When a nine-disc version of Tom Petty’s 1994 album Wildflowers was released last year, a daunting level of fan loyalty was required.
For the more fair-weather and conventionally curious Petty follower, this detachment (from that set) of the 16 alternative takes and longer jams makes solid sense, offering insight into his process without demanding that you pass an exam on every home recording.
An album that he always wanted to be longer (the label disagreed) is, almost 30 years on from its inception, being allowed to stretch its legs at its own pace.
With Rick Rubin producing, and most of the Heartbreakers playing despite it being a solo record, it’s clear that Petty wanted to glide away from Jeff Lynne’s ornate tropes and keep things lean and reflective.
While Wildflowers was still rock music, it was softer, folkier, with a hint of After The Goldrush-era Neil Young.
The versions here lean into that sensitivity: You Saw Me Comin’ lopes like a hungry tiger yet carries a sense of yearning, of romanticism; It’s Good To Be The King matches wit and fluidity; and Honey Bee is as streamlined as it is sassy.
Here is an artist maturing and mellowing, yet still blossoming.