The Petty Archives

Tom Petty
By Dave Ferman
Orlando Sentinel - November 18, 1994

Tom Petty, Wildflowers (Warner Bros.): On the first song of Tom Petty's new CD, he addresses a woman, "Run away, go find a lover," with a sweet lilt. About an hour later, over quiet piano chords, he looks back at his life and says, gently but firmly, "And it's wake up time/ Time to open up your eyes/ And rise and shine."

That final song, "Wake Up Time," the quiet, stately linchpin of this wonderful new Petty solo CD, is addressed to some unnamed "you" ... Petty himself. On this, probably Petty's finest and certainly most mature work, people follow their hearts, look for shelter, pine for a home in the gently swaying trees and try to outrun the past. Petty tells their stories with the hopeful but wry restlessness of a man who's still asking the right questions.

Sometimes, as on the hilarious blues-rock of "Honey Bee," a man knowingly and happily makes a fool of himself chasing a much younger woman; and sometimes, as on the easygoing rock of "To Find a Friend," a man's wanderlust leads to destruction for all concerned.

But most of the time, as Petty weaves through Byrdsish '60s-flavored rock, garage-band stompers and country and folk idioms, the destinations are undefined and the need to move on all-consuming. Petty sings of wanting to start over ("Only a Broken Heart"), realizes he might be losing a love ("Don't Fade on Me") and, on the quick country of "You Wreck Me," implores his sweetie to "Run with me, wherever I go/ Just play dumb, whatever you know."

What's Petty running from? Time ... and leaving life undone and wishes unrealized. Same as everyone else. Older and a bit mellower, he nonetheless still has a fire in him, and if it doesn't crackle and smoke with the fierceness of his youth, it still throws a good amount of light.