I suppose this list was inevitable from the moment this blog was created, since it is after all, named after one.
1) Wildflowers – Petty’s masterpiece as a recording artist, Wildflowers capped an unbelievable run of creativity that spanned a handful of albums from 1989 to 1994. His first collaboration with producer Rick Rubin, Wildflowers is technically a solo record, although the Heartbreakers are featured prominently throughout the album. The record is simply perfect from start to finish, mixing in radio hits like “You Wreck Me,” “Honey Bee,” and “You Don’t Know How It Feels” with terrific singer-songwriter work such as “Wildflowers” and “Time to Move On.”
2) Damn The Torpedoes – The Heartbreakers’ best effort as a band, Damn the Torpedoes was a critical album for the band following an ugly legal battle with MCA Records. A record that changed every aspect of The Heartbreakers’ career, Damn the Torpedoes has an unbelievable cache of songs that the band has built its set lists around ever since, including, “Don’t Do Me Like That,” “Refugee,” “Here Comes My Girl,” and “Even the Losers.”
3) Southern Accents – Southern Accents is a very unique record, where the tracks “Rebels,” “Southern Accents,” and “Spike” channel the Heartbreaker’s southern background, but the LP’s most popular song, “Don’t Come Around Here No More,” bizarrely drops the listener into the middle of India.
4) Into the Great Wide Open – With Johnny Depp, Faye Dunaway, Gabrielle Anwar, Chynna Phillips, and Matt LeBlanc has there ever been a more star-studded music video than this record’s title track? To accommodate the original take of the video, the Heartbreakers construed an extended take of the song that was well over double the original length of the song before whittling it down to 6:41 so it could make it to MTV, although still running much longer than the cut that made it to the record.
5) Full Moon Fever – It was no surprise that three of the four songs the Heartbreakers played during their Super Bowl gig came from Full Moon Fever. Petty’s first solo record, his collaboration with Jeff Lynne spawned several of his most radio-friendly singles: “Running Down a Dream,” “I Won’t Back Down,” “Yer So Bad,” and “Free Falling.”
6) Hard Promises – An underrated LP from the early half of the Heartbreakers’ career, Hard Promises was the start of a professional relationship between Petty and Stevie Nicks with the track “Insider,” a collaboration that would also lead to “Stop Dragging My Heart Around” on Nicks’ smash solo debut, Bella Donna.
7) Highway Companion – I have always thought that Highway Companion had components of Southern Accents as a record where Petty reached into his Southern roots to find the source material for some of his best lyric writing, a trait that reveals itself in songs like “Saving Grace,” “Down South,” and “Square One.”
8) Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – While the record is best-known for the concert staples “American Girl” and the bluesy “Breakdown,” the debut LP for the Heartbreakers contained several gems that have been lost in the radio shuffle, including “Fooled Again (I Don’t Like It)” and “Hometown Blues.”
9) The Last DJ – The message of The Last DJ overshadowed several key aspects of the record, including how well the Heartbreakers orchestrated their musical arrangements. Petty’s powerful statement on the music industry that was relayed in tracks like “The Last DJ,” “Dreamville,” and “Can’t Stop the Sun” could not shy away from becoming a conversation piece at the time of its release.
10) She’s the One – The soundtrack to the 1996 film of the same name was comprised of many leftovers from Wildflowers sessions. The record is best known for two powerful original songs, “Angel Dream (No. 2)” and “Walls,” but also contains two well-performed covers of Beck and Lucinda Williams.