Tom Petty
Wildflowers


4.5
superb

Review

by BigHans USER (108 Reviews)
February 18th, 2010 | 18 replies | 9,265 views


Release Date: 1994 | Tracklist

Review Summary: On hiatus from the Heartbreakers, Tom Petty delivers the most poignant work of his career.

5 of 5 thought this review was well written

It’s difficult to grasp the idea Tom Petty is far more than a quintessential dinosaur rock hit practitioner. The bulk of Petty’s success has been derived from writing scores of straight ahead catchy rock staples, always high on meaty hooks but usually eschewing any lasting sense of depth. Petty’s career as frontman of the Heartbreakers is stalwart enough for Hall of Fame status, but the bulk of his legacy owes more to the joys of mindless fist raising rock than any sense of underlying sentimentality. With these pre-conceived notions in mind, it is utterly astounding to conceive the resonating poignancy of his greatest work, 1994’s “Wildflowers.”

“Wildflowers” eschews the traditional party rock formula for something much more preeminent. Sure, there are a few requisite irresistible rockers, naturally encompassing the freedom-embracing images of driving at excessive speeds to destination who cares (You Wreck Me, Higher Place), but “Wildflowers” is more ambitious in its quest for self reflection than satisfying the thirst for immediately accessible hooks. “Wildflowers,” above all else, is a self lamenting ride through the struggles of love and life, baring its soul the entire way in a haunting yet memorable attempt to cure self-doubt with optimism. Perhaps self reflection is really the overriding theme of “Wildflowers,” as the ambience of the album is awash in nostalgic rawness, each entry transcending a specific, over-riding mood upon the listener.

Petty paints these moods in layers of sometimes wistful, sometimes self deprecating storylines, but the accompanying musical themes are usually optimistic, transforming the atmosphere of a song like “You Don’t Know How It Feels,” which is really about crushing loneliness, into a party anthem. When the brightest guitar chords imaginable emanate from the Title Track, the immediate feeling conjured is defined innocence, a natural soothing warmth prescribed by jangly acoustics. Relaxation is an over-riding emotion flowing from “Wildflowers,” as even when Petty laments loss on “Its Only a Broken Heart,” “Hard on Me,” “Crawling Back to You,” and “To Find a Friend,” it feels more like reflecting on a breezy porch, drink in hand, than succumbing to the depths of despair. The lyrical content of the redemption seeking “Time to Move On” and “Wake Up Time” are devastating to those that waste their lives, but the yearning, gorgeous melodies dripping from each prescribe that recurring sense of optimism, that even if one has waffled the majority of their existence there still stands a remaining shard of hope.

It seems perhaps through a newfound maturity or optimistic focus that Petty is sugaring his self doubt on purpose, as even when the album takes its darkest turn on the chilling, backwoods Bayou influenced “Don’t Fade On Me,” it is intentionally sandwiched between the joyously dirty rocker “Honey Bee” and the rolling, “this should be in a Quentin Tarantino movie” grooves of “Cabin Down Below.” Much like the conflicting lyrical/atmospheric themes of memorable single “You Don’t Know How It Feels,”“It’s Good to Be King” is a vivacious attack on his own natural selfishness, but the piano dustings and gargantuan chorus belie the understated moodiness of the song’s lyrical motives, transforming a self loathing song into an upbeat atmosphere. This collision of insightful, honest lyricism with above average musicianship drives not only the memorable singles, but is consistent throughout the record.

Always the prolific songwriter, Petty reached the pinnacle of his abilities on “Wildflowers,” digging deep to embrace the struggles of adult life while maintaining an air of youthful wistfulness. While each track maintains a pre-defined, requisite catchiness, repeated listens to the album transcribe the sense there is something much more profound here. “Wildflowers” combines the rocking elements of Petty’s past with a heightened focus on acoustics and melody, and the collision of memorable musical tones with hauntingly reflective storylines establish a lasting resonance. Often, a requisite for a great song is the ability to dictate a certain mood or to conjure specific, life relating memories. “Wildflowers” showcases Petty following this textbook to a tee, and is the primary reason it is his greatest overall performance.

Essentials:

Time to Move On
Wildflowers
You Don’t Know How It Feels
A Higher Place

Other Recommends:

Crawling Back to You
It’s Good to Be King
You Wreck Me
Wake Up Time
Cabin Down Below
Honey Bee
Don’t Fade on Me



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user ratings (99)
Chart.
4.1
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
Athom
Staff Reviewer
February 18th 2010



17114 Comments


My first rock concert was seeing Tom Petty on this tour at the Hollywood Bowl. I love this album

Digging: Sad Lovers and Giants - Feeding the Flame

BigHans
February 18th 2010



26455 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This album is hitting me hard right now. I was pretty surprised it didn't have a review. "Its Time to Move On" destroys me.

RobotFrank
February 18th 2010



344 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

My first rock concert was also the Dogs with Wings tour in Jones Beach, NY. Not a bad start at all. Nicely written review, Hans. Think I might have to throw this back into my rotation now..

BigHans
February 18th 2010



26455 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Im jealous. The closest I've come to seeing Petty Live was watching his Super Bowl halftime performance and You Tube clips.

BigHans
February 18th 2010



26455 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I just realized I wrote a review for the album and forgot to quote the "Lets get to the point/lets roll another joint" line from "you Dont Know How It Feels."

RobotFrank
February 18th 2010



344 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Great Superbowl for a Tom Petty/Giants fan like myself! I don't think you had to mention that lyric - it's basically implied when discussing this album. I kind of feel like this was his last great, classic work.

WatchItExplode
February 18th 2010



3068 Comments


Tom Petty rules this album is solid, even amazing at times...for some reason my ipod always plays "wake up time" when I need a little boost to get my poop in a group

BigHans
February 18th 2010



26455 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Sputnik needs more Petty/Seger/Mellencamp type reviews. Although I might stand alone on that opinion.

WatchItExplode
February 18th 2010



3068 Comments


Steve Miller Band too

Athom
Staff Reviewer
February 18th 2010



17114 Comments


I feel you on Petty and Seger. Mellencamp can suck a dick.

EVedder27
February 18th 2010



6088 Comments


"Great Superbowl for a Tom Petty/Giants fan like myself!"

oh what a superbowl that was. One of the greatest nights of my life.




Great work again Hans, heard a few of the singles from here. You should review Full Moon Fever. Great album.

Nagrarok
February 19th 2010



7946 Comments


Missed this Hans, great work, pos'd. Just a piece of suggestion for future reviews: I'd like to see more negative ones from you. Most seem to be 4's and 4.5's.

BigHans
February 19th 2010



26455 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I feel you on Petty and Seger. Mellencamp can suck a dick

^ I mostly agree now, as I have hated him since the "our Country Song" that was played 18 times in Chevy commercials every football game for two years. However, some of his older stuff is pretty good, like American Fool.

BigHans
February 19th 2010



26455 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Great work again Hans, heard a few of the singles from here. You should review Full Moon Fever. Great album.

^ Thanks, that is a great one, has memorable singles like Free Fallin, Runnin Down a Dream, and i Wont Back Down. Might have to.

ConsiderPhlebas
July 16th 2010



6157 Comments


This sounds awesome. I need more Tom Petty in my life.

JackSparrow
August 5th 2012



1686 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Listened to this album 6 times on an 8-hour drive, its fucking fantastic

xfearbefore
December 26th 2013



1192 Comments


I want to make dirty dirty love to the harmonica and Petty's sheer laid back chillness on "You Don't Know How it Feels".

Digging: Ultravox - Vienna

ExcentrifugalForz
February 8th 2014



1083 Comments


No matter what I'm doing I stop and listen if "don't fade on me" is playing.
Its such a captivating song.
Girls don't like that during sex.



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