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 twoCD 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 box set features a collection of Petty’s wholly solo home recordings, which show how subtle but effective Rubin’s contributions would be, and an 11-song live set comprising most of Wallflowers and on which Good To Be King is transformed into an 11-minute epic, plus Walls from She’s The One, the B-side Girl On LSD and Drivin’ Down To Georgia, which hitherto surfaced only on Live Anthology.
There’s a lot to take in, but Petty was at one of his many peaks and this is worth luxuriating in. It’s surely what he would have wanted.