Record Roundup…Traveling Wilburys
By Andrew Mathis
The Villanovan — November 18, 1988
Traveling Wilburys Volume 1 | Traveling Wilburys | Wilbury Records | ★★★ ½
To most people, the Traveling Wilburys are not going to sound very familiar. However, upon closer inspection, particularly to their voices and pictures on the album cover, listeners will find that they are all too familiar with them.
In actuality, the Traveling Wilburys are Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne (formerly of ELO), Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison and ex-Beatle George Harrison, practicing under the aliases of Charlie T. Jr., Otis, Lucky, Lefty and Nelson Wilbury, respectively.
The Wilburys’ first collaboration is loaded with good stuff. The music is a very pleasant combination of acoustic and electric guitar playing, backed by Jim Keltner (drums), Jim Horn (saxophone) and Ray Cooper (percussion). The style is typically rhythm and blues and predominantly upbeat.
The lead vocal spot is traded from Wilbury to Wilbury in each song, occasionally with several lead vocalists in a single song, such as “Handle with Care” and “End of the Line,” the first and last songs on the album.
The album as a whole is presented with a good sense of humor, as many of the songs will show, as well as the very clever liner notes.
Perhaps the best song on the album is “Congratulations,” which opens the second side. Although not as upbeat as the rest of the album, it is hilarious as lead vocalist Lucky (Dylan) sings, “Congratulations for breaking my heart,” in a true-to-form, lamentable cowboy voice.
Dylan’s vocal performances on the albums are some of the best that he has ever done, and he adds a special flavor to well-orchestrated backing vocals that are found on nearly every track.
Traveling Wilburys Volume 1 is an album with something to please everyone. Since everyone is a fan of at least one of the Wilburys, if not all of them, listeners will find the album very accessible.
And for those who are not big fans of any of the Traveling Wilburys, maybe the result of their work as a unit will please you, even if only for the good sense of humor that they present.