Tom Petty – Wildflowers & All The Rest: Album Review

The 1994 album Wildflowers by Tom Petty has been released, remastered and extended with home recordings of discarded material and live concert recordings. 

Release date: 16th October 2020

Label: Warner Records

Format: CD / deluxe CD / vinyl / deluxe vinyl / DL

Tom Petty solo or with The Heartbreakers or even as a Wilbury is one of those rare artists who never let his standards drop.  Wildflowers, under the expert guidance of production guru Rick Rubin was a solo album release par excellence. It represents all that is best in rock music, all that is best from America, all that is best from record production and all that is best from Tom Petty.

His first solo release  Full Moon Fever, with a few tracks becoming Petty standards throughout the years, set a high standard and received international acclaim. It was a hard act to follow. Wisely instead of trying to replicate said album, the decision to tone down the Petty sound resulted in another outstanding collection of songs worthy of taking on the road as the majority of the tracks from the original album have a live recording outing in this package too.

It has been asked of many classic albums ….what did they leave out from demos, studio or home recordings? Well, this album answers that as material discarded from one of Tom Petty’s most prolific writing periods are included in this package, which includes nigh on 70 recordings either remastered, home-recorded or live concert.

Amongst the songs also released here are home record but didn’t make the live set, Higher Place epitomises what I think was trying to be achieved on this period of Tom Petty’s musical journey. It has a distinct Beatle beat and indeed Rick Rubin played demos of The White Album to Tom Petty providing much inspiration.  Co-producer credits are given to Mike Campbell (Heartbreaker guitarist) who invited Ringo Starr to play selected tracks and whose drumming touch and playing technique and experience was utilised to great effect. He also persuaded Beach Boy, Carl Wilson to add vocal contributions. 

There are also home versions of about half the original Wildflowers album tracks which,  due to the volume of material, intended to be a double album but eventually released as one.

It is also interesting to study how the running order on the album differs from the live setlist, which also includes only a few songs not heard on the studio or home recording part of the package. Amongst them are  Walls, Drivin Down To Georgia and Girl On LSD.  The album is notable for its warmth and intimate sounds, which come through on the live album too in terms of the audience response to each song, encouraging much audience participation particularly on You Don’t Know What It’s Like and the amusing Girl On LSD.

Apparently, Tom Petty approached this album with trepidation, yet over time saw it as amongst his best and it is hard to dispute that. Rick Rubin also said that there was an intention of  “showing up to work every day to make something beautiful.”  Mission accomplished.

Listen to the home recording of Wildflowers here:

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