Sunday, February 22, 2009

February 22: Tom Petty, "Wildflowers"

Artist: Tom Petty
Album: Wildflowers
Year: 1994
Label: Warner Bros.

When it comes to American music icons, Florida's own Tom Petty remains high up on the list. After releasing a pair of undeniably successful Heartbreakers records in 1989 and 1991, Tom Petty took a few years off and then released one of his finest musical efforts. Though a majority of The Heartbreakers appear on the album, 1994's Wildflowers is credited as a solo Tom Petty release.

To be perfectly honest, there is not one sub-par song anywhere on Wildflowers. Most of the songs would not have worked with the full instrumentation of a full Heartbreakers record, so it is understandable that this release is presented as a solo outing by Petty. The record is very laid back and a majority of the songs are simple acoustic guitar tunes with soft instrumentation and Petty's signature vocal sound. This gives the record a very intimate feeling and, after a few listenings, the true meaning behind the albums' title becomes clear through the mood it conveys.

Tom Petty has always been a phenomenal lyricist, and his work on Wildflowers is no different. As usual, the songs appear to be quite autobiographical and Petty rarely shys away from letting the listener in to his deepest thoughts and feelings. Wildflowers has beautiful songs of love and longing, as well as amazingly introspective tracks like "You Don't Know How It Feels" and "It's Good To Be King." He writes another brilliant thought with the line, "...can I help it if I still dream time to time?" Petty also writes amazing "American Anthems" and he unleashes another classic with "You Wreck Me."

The album gains great benefit from its producer, the one and only Rick Rubin. Rubin kept Petty focused on creating a very organic sound as the previous two Heartbreakers albums had been extremely over-produced. This stripped down feeling clearly made Petty more releaxed and it is plain to hear in the music. The sessions for Wildflowers occurred at the same time as Rubin was working with fellow southern legend Johnny Cash. Shortly after the Wildflowers recordings were completed, Petty and all of the Heartbreakers joined Cash in the studio and it would be released as Johnny Cash's Unchained.

Tom Petty has a knack for writing simple, yet incredibly catchy songs. Many of his tunes have become "American anthems" and they have helped to cement his legacy as one of the finest musicians in history. Whether he is playing backup for Johnny Cash, making records with The Heartbreakers, or working in a solo setting, he always produces recordings of the highest caliber. The gorgeous music and relaxed, honest vocals make 1994's Wildflowers one of his finest recordings and an absolute essential for all music collections.

Standout tracks: "You Don't Know How It Feels," "Time To Move On," and "It's Good To Be King."

No comments: