Wildflowers is my favourite Tom Petty album (with or without the Heartbreakers) since its release in 1994. The album was originally intended to be two discs but Tom cut it down to one after some pressure from his record label. Rumors of Tom working on releasing the second disc have been floating around for a while until he passed away in 2017.
So, I was stoked when the Wildflowers “Super Deluxe” set was announced. Members of Tom’s family, the Heartbreakers, and producer Rick Rubin continued Tom’s work and finished with a set that contained a whopping 70 tracks, most were previously unreleased or out of print.
Then I saw the price.
“Super Deluxe” was $250 for the 9 LP set or $150 for the 5 CD version. (Canadian prices) Oof. And I think some are already sold out and hard to find. Meh, I didn’t want to deal with all of the crap.
I settled for the 4 CD “Deluxe” version which is readily available. It is 54 tracks for $50 which gave me a better bang for my buck. I’m missing out on a 5th disc of mostly alternate tracks which sucks. But really, the only one that stings a bit is the studio version of Girl on LSD. It was originally the B-Side of You Don’t Know How It Feels and would have been sweet to have. But $100 for one song… I’ll be a “4 CD peasant”.
So, here is what us peasants get:
Disc 1 is the 2014 remaster of Wildflowers. I played both back to back and the remaster sounds warmer than the original which has some harsh dynamic range shenanigans afoot. But this was only apparent on my hi fi system. Both sound nearly identical when played back through my computer to some cheap bookshelf speakers. Really, which one people will prefer will be based on personal taste.
Disc 2 is All The Rest, the 10 tracks that were originally left off of the Wildflowers. I was disappointed to find out that I already have 4 of these songs. Hung Up and Overdue, Climb That Hill, Hope You Never, and California are all on the soundtrack for film She’s The One.
But all was forgiven once hearing the disc.
All 4 of the repeated tracks are remixed with small changes that make a big impact. Hung Up and Overdue, for example, features Carl Wilson of the Beach Boys on back up vocals, which you might not have known prior since his performance is buried in the mix on She’s The One. Tom himself fixed that.
As for the new tunes, my only disappointment is how I had to wait 26 years to hear them. They are fantastic. You’re going to want them. Leave Virginia Alone (covered by Rod Stewart in the ’90s) might be my favourite of the bunch, but we’ll see once the album sinks further in. I was prepared to hear at least a tune or two that would sound weak. One that you can say, “Yeah, I understand that one was left off.” But that didn’t happen. Not once.
Disc 3 is titled Home Recordings and is loaded with 15 “demos” that play more like alternate takes. If you were expecting to hear Tom singing into a cassette deck, look elsewhere. Tom had a full studio set up in his home and that is how he recorded these. Some feature only Tom on the acoustic guitar, some have a few more instruments to accompany him, but they are all without polish. They show an important step in the creative process that fans will want to hear.
The final and 4th disc is Wildflowers Live. In general, I prefer my live albums to be an intact show but at no point did Tom run through all of Wildflowers on stage. So, instead we have a collection of tunes from the Wildflowers era recorded anywhere from 1995 to 2017. As this is a collection that celebrates the songs from Wildflowers, it makes sense to hear them played live, regardless of when and where. And I enjoyed hearing Tom’s intros as he talks about how much they meant to him and what they’re about. In short, this is a better fitting than a random live show from 1995.
Oh, and it has a live version of Girl on LSD which does make up for the missing studio version.
The packaging for this set is a little awkward but not too bad. All of the content can be read easily without cracking the spine but it is a little bigger and much thicker than a standard jewel case. So how it will fit on your shelf will depend on your set up. The CDs are packed tight into cardboard envelops too, which I’m not a fan of.
Overall, this is a truly great set. All the Rest is good enough for me to recommend for to even the most causal fan of Wildflowers to upgrade to the 2 disc set. Anyone whose fandom is above that will at the very least want this.
The Music: 5/5
The Content: 5/5
The Packaging: 4/5