Tom Petty – Finding Wildflowers (Alternate Version): Album Review

Featuring 16 studio recordings of alternate takes, long cuts and jam versions of ‘Wildflowers’ songs curated with help from the Tom Petty family, bandmates and collaborators, another visit is made to the revolutionary Wildflowers album.

Release Date: 16th April 2021

Label: Warner Records

Format: Gold Vinyl / CD / Streaming       

Hot on the tails of Wildflowers and All the Rest, which  focused on a  sea change in approach for Tom Petty, another album of alternative versions of tracks from the breath-taking Wildflowers album makes its way to us.

On the face of it, if we take a sample of the track Cabin Down Below, (5 versions over 3 albums – original, alternate, acoustic, remastered and live versions), you could ask how many variations of this track and various multiple versions of others does a Tom Petty fan need of one song? Well, that’s like asking me how many guitars do I need? Answer: One more than I’ve got!!

What is this difference between these alternative tracks and those on the original or re-mastered versions?

Perhaps the admission from the press release best answers this question: “Tom, band members and co-producer Rick Rubin worked to finalise the album in 1994. The release offers fans further deep access into the writing and recording of ‘Wildflowers’, as well as realising the full vision of the project as Tom had always intended. “

As revealed in our review of Wildflowers and All the Rest, which on its own was a comprehensive cataloguing of the music recorded  in the studio, home and live recording during this period, he was slightly out of his comfort zone, being more laid back in his approach. 

So what is the difference in sound for the listener? Well in layman’s terms most tracks have more ‘umph!!’. Sorry, I can’t be more technical! The songs all maintain the warmth and appeal of the original versions and they do open up to the amateur listener the difficult decisions artists must face when recording and selecting which version to release. 

Another difference is the addition of the track You Saw Me Comin’ which was omitted from the original album and the All The Rest edition. Heartbreaker Benmont Tench however notes, “It’s wistful, and it would have been the perfect way to end the disc.”

To produce this album  Ryan Ulyate listened to 245 reels of 24-track tape but perhaps only the most ardent Tom Petty fan or collector will consider it worth parting with another tenner after purchasing the more expensive ATR edition. If you haven’t and if you wish to discover the evolutionary process involved in recording this material then you will be in for a real treat!

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