Petty Is Grand
By Roger Catlin
Hartford Courant — November 3, 1994
WILDFLOWERS | Tom Petty | Warner Bros. Records
Just recently, Tom Petty became the elder statesman of modern rock, with awards, a tribute album and endorsements from rockers such as Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins and Billy Joe of Green Day.
It hasn’t turned Petty’s head any. If anything, he’s more sure and direct in his approach on “Wildflowers.” As a songwriter and a performer, he’s hitting his stride on songs that are as effective as they are simple.
If Petty is an icon, producer Rick Rubin treats him as one. Like his production on Johnny Cash (and, to a lesser degree, Mick Jagger), Rubin keeps things natural, pared down, allowing the songs, with their touch of whimsy and snap, to breathe.
Petty, at 42, continues to acknowledge his forebears — or at least his Traveling Wilburys band mates — whether it’s Bob Dylan on the rambling “Time To Move On” or George Harrison on “Only a Broken Heart,” which you practically expect to turn into “Only a Northern Song.”
Mostly, Petty underscores his own importance in the rock pantheon.
By the time he ends the album, with the lovely, orchestrated “Wake Up Time,” it’s clear how much his songwriting has grown over 20 years. Not even his dopey videos can blunt the power of this work.