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On the Record: Breaking up is hard to do, but when stars regroup, striking new constellations appear
By Ray Boren and Jerry Spangler
The Deseret News — Saturday, December 1, 1990
Long, long ago, survivors of major rock-group breakups would scramble from the wreckage, dust themselves off and look around for someone new to perform with. As a result we’d get “supergroups.” Like Blind Faith or Crosby, Stills, Nash and occasionally Young. Or the early Jefferson Starship.
And the hoopla would commence.
Today we get some of the hoopla, but neither the musicians nor the fans seem to take these rock ‘n’ roll summits quite so seriously. Often, new combinations like Damned Yankees and Bad English have to prove themselves once again. Others, like country’s Trio and The Highwaymen and pop’s Traveling Wilburys, are immediately accepted but seen as “special events” more than long-term bands.
Three new albums demonstrate how varied the “supergroup” phenomenon is in the ’90s.
THE TRAVELING WILBURYS; “Volume 3” (Wilbury Records-Warner Bros.): Produced by Spike and Clayton Wilbury. ★★★ ½
Anyone looking for intense rock ‘n’ roll from the Traveling Wilburys need only take note of the superstar pickup band’s second album title: “Volume 3.” Then give a listen to “The Wilbury Twist” — a demented-danceable descendant of both “The Loco-Motion” and “The Tune Warp” — and you’ll know for a fact that the Wilbury boys have a penchant for the silly.
Yet they’re charmers. “Volume 3” may not be quite as fresh and ingratiating as “Volume 1” (that would be nigh on impossible), but it’s still packed with smiles and 3-minute songs. George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne (Spike, Boo, Muddy and Clayton Wilbury, respectively — formerly Otis, Lucky, Charlie T. and Nelson…) get together for a good time, and together make delightful good-time music.
Comparisons with “Volume One” are inevitable. The trade-off lead vocals and now-distinctive Wilbury background chorus are reprised throughout “Volume 3” (fascinating, isn’t it, how such famous voices and styles can mix to create something new?), and the group-acoustic guitars continue to ring and resonate. But Lefty Wilbury — the late Roy Orbison — is much missed. His emotive solos and lyricality pushed the first album a notch higher than his buddies can achieve without him. Also, earlier songs like “Dirty World” and Dylan’s Springsteen satire “Tweeter and the Monkey Man” had a bite not found in the new batch.
So, “Volume 3” is no clone. In fact, the lead-off track/first single, “She’s My Baby,” shows off a harder-rocking bent, with help from guest blues-rock guitarist Gary Moore. Subsequent songs are sprinkled with word play, inside jokes, and ’60s homages. Dylan’s “7 Deadly Sins” is sort of a reverse “Book of Love,” for instance — and isn’t particularly successful. The lighter “New Blue Moon” works better. The four tunefully take on more serious topics in “The Devil’s Been Busy” (toxic waste and police violence, among other things) and the hillbilly rocker “Poor House” (about d-i-v-o-r-c-e). “If You Belonged to Me” and “You Took My Breath Away” offer nice harmonies and not a little wistfulness.
One thing that’s surprising is the vocal dominance of Dylan and Petty. Lynne’s often present, especially in the choruses, but, except for a few of the trade-off leads, George Harrison’s warble seems hardly a major factor. His trademark guitar is readily identifiable, though.