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  1. Wildflowers is a strange album for me, for many reasons. It’s definitely one of the three most significant albums Tom released (the other two being DTT and Full Moon Fever) and is responsible for bringing in a new wave of fans the same way FMF did. It’s possibly the best sounding album; all the instruments are clear, powerful and skillfully interwoven. Wildflowers took years to grow on me, and even then I have mixed feelings. One thing that’s clear though, is how good this record sounds. This could be the best sounding album Tom ever made. Every instrument clear, lush, warm. And those drums…very crisp. But the songs and the record are a dividing line, for me, the largest point of departure in his entire career. Part of that is connected to Stan but not much; it’s with the songwriting and approach that Tom changed his style of music, a style that pretty much lasted until Mojo, though its effects would even be felt on that album. I speak of the midtempo groove, the emphasis on the acoustic and songs that seem more peronsal and emotional yet are musically lacking. Listening to this album for the first time in years, my opinion hasn’t really changed that much, except for a few songs here and there. Wildflowers——As with much of this album, my opinion on this one shifted back and forth before finally settling on…it’s all right. Even though it’s only three minutes and some seconds, it’s too long. THere’s not much going on her musically but if you like it, it’s probably the perfect little song. It feels like another variation, at least in feel, with Alright For Now. It just goes on too long, repeating itself, I mean, the whole song is four chords over and over, and while that can work, in this case it grates a bit. By the two minute mark I’ve had my fill; had the song stopped there I’d probably like it quite a bit; it would be an odd little song, one verse, one chorus and that’s it. Petty cool. But no, it goes on and on. Only three minutes that feel much longer. I am impressed that he did it spontaenoulsy in one take…that is pretty special regardless of what I think of the finished song. You Don’t Know How It Feels——oh no! I really hated this song for years. Now, it’s tolerable on live recordings simply because it’s fresh to me. But it’s still not that good. That awful repetitive beat…so bland. It sounds like the death knell of the TPATH I enjoyed and really, it kinda was. it feels like this song served as a template for so much of what was to come. Even when Tom went for something faster, like Zero From Outer Space, it was the lone fast song on She’s The One. Of course, it came from these sessions, but didn’t land on this album so that’s all I’ll say about that. Regarding this song, I don’t like it. That it ended up played second on many tours just made me dislike it even more. Time To Move On——I like this more than I did when I first heard the song. The positive theme fits well with the jaunty music. But, much like Wildflowers, it goes on a bit too long and just feels the same. It kinda wears out its welcome and what seemed so instantly catchy is now a bit dull and repetitive. You Wreck Me——it’s about fucking time! After a rather somnombulent beginning, it’s good to hear something that rocks. Sure, hearing it on countless live recordings and at nearly every show I attended wore out its welcome; as did his intro for it; but…hearing it now, I can appreciate the riff, so simple yet very effective, some quick sharp drumming by Steve. This song is quite catchy in a way that other filler rock songs by him aren’t. I quite like it, despite how much I’ve heard it played. The bit at the bridge and the end is good; a very dramatic chord change, and some nice soloing by Mike. More of this on this record! It’s just what was needed. But alas…this is the only song of this tempo and caliber on here. It’s Good To Be King——a moody, dreamy song that feels epic. While they did too many midtempo grooves, they are quite good at them. A powerful, sad and self-deprecatingly funny, charming song. I like the repeating guitar line in it as well. I’m glad they extended it into the twelve range in concert. Part of the solid chunk of good songs on this record that began with You Wreck Me. Only A Broken Heart—-A devastatingly sad song. The longing in his voice is very effecting. A really great bridge, too. Musically the song has a steady beat that works in contrast to the lyrics. The organ over top everything just brings out more feeling. A very nice guitar solo during the outro. Honey Bee—-much like You Wreck Me, a desperately needed shot of adrenaline. Sure, it sounds derivative of something, some old blues song or something but I still like it. Some very fun lyrics, particularly the Pomona line. I like this one. Sure, if they go deep in their catalog I’d rather have them play something else in concert but if it’s between this and some of the other standard hit songs, I’ll take this. Especially when they extend it as they did in 99. Really good chords during the chorus, what a contrast between that and the riff! Don’t Fade On Me——The guitar playing alone makes this a good track. I think this is his most mournful song. Pure sadness. It’s one of his most heartwrenching songs. The lyrics are poignant yet open as well, one can put their own depressing spin on them. I believe this to be the bleakest song he’s ever written, a lament. Hard On Me—This is a pretty good song. Some nice playing. I feel like it could’ve been put on the end of the album. Also sounds like something from Echo. The thing is, I’ve already forgotten what it sounds like. Cabin Down Below—Reminds me of Honey Bee. It’s all right, I’ll listen to it and enjoy it on a live track; just feels like a midtempo filler type song but I like it nonetheless. Lyrically, well…interpret them as you will. I like the heaviness of the main riff. To Find A Friend——It reminds like a slightly faster version of the title track. It’s okay, I guess. I go back and forth on the lyrics, sometimes I find them charming, other times cloying. A Higher Place——The upbeat energy on this song is really refreshing at this point in the album. I like this one; I think I’d love it if the tempo were faster and it had more of an electric edge to it. A very bright pop song! Quite enjoyable. House in the Woods——I feel Wildflowers has three different closing songs. Each of these feels like a definite stopping point to me. All three in a row is too much. Nice drum fills by Steve in the middle. Very nice! Some nice playing and usually I enjoy a good extended outro (mainly live) but this goes on too long for me. These last three songs feel like sitting through the overlong credits of a special fx blockbuster. Crawling Back To You——A very interesting song. It occupies that unique space between ballad and midtempo groove, more of the latter than former. Reminds me a bit of Runaway Trains. I like it. Some of the lyrics aren’t to my liking but the tempo is interesting. Wake Up Time——A sleepy song that belies its title. Very tasteful strings. I like when he takes his voice up a notch while singing “…a long way from home…” This melody just gets right to me; it’s heartbreaking in a whole different way, if Don’t Fade On Me is dark clouds and rain, this is the rainbow shining in the sky afterwards. As an album, for my taste, it doesn’t work. Too much midtempo sad songs or strange bobdylanesque ramblings. Practically no upbeat energy. Sometimes, when I’m in just the right mood, I’ve thrown this on and appreciated for what it is but that doesn’t happen very often. I’d say its influence extends all the way, in one form or another from here through Mojo. When Tom and the fellas hit on a good riff, they can deliver powerful, chugging midtempo grooves, but when they don’t, the result is a song that goes on too long and sounds bland. Too many of these and an album is mired in quicksand. From this point forward, songs like You Wreck Me are the minority. Which doesn’t mean that he didn’t continue to record good songs, just that a certain style was largely ignored. Another weak album cover. I like the color but the imagery is so dull. Better perhaps to just have an all brown cover with that weird flower/fleur de lis-like symbol on Tom’s guitar in one corner and his name. I think I’d enjoy the songs more (possibly) had they been scattered across a variety of albums, but gathered here together, it’s all a bit one flavor for me. Still, together or separate, a lot of this I can take or leave, while still recognizing the quality of the composition, the skill with which it was recorded, every instrument just pops! and the performances. But it’s not a record I ever really listen to, the last time I heard the majority of these songs was about nine years ago. Wildflowers is, in my opinion, the largest shift in Tom’s career and one I didn’t like. cheers
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