You really can't go wrong with Wildflowers. The songs are all immensely strong, the playing is beautiful, and it has perhaps the most sparkling production of any record I know. I was surprised to see that Rick Rubin (he of LL Cool J, the Beastie Boys and Public Enemy!) is credited as producer. More credit to him.
What totally gobsmacked me was that it was released in 1994. It just doesn't feel eight years old.
Tom Petty has been around for a long time, and has come a long way from his origins as some sort of Floridan Suzi Quattro. This record came maybe five years after he hit the commercial stratosphere with Learning To Fly and Into The Great Wide Open, and clearly the Petty no longer feels the need to prove anything to anyone. This is a record for Tom Petty.
And it's a cracker: it's by turns gentle and pretty (Wildflowers), melodious (It's Good To Be King), an all-out rocker (Honey-bee), and a fine impression of Dylan (Don't Fade On Me). And these are just random highlights. The whole disc is strong, and its execution is flawless. Production is very natural indeed: hi-fi buffs will auto-excite at the tinkling acoustic guitars and warm snares - no hint of digital manipulation (which probably means its drenched in the stuff!); musos will delight in the subtle, simple clean lines of Mike Campbell, surely one of the most underrated guitar players around.
Nowadays Petty is an elder statesman of country rock, providing backing for Johnny Cash, and on the strength of this recording, it isn't hard to see why.