Traveling Wilburys’ ‘Vol. One’ exudes fun
By Larry Hager
Plattsburgh Press-Republican — October 28, 1988
Finally, after all the deadly-serious, save-the-world projects, a group of rock superstars have gotten together for the simple purpose of having a good time and playing some good music.
The resulting album by the Traveling Wilburys, “Vol. One,” succeeds on all counts.
While all five use pseudonyms and their real names appear nowhere on the album, the identity of the Wilburys is rock’s worst-kept secret.
The album began with what was to have been the flip side to a single by George “Nelson Wilbury” Harrison.
But Harrison decided “Handle With Care” sounded so good that the group — Bob “Lucky Wilbury” Dylan, Roy “Lefty Wilbury” Orbison, Tom “Charlie T. Wilbury Jr.” Petty and Jeff “Otis Wilbury” Lynne (former ELO leader and co-producer of Harrison’s comeback LP, “Cloud Nine”) — wound up doing an entire LP.
Unlike past superstar combos, the Wilburys didn’t settle for a set of blues jams or rock oldies. The 10 songs are originals credited to the ensemble.
It’s a delightful LP, mixing their various styles to create new sounds. “Handle With Care,” the first single, is a gentle rocker that combines Harrison’s and Orbison’s singing with Petty’s ringing guitar and Harrison’s trademark slide.
“Dirty World” has a whimsical Dylan singing some food-and-auto double entendres.
“Rattled” is a rockabilly rave-up, with Harrison showing off his Carl Perkins licks and Orbison giving his “Oh Pretty Woman” growl. “Last Night” is Petty’s showpiece, bouncy Jamaican ska that wryly tells of losing both his heart and wallet to a larcenous ladyfriend.
Side one ends with the best song on the album, Orbison’s “Not Alone Anymore.” Written in the classic style of the singer’s ’60s ballads, it gives Orbison’s voice a chance to soar. And soar it does, accompanied by such neat production touches as strings and Duane Eddy-style twangy guitar. But the choruses show Harrison’s touch, as Beatle-esque harmonies join in, creating something new from very familiar pop sounds.
Side two starts with the album’s only real loser, “Congratulations,” a bitter Dylan song that plods through choruses endlessly repeating the title.
That’s followed by “Heading for the Light,” a fine Harrison rocker that recalls “Got to Get You Into My Life.” “Margarita” is all island rhythms, chiming choruses and Harrison’s slide guitar as the band trades verses.
Dylan’s best track is “Tweeter and the Monkey Man,” a hard-luck outlaw ballad that takes place on Bruce Springsteen’s turf and drops such Boss phrases as “Jersey girl” and “Thunder Road.” It’s one of Dylan’s best recordings in years; he sings it like he means it, backed by bluesy guitar riffs and a solid chorus.