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Tom Petty: Wildflowers & All The Rest Album Of The Week Club review

Re-released as Tom Petty originally intended, Wildflowers & The Rest is now an expanded package that includes a batch of previously unheard material

Tom Petty - Wildflowers & The Rest album artwork
(Image: © Warner Records)
Tom Petty - Wildflowers & All The Rest

(Image credit: Warner Records)

Wildflowers
You Don’t Know How It Feels 
Time to Move On 
You Wreck Me
It’s Good to Be King
Only a Broken Heart
Honey Bee
Don’t Fade on Me
Hard on Me
Cabin Down Below
To Find a Friend
A Higher Place
House in the Woods
Crawling Back to You
Wake Up Time
Something Could Happen
Leave Virginia Alone
Climb That Hill Blues
Confusion Wheel
California
Harry Green
Hope You Never
Somewhere Under Heaven
Climb That Hill
Hung Up And Overdue

In Tom Petty’s last interview before he died in 2017, he promised to return to his second solo album, 1994’s Wildflowers

Posthumously, his wife, daughters, producer Rick Rubin and Heartbreakers Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench have honoured his wish, and it’s now available as a two-CD or three-LP set, a box or a deluxe edition, the latter including a necklace. 

The album itself caught Petty in a tricky place personally, where divorce and heroin addiction loomed. Professionally he turned away from Jeff Lynne’s warm productions, brought in Rubin to strip things down and Ringo Starr to guest on To Find A Friend, lyrically turned confessional, and delivered an intimate, hook-laden, grown-up collection that sold three million copies in the US alone.

It was planned as a 25-track double album, until Warner Bros insisted on a single. Now it’s fully restored on the two-CD version, so California, Leave Virginia Alone and the lengthy, lovely Love Is Blue-inspired Hung Up & Over (which was included on the She’s The One soundtrack) enhance an already vivid picture. 

The original was a Heartbreakers album in all but name. Petty’s decision to credit his regular band as session players on it was apparently down to the Rubin effect. “Rick and I both wanted more freedom than to be strapped into five guys,” he reasoned.

Rubin’s focused approach to these songs of salad days and self-doubt play to Petty’s core strengths: erudite roots-rock charged with the raw thrill of the Rolling Stones and the delicacy of The Byrds. You Don’t Know How It Feels was a major hit, and piano ballad Wake Up Time is equally memorable.

Every week, Album of the Week Club listens to and discusses the album in question, votes on how good it is, and publishes our findings, with the aim of giving people reliable reviews and the wider rock community the chance to contribute. 

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Other albums released in November 1994

  • Amorica - The Black Crowes
  • MTV Unplugged in New York - Nirvana
  • Youthanasia - Megadeth
  • Hell Freezes Over - Eagles
  • Still Climbing - Cinderella
  • Requiem - Bathory
  • The Songs of Distant Earth - Mike Oldfield
  • Vitalogy - Pearl Jam
  • The Impossible Bird - Nick Lowe
  • Live at the BBC - The Beatles

What they said...

"If, in the years since Petty released his 1994 classic album, he slowly revealed, on-stage and in interviews, more about the darkly personal inspirations for the record, this retrospective box does the same for the sprawling, bursting creative process that went into making Wildflowers. It’s the definitive artistic statement that newly illuminates one of the most fruitful, inspired periods of the American legend’s career." (Rolling Stone

"It’s no wonder that, 26 years on, Wildflowers seems like the last classic-rock record that a plurality of fans would consider a classic. As rock’n’ roll – arguably a cult now – might say of its former self, as channeled through this set: It was good to be king." (Variety)

"This is a guy who went from playing music with his buddies in swampy North Florida without much compromise to standing alongside his own heroes in Hollywood as a peer through talent, dedication, and an overwhelming amount of hard work. Tom Petty had the miraculous ability to write songs almost anyone could identify with and enjoy. Wildflowers & All the Rest is the most revealing window we have into his process so far." (Spin)

What you said...

Mike Knoop: Well-executed Americana perfect for listening to at your favourite coffeehouse. Also pretty much not what I want out of a Tom Petty album. Not only has the club missed the unique opportunity to feature two totally different backing bands with the same name, it's missed the opportunity to showcase one of the tightest power pop bands of all time.

And, sure, all but one of the Heartbreakers are here, but they are generally muted, with electric guitar riffs and organ fills in short supply and the quickstep drumming of Stan Lynch sorely missed.

What we get is 15 songs that are usually mid-tempo or slower with generally bitter lyrics. Even the losers aren't getting lucky this time.

