Review #214: Wildflowers, Tom Petty

Karla Clifton
3 min readDec 20, 2021

#214: Wildflowers, Tom Petty

Another album that was produced by Rick Rubin. We’ve seen him most recently at #209 (Raising Hell by Run-DMC) and least recently at #15 (It Takes a Nation… by Public Enemy), but I’m sure there are countless inbetween that the big R.R. had a hand in. (This is neither here nor there, but Rick Rubin looks a lot like Hagrid from Harry Potter.)

Anyway. I couldn’t believe that this was the first Tom Petty album on the list! I was sure we’d seen the original Heartbreaker before. Looking back, I’m pretty sure I was mixing him up with Neil Young.

Well, Mr. Tom-Petty-Not-Neil-Young has said that this is his own personal favorite album of his. I was mildly surprised at how acoustic it is. But of course, most of my favorite songs feature an electric guitar.

Note that this is strictly a Tom Petty album, as opposed to an album by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers. However, nearly all of the Heartbreakers are actually playing on this album as session musicians. Tom Petty decided that he wanted himself and Rick Rubin to have decisive creative control, so he didn’t bill this as a Heartbreakers album.

I guess that makes sense, but I’m still calling it out as a dick move. Come on, Tom Petty, you can’t just decide that your backing band doesn’t get any credit!


“Wildflowers” — I’m personally more of an electric guitar fan, but acoustic songs with really simple lyrics always get to me. You belong among the wildflowers/You belong in a boat out at sea.

“You Don’t Know How It Feels” — Possibly my favorite Tom Petty song. Is it the harmonica? Is it the backup vocals? Is it the incredible chorus? I think it’s probably the chorus.

“You Wreck Me” — This one reminds me a lot of “Running Down A Dream.” Not that that’s a bad thing! The original title was “You Rock Me,” but Petty wisely rerecorded it with its new title, which makes it intriguing as opposed to cliche.

“Honey Bee” — After a couple of criminally slow songs, we get a badass electric guitar intro and sexy lyrics. I’m a man in a trance/I’m a boy in short pants/When I see my honey bee.

“Don’t Fade On Me” — Love this fingerpicking guitar, and I love how urgent the chorus sounds.

“Cabin Down Below” — Is that really Tom Petty’s voice?? So low!

“To Find A Friend” — I really liked this one. It’s about ripping your life up for reasons you don’t understand.

“House In The Woods” — He sounds like he’s literally chewing on a cigarette.

“Crawling Back To You” — As you’re about to find out, the slow songs on this aren’t my favorite, but this one made me quite happy. He just sounds so plaintive.


“It’s Good To Be King” — This song is probably very good, as it was the album’s third single, but I just didn’t care for the sound or the lyrics. But the last two minutes with the piano is very lovely.

“Only A Broken Heart” — Too sleepy.

“A Higher Place” — The RS blurb says that this album “[doesn’t] have any filler.” Maybe this is an unpopular thing to say, but come on. Several of these songs sound exactly the same. Sue me for speaking the truth.

“Wake Up Time” — I hate songs when the singer starts speaking. I get embarrassed for them.


Here’s the thing: While doing my research for this album, I discovered that the Traveling Wilburys are NOT on the RS 500 list. The Traveling Wilburys were a supergroup that included Petty, Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Roy Orbison, and Jeff Lynne (of ELO). Their first album, which included “Handle With Care” and my absolute favorite “End Of The Line,” went triple platinum.

And Rolling Stone doesn’t think it’s one of the greatest albums of all time? I say they’re full of it.

Review #213: The Idler Wheel…, Fiona Apple

Review #215: American Beauty, Grateful Dead