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Tom Petty: Wildflowers & All the Rest

By Shelly Ridenour |

More than a quarter-century after Tom Petty's Wildflowers was first released, it can finally be heard the way the singer-songwriter intended.

When he turned-in 25 songs, hoping for a double album, Warner Bros asked him to pare it down to one. But just three years past his death, his family and Heartbreakers bandmates Benmont Tench and Mike Campbell (technically a solo release, Wildflowers features most of the band) have restored the record to its original glory and added in a trove of home demos, alternate takes and live tracks—some 70 songs in all! Produced by Rick Rubin while Petty's decades-old marriage was crumbling and he was reportedly battling heroin addiction, the 1994 release remains one of the all-time great break-up records; heard all together, the extended LP (the All The Rest part is produced Petty's longtime engineer Ryan Ulyate) is of a deeper devastating beauty.

"New" tracks like the Byrds-y Leave Virginia Alone, tender Something Could Happen and psychedelic Beatles-meets-Wall of Sound Somewhere Under Heaven are a comfortable coda to classics such as You Don't Know How It Feels and It's Good to Be King.

Extra track Hope You Never is a gorgeous, direct complement to old favorite Only a Broken Heart. As perfect as the original album has always played, it's hard to imagine not including the swaying After the Gold Rush-esque Hung Up & Overdue (with backing vocals by Beach Boy Carl Wilson) or sunny, jangling California (which also shows up in a demo version, with a telling extra verse: "Don’t forgive my past/ I forgive my enemy/ Don’t know if it lasts/ Gotta just wait and see"). Dig into the home recordings, and it's an even bigger mystery why the harmonica-inflected There Goes Angela and plaintive There's a Break in the Rain (Have Love Will Travel) weren't contenders over, say, the Celtic-flavored Don't Fade on Me.

Chalk part of that first-listen awe up to the intimacy of these solo demos, which also cast a new, revelatory light on the gently folksy title track and You Don't Know How It Feels. Live non-album favorites Girl on LSD and Drivin' Down to Georgia are captured here, along with a blistering Honey Bee and lovely takes on You Wreck Me and Crawling Back to You. Tench has recalled Petty calling Wildflowers "the best record we ever made." Now it's even better.


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