Two categories come to mind when thinking of musicians who have produced more than seven albums: the genre-bending, ever-changing experimenters, and the one who did one thing really well and consistently.
The Beatles, Tom Waits and Bob Dylan would fall into the former. Dylan eventually settled into doing the americana cowboy band thing. Tom Waits continues to try new things. The Beatles eventually broke up into four less-than-awesome parts.
Frank Sinatra did one thing, and did it really well. Tom Petty always did one thing, and did it really well. Frank Sinatra sang. Tom Petty led a band that played rock and roll.
That’s about as abstract and categorical as I feel you should get. I suppose in the world of criticism you must stretch the language in order articulate where a particular musician falls in the music pantheon. You must also use BS terms like “music pantheon”.
So there should be a warning issued. Tom Petty is releasing a live anthology on December 8. It will be preceded by a lot of articles postulating on he is a “Rock God”. Some will call him a “Rock Icon”. A whole slew of articles will ask where he stands in the hierarchy of great music. Some will ask if he belongs there at all. Not many will talk about how good his band is, how hard is it to keep a band at the top of their game for 30 years. It’s sad how many people, especially those writing about music, miss the point.