Tom Petty shows the creativity’s still there
Beaver County Times — November 13, 1994
TOM PETTY | “Wildflowers” | Warner Bros.
Just when you’re ready to send Tom Petty packing for good, he’s cool to hang around with again.
Like “Full Moon Fever” of 1989, the solo “Wildflowers” is a creative rebound from a moribund TP & the Heartbreakers platter, in this case “Into the Great Wide Open” of 1991.
As with “Full Moon Fever,” which was produced by Petty’s fellow Traveling Wilbury Jeff Lynne, the enduring if indistinct rocker is buoyed by outside aid.
This time it’s from Rick Rubin, whose work with Mick Jagger, Johnny Cash and Petty establishes him as a junior Don Was geezer expert.
On “Wildflowers” — which features Heartbreakers Mike Campbell, Benmont Tench and Howie Epstein — Rubin stays out of Petty’s way and pushes him as a writer.
And while there will likely never be a Tom Petty album that can sustain 15 cuts, “Wildflowers” comes close. Only the daft “To Find a Friend” is a total loser.
From the playfully self-aware (“You Don’t Know How It Feels,” “It’s Good To Be King,”) to the folkie (“Wildflowers,” “Don’t Fade on Me,” “Time to Move on,”) Petty works within his limits.
And though he can still raise a ruckus (see “Honey Bee” and “You Wreck Me”), middle age suits him fine, particularly on the four focused songs — from the innocent “Higher Place” to the modest piano coda “Wake Up Time” — that bring “Wildflowers” to a restless close.