Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Album Review: Tom Petty - Wildflowers & All The Rest Deluxe Edition

Tom Petty
Wildflowers & All The Rest Deluxe Edition
**and1/2 out of *****

A release that has been in the works for a long timeWildflowers & All The Rest Deluxe Edition collects Tom Petty's classic Wildflowers album with a second album of outtakes recorded at the same time. The Deluxe Edition also offers up home demos of these songs and live recordings, and while it may be interesting to hear, it seems the original release managed to truly captured the sound, style and substance of this fertile era the best. All The Rest is a fine listen, but is not needed if Wildflowers is already owned. 

The original Wildflowers itself is presented here in the 2014 remastered fashion. While louder and perhaps with a bit cleaner instrumentation, the original release still sounds enchanting and no sonic upgrade was needed. The original album remains one of the true highlights of Petty's recording career, essential listening, but already well known and loved. 

The main draw for this release is the All The Rest second album which was rumored for a longtime as a possible double album to be released with the original but was scaled down by Rick Rubin, Petty and Warner Brothers. The opening "Something Could Happen" fits Petty's songwriting of the time perfectly with a split of being half hopeful and half full of despair as Petty was dealing with a painful divorce during the writing and recording of Wildflowers.

The searching for something new, swirling with pain bubbles up lyrically in a few odd offerings including "Leave Virginia Alone" which also deploys excellent warbling guitar work and "Hope You Never" which is a clunky mixing of stoned light blues rock and some hateful thoughts in "Positively 4th Street" style.  

Tracks like the easy acoustic strums of "Confusion Wheel" and the dueling versions of "Climb That Hill" both acoustic and hard driving electric would fit excellently into the original album while "Harry Green" musically would slip in, but the oddball tale of high school vehicular suicide would change the flow of the original album greatly.

Other efforts like the cliche filled "California", the strung out harpsichord flavored drug ditty "Hung Up and Overdue" and the hugely produced Jeff Lynne inspired "Somewhere Under Heaven" could have worked on other Petty albums, but are out of sync with the hazy Wildflowers.  

The third album of demos and the live album are fine additions for fanatics, but will not be in regular rotation anywhere and including them in any release where the new outtake album is include does seem like overkill. As with his recent box set American Treasure, Petty's family is cashing in on releases, but the majority of the unearthed music is only for die hard fans at this point, not truly illuminating a lost era.  

Perhaps it is just that the original album has always been a favorite of ours, but these extra offerings are for completists only. While Wildflowers found Petty funneling personal pain into artistic gold, this expanded Deluxe Edition doesn't add a whole lot new to that idea. The extra songs, live offerings and demos are nice, but never raise this release higher than that.   
Support the artist, buy the album and peep some video below:

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