Listening: Wildflowers and All the Rest and more

There was a time when it looked like the vinyl long-playing record was dead and gone. And then one spring day in 1994, I found a store that was still selling LPs. New LPs! I don’t think I realized until that day that some vinyl was still being issued, albeit in limited editions because sales were way past their prime in those days when CDs and cassettes ruled.

I think I spent more than a hundred bucks that first time, and came back for more. And Tom Petty was in the middle of it all. Wildflowers and She’s The One, and one day I was enjoying Johnny Cash’s then-new and brilliant Unchained album and my mind boggled when I realized the Heartbreakers were integral players throughout.

In a few years, before vinyl staged its comeback and when collectors were paying incredible prices for early 1990s vinyl, I went on eBay and paid a lot of bills selling albums for two and three times what I’d spent just a few years earlier. In most cases I made backup recordings, so I didn’t lose the music completely. Wildflowers is one of the albums I play most often off the computer. Or it was.

Last week I picked up two albums with five vinyl disks between them: Wildflowers & All The Rest and Finding Wildflowers. The first is a remastered version of the original two-disk album, with a disk of 10 outtakes from those sessions. The second is a treasure trove of alternate takes of familiar songs, along with three more songs that didn’t make the final cut.

Lordy Lordy, Mr. Petty and his friends were in fine form during those years, which yielded not only Wildflowers but the soundtrack from She’s The One. From the gentle folk of the title track to rockers like “Honey Bee” and “You Wreck Me,” Wildflowers is/was 15 songs I could listen to over and over, and now all this other stuff.

It’s fun having access to alternate takes, seeing the creative process and the choices that went into the final versions. It had to have been hard to make some of those choices, although in most cases I can hear why the choices were made. Only one of the new songs — “You Saw Me Comin’” from Finding Wildflowers — struck me at first listen as definitely worthy of inclusion in the final product, but many of the others are pretty close.

I’m going to be putting these 10 sides on the turntable a lot in coming weeks, months and years.

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