"So, do you like ANY of it, you cranky bastard?"

Yes, and the ones I like, I like a lot. There's just not a lot of them. You Wreck Me is a radio hit I always enjoyed. Crawling Back To You has great storytelling and pacing that reminds me of Robbie Williams' equally great Me & My Monkey. Don't Fade on Me is a sad soft one that wouldn't be out of place on a Nick Drake album. Time to Move On has an easygoing shuffle and original closer Wake Up Time brings things to a more satisfactory end than most of what came before it.

I also have to agree with the suits at the record company. There was too much to begin with, and, of the ten extra songs, only three would make the A-list: the gentle and wistful Harry Green, the spiteful but clever Hope You Never, and the rumbling Somewhere Under Heaven. But I would cut twice as many of the existing tracks to get them on there. Not that Petty asked for my help, but I could make a good to great twelve-track album out Wildflowers.

By 1994, Tom Petty reached a level of success that he could do what he wanted to do. Good for him. (Half of) it's just not for me.

Plamen Agov: First album by Tom Petty & Co for me. Not bad soft rock, I find some similarity with Mark Knopfler's solo work. As a whole, it doesn't catch me and I'm probably I'm going to listen these songs again intentionally.

You Wreck Me is a familiar pleasant radio hit. Anyway, I found one gem here and it is Honey Bee which I immediately added to my Top 1994 tunes list.

Interestingly, during my first listening in the beginning of the week, I mostly felt bored by the tracks. My second and third listening in the end of the week as if brought me more positive feeling towards the album.

Alex Hayes: It was more a case of 'unhappy birthday' for me just over three years ago. The evening of Monday 2nd of October 2017 found me enjoying a few pints in my local pub as I entered my 44th year, only to then be informed by a friend there that 'that Tom Petty fella that you like' had passed away. That certainly put a dampener on proceedings for me. The world is truly a poorer place for his absence.

Although I'm obviously very familiar with the original Wildflowers album, this new expanded edition was brand new to me this week. Kudos to both Petty's family and the other members of the Heartbreakers for helping to bring this reissue to life as, for me, it adds a new layer of depth to an already vibrant record. 

I'd be lying if I said that all 25 original songs here are surefire winners but a good chunk of them are and even the more mediocre tracks are a pleasant enough diversion. It's funny though, even after hearing this album in full and in the manner that Tom Petty originally intended, my favourite song here is still the beautiful and delicate title track.

The recording sessions for Wildflowers were some of the most fertile of Petty's entire career, something that this new version of the album demonstrates in spades. Overseen by none other than Rick Rubin, the understated production here is a perfect complement to the laid back quality of the songs. After Petty's work with Jeff Lynne, this album sees a return to a more organic production style. It's a winner for me and a shining testament to Petty's talent.

John Davidson: Classic Rock is a broad church and Tom Petty’s gentle, contemplative slices of American music are at the far end of the spectrum from the “sturm und drang” of Power Metal or the twiddly, jazzy time signatures of the Prog Rock scene.

While no one would ever have accused Tom Petty of being ‘flashy’ this album is stripped back (compared to the glossier MTV years) and as such relies completely on Tom Petty as both a songwriter and performer and on that measure he doesn’t disappoint.

The songs are good, the lyrics have a poetry to them that makes you happy to sign along and Tom’s voice is appealing.

While there is a place in rock music for delicate, gentle and thoughtful songs, it’s not going to set the pulse racing , so thankfully there are a few more energetic tracks in the mix. You Wreck Me is probably the best of them but there were none that I didn’t enjoy .

I didn’t really feel the need to listen to “& The Rest”… its not that I wouldn’t have enjoyed it’s just that I’d had enough of that ‘flavour’ of music .

A pleasant 6/10 but rest over. 

Iain Macaulay: Short review for this I’m afraid. I just don’t see what everyone else does. There’s nothing wrong with his stuff. But there’s nothing he’s done that has captured my imagination at all. As was mentioned above, I don’t get the fascination. Sorry.

Karlos Badblood: This album was great in its time. Just as the two before it, and the album Long After Dark was great... and those ones on Alligator records, was it? Back in 78. Then he went on from here with album after album of memorable greats... She's the one, Echo, Highway Companion, Last DJ, on and on... about every album he ever put out had hits. But this one was super with the song about him and his sidekick in a barroom fight till the Indian shot out the light... every friggin song off this though, has been pretty much a classic. Time to get goin'.

