Wild about Petty’s drawl
By Steve Davy
Hong Kong Standard — Friday, February 3, 1995
Tom Petty understands his music perfectly; he has had plenty of practice in a recording career which spans 20 years. But much of his material sounds the same. While that’s an accusation which could be levelled at many a performer – it’s a musician’s idiosyncrasies which make them unique, after all – with Petty many songs bring a sense of deja entendu.
Listening to Wildflowers, there’s a strong feeling that you only need to own one or two of his albums to have his entire stylistic repertoire. This new release is, therefore, vintage Petty with no surprises – the jangly sound is intact but, ironically, it is performed and produced (by Rick Rubin) so proficiently that it is in danger of being bloodless.
Nevertheless, for all the familiarity Petty’s unique Florida ‘gator drawl of a voice is endlessly listenable. The album kicks off with the uplifting title track, the first of several gentler numbers, but perhaps the finest moments come on A Higher Place, apparently a song about camping – “we’ve gotta get to a higher place … we gotta find some place that’s dry” – although I’m sure it’s a metaphor for something much more profound and the Dylanesque House in the Woods.
Though Wildflowers may blaze no musical trails, it makes for very pleasant listening for the most part. But you might just want to dust off Full Moon Fever instead.