By Ted Simons
Phoenix New Times — December 15, 1994
Tom Petty | Wildflowers | (Warner Bros.)
You’ve grown up with Tom Petty. You first saw him all scraggly and snotty in the Seventies, and you couldn’t miss his smug pug and godzillion-selling records through the Eighties.
Now, with the release of Wildflowers, the 43-year-old singer/songwriter plays the part of the wise but lonely geezer. He sounds like an old hippie rolling joints and admitting he’s “too alone to be proud” on the album’s debut single, “You Don’t Know How It Feels.” And later, on “To Find a Friend,” which features graybeard buddy Ringo Starr on drums, Petty leans back and remembers how “Days went by/Like paper in the wind/Everything changed/And changed again.” By album’s end, Petty has slowed to sub-ballad speed with “Wake Up Time,” an ode to pending midlife crisis: “You spend your life dreaming, running ’round in a trance/You hang out forever and still miss the dance . . . /It’s wake up time.”
What saves all this from rocking-chair stupor is the sleepy-eyed Petty himself. The guy wears well, even when he sounds worn out. And Petty’s still able to kick himself in the ass with an occasional scorcher, as is evident on “You Wreck Me,” his best up-tempo tune in years.
Wildflowers proves Petty’s nowhere close to pushing up daisies. The old boy’s got himself another winner, wrinkles and all.