Tom Petty’s 1994 album, Wildflowers, is arguably one of the best of his entire career, even compared to the notable releases he’s had with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and the star-studded Traveling Wilburys. A raw, stripped-down release, Wildflowers is a warm and personal window into Petty’s innermost thoughts and wishes.
The original album, featuring heartfelt hits such as “You Don’t Know How It Feels” and “It’s Good to Be King,” was re-released posthumously as a deluxe version Oct. 16 with the help of Petty’s family and former bandmates. The new release has 10 previously unreleased songs that were intended to be on the 1994 version as part of a double album but were subsequently removed due to length constraints. Now, 26 years later, Wildflowers and All the Rest fully blossoms as Petty intended.
“Something Could Happen” is the first of the new songs, picking up exactly where the last original song, “Wake Up Time,” left off. The tune is somber and beautifully tender, yet hints of hopeful wonder peek through Petty’s gentle strumming and voice. The twinkling piano notes reinforce the overall acoustic nature of the song, adding a layer of brightness.
Petty’s strong suit on Wildflowers and All the Rest is his ability to draw upon various moments in his life, no matter how trivial, and pull a profound song out of them. “Leave Virginia Alone,” a defiant love song and acoustic counterpart to “Mary Jane’s Last Dance,” and “Harry Green,” a nonchalant, humorous tale about a childhood friend, are testaments to Petty’s magical storytelling skills, immersing listeners in the niches of his life, which, in all their outward mundaneness, are actually quite interesting.
Wildflowers and All the Rest also doubles as a vehicle for experimentation for Petty. “Climb That Hill” and “Climb That Hill Blues,” are, as the titles suggest, a regular rock and roll version and blues version of the same song. Both are completely different renditions, right down to the way Petty delivers each line. The impassioned guitar strokes on “Climb That Hill Blues” clash with the robust licks on the original, but both equally do justice to the song’s theme of persistence.
“Hope You Never” manifests Petty in front of his audience; it feels as though he’s talking to the listener directly by recounting his own experiences. The guitar and drums pick up a little here after a few tracks of delicate vulnerability, but the instrumentals still maintain the soft vibe throughout the rest of the album. The track is like a pick-me-up or a gentle hand-holding, reassuring you that everything will be okay — despite the final biting line, “I hope you never fall in love/ With somebody like you.”
The last few songs finish strong and upbeat, the artist easing listeners out of the weighted emotional baggage he just unpacked on them. “Hung Up and Overdue” is a fitting inclusion as part of the long-awaited And All The Rest, an almost haunting finish to the album in light of Petty’s untimely death preventing him from completing this project.
Wildflowers and All The Rest is a deeply satisfying release on part of Petty and crew. The palpable milestones in Petty’s life are food for the soul, touching upon real, everyday thoughts and feelings that resonate with each and every listener. The purity and genuineness of the record are so permeating that you can’t help but feel the memories are yours.
The 10 new songs complete the tapestry of life Petty began weaving on Wildflowers. Each unreleased song is beautiful and melodic, ranging from cozy ballads to soft rockers, and there is not a single filler lyric in the entire album. With Wildflowers and All The Rest finally and rightfully in the hands of the public as originally intended, Petty has truly earned the title of “the gift that keeps on giving” among his fans.