When Tom Petty died three years ago at just 66, he seemed to have a lot more in the tank. In the ’10s, he had already released two strong albums with the Heartbreakers (Mojo and Hypnotic Eye) and one with his old band, Mudcrutch.
In a career that spanned 40 years, Petty released some incredible albums, and the greatest of them all was arguably 1994’s Wildflowers. That sprawling set skipped between genres, from country grunge to acoustic folk, and found Petty at his most emotionally raw and creatively open.
It’s bittersweet to see Tom Petty pop up as a Random Weekend selection, just a few days past the one-year anniversary of his death. ‘A Higher Place’ is an appropriate title, I suppose, even if the song is not about heaven but rather a flood.
This is Petty at his Byrds-ian best, all jangly guitars and sweet harmonies. ‘A Higher Place’ is a standout track on one of Petty’s most special albums, Wildflowers.
My top three Tom Petty albums are all so good in so many different ways that I can make a case for any one of them as #1.
These are also the three albums that show up in the top spots of just about every Tom Petty ranking I could find online. That’s because Petty has generally been more of a singles artist than an album artist, but also because these three albums are just that good.
Three years after Into the Great Wide Open, Tom Petty shifted gears away from the Jeff Lynne-influenced work of his last two successful albums. 1994’s Wildflowers, produced by Rick Rubin, was Petty’s second solo album (though once again all of The Heartbreakers played on it).
It’s also arguably the best thing Petty has ever recorded. Sprawling and alternately beautiful and grungy, Wildflowers is the most mature and rich Petty album. Damn the Torpedoes, Full Moon Fever and this record form my Tom Petty Holy Trinity.