Release Date: Oct 16, 2020
Record label: Warner Records
Like most of his output, or that output of his peers and contemporaries from Bob Dylan to Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young to Stevie Nicks, the music of the dearly departed Tom Petty is best judged when viewed both in retrospect, and with utter subjectivity. Like those titans, Petty dedicated his whole career to the pursuance of both musical and lyrical excellence – and, thankfully, he succeeded. The music he made by himself and with his Heartbreakers has touched the hearts and minds of millions of fans across the world, and his Florida drawl – and his Rickenbacker – will be heard and loved for decades to come.
Imagine the scene: It's 1994 and Tom Petty is presenting his new solo album Wildflowers to the suits at Warner Bros. He's been working on this music for two years with a new collaborator, producer Rick Rubin, and he is excited. He presses play. The first thing you hear is the title track, which sounds like a folk standard.
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.
The Lowdown: Few creative efforts ever reach the finish line without compromise. In the case of Tom Petty's 1994 solo album, Wildflowers, the final product barely scratched the surface of the artist's intended vision. While Petty originally mapped out a sprawling 25-song double-album, executives at new label Warner Bros. thought such a massive collection might send sales freefalling.