Tom Petty Wildflowers & All the Rest (Warner) Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Thursday, November 26th, 2020  

Tom Petty

Wildflowers & All the Rest


Oct 30, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Tom Petty’s 1994 album Wildflowers has been widely hailed as one of his greatest works, a masterpiece within a consistently strong catalog spanning nearly 40 years. Unlike the rollicking pop-smart rock and roll that he is best known for, Wildflowers is a deeply personal work, a raw, introspective, and soulful musical statement that showcases some of Petty’s best songwriting. While nods to Petty’s more populist rock are present in songs like “You Wreck Me” and “You Don’t Know How It Feels,” the album overall is more nuanced—the gentle breeze of “Wildflowers” and “Time to Move On,” the George Harrison feels of “Only a Broken Heart,” the heavy blues of “Honey Bee,” the guitar picked folk of “Don’t Fade on Me,” the hopeful mantra of “A Higher Place,” and the piano driven self-assessment of “Wake Up Time.” It’s an album of unprecedented depth, and one that will forever stand as one of Petty’s best.  

Initially conceptualized as a double album, Wildflowers is reissued here in fleshed out form, adding the additional tracks that were recorded in the studio for the project and dubbing them All the Rest. Listening to these additional 10 tracks, one is able to better understand Petty’s original vision for the project. Most of the additional cuts would have fit seamlessly into the greater theme of the album proper. “Something Could Happen” is laid back and hopeful. “Leave Virginia Alone” is wonderfully Beatles-esque. “Confusion Wheel” is folk tune that one can easily imagine Richard Thompson singing. “Harry Green,” with Petty solo on guitar and harmonica, sounds like it should come from the Anthology of American Folk Music. And “Climb That Hill Blues” is a solo, bluesy testament to pushing forward through disappointment, instrumentally much different from “Climb That Hill” that is found later in the extras and which eventually ended up on 1996’s Songs and Music fromShe’s the One.  

For those who splurge for the 4-CD version, the Wildflowers experience is even further illuminated. A third disc, titled Home Recordings, is exactly that, and this Home Recordings disc plays as a lo-fi early version of the album. Some songs are substituted for others. Nothing is polished. All find Petty laid completely bare. It’s the roots of what became Wildflowers, encapsulated in a 15-song songwriter’s journey, revealing the foundation for and ultimately the soul of Wildflowers    

A fourth, live disc is not a concert from the Dogs Have Wings tour of the year following the album’s release but rather a collection of Wildflowers and Wildflowers-era tunes played live from 1995 through Petty’s last tour in 2017. It’s sequenced to sound like a live show and tracks segue seamlessly into one another for what feels like a true concert experience. Each of the performances was chosen as ultimate live versions of the songs, and listening to it, no one would argue. Wildflowers Live is much more than a throw away live album to pad a box set. The songs reveal nuance or jubilance or an additional rocking livelihood that adds a dimension to the studio (or demo) versions presented elsewhere in the package. It’s as essential as the other discs in this set, rounding out the ultimate Tom Petty Wildflowers experience.     

It’s hard to argue against Wildflowers as one of Tom Petty’s highest masterpieces, especially after listening to Wildflowers & All the Rest. It’s a gift from the musical gods that the extra material here has been unearthed to contribute to our understanding and appreciation of the album. All of it demands repeated listens to take in its beauty and brilliance. (  

Author rating: 9/10

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Average reader rating: 7/10


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