Wildflowers gains popularity
By Christina Vasil
The Stetson Reporter — January 24, 1995
Tom Petty comes into his own despite controversy over new single, “You Don’t Know How It Feels”
Tom Petty’s latest album has been gaining popularity since its late-1994 release. Wildflowers is a mellow, easygoing album which is a pleasant combination of classic Tom Petty, minus the Heartbreakers, and some new innovations.
Since the release of the album’s first single, “You Don’t Know How It Feels,” the album has been receiving large amounts of airplay and rave reviews. Wildflowers is recognizable by the repetitive riffs and Petty’s whiny vocals, but Petty seems to have come into his own with cautious experimentation.
“It’s Good To Be King,” one of the songs from this fifteen-track album, features innovative orchestration arranged by Tom Petty himself and conducted by Michael Kamen of the Yard Dog Orchestra. Another interesting twist comes in “Only A Broken Heart,” which is a flashback to Petty’s earlier years. This song has a truly evident Beatles influence, probably due to his long-time friendship with former Beatle George Harrison.
Petty also makes a very effective attempt at an American love anthem which is a new genre for him. “House In The Woods” uses Petty’s easy acoustic style and his earthy, humble background to portray an “alternative” version of love and romance.
Of course, a Tom Petty album just would not be the same without the classic Tom Petty rock and roll songs. The title track is an acoustic folk song about freedom that reminds the listener of the eighties Petty, absent the pop and the drum machine beats.
The first single, “You Don’t Know How It Feels” has been the center of controversy since its release due to the lyrics: “But let me get to the point, let’s roll another joint/And turn the radio loud, I’m too alone to be proud.” Supposedly, MTV and many radio stations have decided to “bleep” out the word “joint” in order to avoid criticism from various authorities. Nevertheless, the song continues to gain airplay, and the album is breaking sales records for Petty.
The two best songs on the album are at opposite ends of the rock and roll genre scale but follow the down-to-earth honesty of the rest of the album. “You Wreck Me” is a song in the true sense of rock and roll that reminds the listener of the old Heartbreaker days. It has a beautiful guitar solo, and master slide guitar throughout, while it proclaims the rule of youth.
“To Find A Friend” is an allegorical, acoustic tune that could be interpreted in many ways. One of the major ideas in the lyrics centers around what could be perceived as a mid-life crisis. This is probably an accurate interpretation, since Petty is in the midst of middle age himself.
It is truly amazing how Tom Petty, who has been around for what seems like forever, can continue to promote the ideas of youth in such an effective way, His songs center on universal themes that are easy to understand. In addition to his great lyrics, he combines his deep rock and roll guitar roots with subtle sixties folk undertones.
The best thing about this new album is that it is so easy to listen to. It does not ache to be analyzed or to portray any deep, disturbing messages about anything, like so much of today’s music does. You can just listen to this album because it is good, Southern based music that centers on some honest, straightforward themes like youth, freedom, sex, drugs and deep-down good music.