Three years after his death, one of Petty's most pivotal records gets the respect — and the reissue — it so richly deserves.

By Sarah Rodman
October 19, 2020 at 01:21 PM EDT
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Credit: Mark Seliger

“So many songs, such a fun adventure.” That’s how Rick Rubin describes working on Tom Petty’s masterful 1994 album Wildflowers in the liner notes to this lovingly curated expansion set, Wildflowers & All the Rest, offered in multiple iterations.

While the bearded Buddha of production zen may be referring to the whole experience, his joyful statement could also apply solely to Petty’s second solo album. (Although this feels increasingly nominal in hindsight, as all but one track features members of his legendary Heartbreakers—just drummer Steve Ferrone wasn’t official yet.) A mix of acoustic pop dreams and garage rock burners, the album is one of the most expansive from the Florida-spawned, California-dreaming rocker. The hits — the careeningly urgent “You Wreck Me,” the stoner melancholia with a twist of wry “You Don’t Know How It Feels,” the winsome title track — tell just part of the tale. Petty originally envisioned a double album. This set restores that concept, and goes beyond to a higher place.

The four-disc version includes the original album; one disc comprising the songs left behind (a full album nearly as good as what was released!); a compilation disc of early drafts; and a final CD re-creating most of the tracklist from various live performances.

Illuminating the music are gorgeous liner notes by David Fricke and an extensive track-by-track breakdown from Petty co-conspirators Benmont Tench, Mike Campbell, Ferrone, Rubin, and several engineers. Suffused with warmth and memory, this set belongs among your Tom Petty records. A

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