Rob Klompmaker: Great collection of songs. I already had the original, but this edition is so good I had to buy it as well.

Paul De Maria Mañas: Masterpiece. Some of the best songs ever written.

Mike Ollier: Never seen the fascination with Tom, apart from American Girl he bores me.

Bill Griffin: I tend to ignore solo albums by band leaders because I figure it's just greed. The person already writes or cowrites all of the bands material (save for the odd cover) and sings all of it, what else could the motivation be? Throw in the fact that, most of the time (this record included) what gets played on the radio sounds like the band anyway. Then, on this one, the backing band is the regular band. What is the point then?

So, while a lot of this sounds like a Heartbreakers record, it has way more to offer. Southern Accents hinted that there was more to Tom than the hits and Wildflowers makes this abundantly clear.

My favourite song, co-written with Mike Campbell, is Somewhere Under Heaven but I can identify with a lot of the lyrics.

Will Taylor: I went on a motorhome road trip round the Lake District with some mates in the late 90s and we had the soundtrack to She's The One which was played to death, (along with Jethro Tull best of). It was the first time I really listened to Tom Petty and I was hooked. My mate said, "If you like this you should check out Wildflowers". Until recently, I didn't realise that both albums were from the same Rick Rubin sessions along with Mary Jane's Last Dance. Amazing timeless stuff.

Paul Dryden: Having had two big hit albums in a row, Wildflowers felt like this was Tom going back to basic, swapping the slick production of Jeff Lynne for Rick Rubin’s more organic approach. I feel like this album has some of Petty’s strongest writing with Crawling Back To You’s lyric “I'm so tired of being tired / Sure as night will follow day / Most things I worry about / Never happen anyway” being a good insight to his outlook at the time. What this box set exposes is that part of that lyric was actually meant for You Don’t Know How It Feels.

The box set is really comprehensive and makes you wonder why did brilliant songs like Confusion Wheel not make the cut on this or subsequent albums. I feel it gives a good representation of what Tom hoped to achieve with this re-release before his untimely passing.

Philip Qvist: This is one Tom Petty album that, for one reason or another, slipped through the cracks and I only listened to it quite recently.

The original is great - I think some of his strongest recordings appear on Wildflowers. That all said would I want to buy the deluxe double album as he intended it to be? Not sure, a possible case of too much of a good thing.

As for the original album it's a 9/10 for me - a masterpiece, with no weak song on it and aided by strong production by Tom, Mike Campbell and Rick Robin.

Jonathan Novajosky: Tom Petty is kind of similar to Bob Dylan as far as my tastes go. Both are really good songwriters, but I've never really been a fan of either. Dylan just can't sing, but for Petty, I think I got tired of hearing his hits over and over on the radio. But I gotta admit this is a pretty solid album. Wildflowers is mostly gentle and from the heart, and that's when it shines. My favourite track is actually the last one--Wake Up Time, and there are some other good ones too that showcase Petty's songwriting ability. 7/10

Uli Hassinger: It's one of Petty's best albums, probably his very best. But I still like Damn The Torpedos and Refugee is a song I never get tired of.

I listened to the original album, which I've have in my collection since the year it was released. I was astonished about the quantity of songs of the Deluxe Edition. But I stick to the original songs.

Tom Petty passed away much too young. He was one of the big personalities in the rock business. He always was true to himself, and a man who raisesd his voice for good purposes. If you melt Dylan and Neil Young together you probably create someone similar to Tom Petty. Like them he was the boss of his band and music and wrote most of his material alone. Of cause he developed his own style, carried by his distinctive voice, with its nasal and whining tone, which I dig very much.

This albums contains good songs from the beginning to the end. tThe running time of over 60 minutes is never boring, thanks to the contribution of rockier songs like Honey Bee and You Wreck Me. I especially like the piano and organ and even the orchestral parts. Orchestrations often fade into the cheesy direction, but not on this record, were it fits perfectly with the songs. This may be credit to Rick Rubin, who is responsible for a lathe amount of rock classics in the 80s and 90s, covering a range from Slayer to Petty.

My favourite songs on the album are You Don't Know How It Feels, Only A Broken Heart, Honey Bee and Crawling Back To You. Only A Broken Heart is a song which could be written by John Lennon, and he would be certainly be proud of that one.

This album is best enjoyed lying on the sofa, sipping a glass of decent red wine and forgetting everything about the corona shit happening around you. For me, 9/10.

Final Score: 7.97⁄10 (134 votes cast, with a total score of 1069)

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