans will enjoy. The first album is always the first choice, but you won't be sorry if you buy "Packed.""