Recordings: Superstar Wilburys play good, relaxed music
Review by Tom Ford
Toledo Blade — Sunday, November 6, 1988
“VOLUME ONE,” The Traveling Wilburys (Wilbury/Warner Bros.).
What good is stardom if you can’t have a little fun?
That is the question being asked by the Traveling Wilburys, who, despited the assumed names they use on this LP, are really ex-Beatle George Harrison, Bob Dylan, rock legend Roy Orbison, Tom Petty, and ex-Electric Light Orchestrator Jeff Lynne.
The five got together to play in Los Angeles this year, liked what they heard, and decided to cut an album. Since each is capable of creating a classic, the expectations for this LP were high — and to some degree unrealized.
Instead of forming a cohesive unit, the supergroup offers a relaxed exercise by its individual members.
“Handle with Care” and “Heading for the Light,” for instance, are clearly Harrison songs, with the curling guitar parts and solid melodies one would expect from him. “Dirty World” and “Tweeter and the Monkey Man” are unmistakably Dylan raps, and “Rattled” and “End of the Line” showcase Orbison’s extraordinary voice in familiar rockabilly settings.
The considerable talents of Petty and Lynne get a bit lost here except for the ELO-ish burst of synthetic strings on “Not Alone Anymore,” which also features an Orbison vocal, and on “Last Night” and “Margarita,” two Petty-influenced, Spanish-flavored tunes.
Most of the work is excellent. It is acoustic guitar-dominated, relaxed, and free of the “big star” pretentions and production that could have seriously crippled this record. True, some of the vocal harmonies are ill-fitting, and some of the arrangements are a bit ragged, but in sum they are intriguing.
“Volume One” leaves us interested and eager for “Volume Two,” even though it doesn’t test the limits of the talent at hand. It is throughly enjoyable, personable music, as if these starts are winking at each other and their audience about their attempt at good, clean fun.