By Dave Ferman
Orlando Sentinel — November 18, 1994
Tom Petty, Wildflowers (Warner Bros.): On the first song of Tom Petty’s new CD, he addresses a woman, “Run away, go find a lover,” with a sweet lilt. About an hour later, over quiet piano chords, he looks back at his life and says, gently but firmly, “And it’s wake up time/ Time to open up your eyes/ And rise and shine.”
That final song, “Wake Up Time,” the quiet, stately linchpin of this wonderful new Petty solo CD, is addressed to some unnamed “you” … Petty himself. On this, probably Petty’s finest and certainly most mature work, people follow their hearts, look for shelter, pine for a home in the gently swaying trees and try to outrun the past. Petty tells their stories with the hopeful but wry restlessness of a man who’s still asking the right questions.
Sometimes, as on the hilarious blues-rock of “Honey Bee,” a man knowingly and happily makes a fool of himself chasing a much younger woman; and sometimes, as on the easygoing rock of “To Find a Friend,” a man’s wanderlust leads to destruction for all concerned.
But most of the time, as Petty weaves through Byrdsish ’60s-flavored rock, garage-band stompers and country and folk idioms, the destinations are undefined and the need to move on all-consuming. Petty sings of wanting to start over (“Only a Broken Heart”), realizes he might be losing a love (“Don’t Fade on Me”) and, on the quick country of “You Wreck Me,” implores his sweetie to “Run with me, wherever I go/ Just play dumb, whatever you know.”
What’s Petty running from? Time … and leaving life undone and wishes unrealized. Same as everyone else. Older and a bit mellower, he nonetheless still has a fire in him, and if it doesn’t crackle and smoke with the fierceness of his youth, it still throws a good amount of light.