Petty’s seminal 1994 solo album is given the deluxe treatment in a comprehensive and bittersweet reissue.

Tom Petty — Wildflowers & All the Rest (Warner Bros.)

Grade: A+

The long-awaited release of Wildflowers & All The Rest marks the comprehensive reissue of Tom Petty’s second solo album, Wildflowers.

Curated by Petty’s family and friends in accordance with the late rocker’s vision for the project, it captures a period in the sorely-missed songwriter’s career where—despite his crumbling personal life — Petty allowed his vulnerability to flow freely into what are some of his most personal and captivating songs.

Petty’s daughters Adria and Annakim and wife Dana Petty helmed the collection, describing it as “many, many hours of pure sonic joy” — an opinion enthusiastically shared by this reporter, after having delved through the collection which includes the remastered album, 10 unreleased recordings from the original Wildflowers sessions, 15 home recordings made at Petty’s home studio in Malibu, California, and a live reimagining of the album pulled from Petty and his band The Heartbreaker’s decades of live performances.

“You Don’t Know How It Feels” was the first single from Wildflowers. It has lived on as one of Petty’s most memorable anthems.

In many ways, Wildflowers was an album of firsts, even for someone as seasoned as Petty was at the time. While the soul of the Heartbreakers — guitarist Mike Campbell and pianist Benmont Tench — play throughout the album, Wildflowers marks the first time Petty would record with drummer Steve Ferrone — famously of the Average White Band. Ferrone would soon replace former Heartbreakers drummer Stan Lynch, and would remain a member of the band until Petty’s passing.

Wildflowers was also the first of three collaborations between Tom Petty and producer Rick Rubin, the latter being instrumental in pulling the soul and sincerity out of Petty’s ideas, becoming a trusted confidant for the reeling Petty, who told Rolling Stone in 2014 that, at such time, “My personal life came crashing down, and it derailed me for awhile.”

Rubin writes in the the forward to the deluxe booklet — a fan’s treasure trove in and of itself — “I think because the relationship was new, Tom wanted to impress me… and he did on a daily basis. This had less to do with me and more to do with Tom. His dedication to the craft of songwriting and record-making are on full display here.”
Wildflowers was originally submitted to Warner Bros. — who had just signed Petty after his departure from MCA Records — as a double album, but the label advised restraint, and what ultimately became the album are the 15 songs that open this collection, remastered for the first time and — like much of Petty’s work — still as warm and endearing as they were upon their release.

The collection’s second segment features the remaining tracks from the originally-intended double LP, five of which would appear on Petty and Rubin’s 1996 collaboration, She’s the One, while other unearthed gems such as “Confusion Wheel” and “Leave Virginia Alone” add depth and context to the album’s overall tone and mood.

The unreleased recording “Confusion Wheel” is just one of the 54 tracks included on Wildflowers & All the Rest.

Adria Petty oversaw the art direction of the reissue, and Wildflower-era photography from the likes of Mark Seliger, Robert Sebree, and Martyn Atkins are presented here in an expanded and shimmering scope. They reveal familiar faces crucial to moment and the memories: Petty, Rubin, pianist Benmont Tench, Ferrone, the late Heartbeakers bassist Howie Epstein, producer and engineer George Drakoulias, and engieer Jim Scott, who would go on to work with acts such as Wilco and Tedeschi-Trucks Band.

As a complete presentation, Wildflowers & All The Rest is a time capsule of majestic artistry and a masterclass in songwriting — songs that were born out of pain, but are nonetheless breathtaking.