CK Retro Review: The Traveling Wilburys Vol.1 by The Traveling Wilburys

What started out as a George Harrison session featuring a few buddies turned into the Traveling Wlburys, and never has the term “supergroup” been more accurately applied. On Traveling Wilburys Vol.1, Harrison, Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, and Roy Orbison come together for an album that rivaled the biggest hits the men ever had as individuals. Here is a track-by-track review.

TWO STARS

10. “Margarita”- This is the one song on the album where the laid-back atmosphere crosses the fine line into silliness, and it’s also the one time when Lynne’s production gets a tad overbearing.

THREE STARS

9. “Rattled”- Lynne has always been adept at mimicking mint-condition rockabilly, and here he hets his Jerry Lee Lewis on with the help of Jim Keltner’s muscular beat. Bonus points for getting Orbison to recreate his “Pretty Woman” “R” roll.

8. “Congratulations”- Dylan sounds so woeful here that you fear he might collapse rather than finish this tongue-in-cheek tale of misery. The Wilburys chime in with staggering backing vocals that make them sound like the world’s most harmonious chain gang.

7. “Heading For The Light”- This one sounds like it could have fit in on Harrison’s Cloud Nine album, which was essentially the impetus for the Wilburys anyway. Bouncy horns accentuate the upbeat tune, and you can hear the fun that the Quiet Beatle is having with his friends.

FOUR STARS

6. “Dirty World”- This is Dylan at his most off-the-cuff and mischievous, tossing off brazen double-entendres in an attempt to win over a girl from her new man. The random call-and-response session from the other Wilburys at song’s end is inspired as well. This song would seem slight in lesser hands, but here it’s a rollicking blast.

5. “Last Night”- Petty gets his showcase in this tale of a one-night stand gone horribly awry. There is something subversive and hilarious in the way that his deadpan vocals are interspersed with the golden tones of Orbison. It’s never clear just what fate befalls the narrator, but when he surmises at songs’ end that “All I got is this song,” it’s a pretty good consolation.

4. “Handle With Care”- Harrison’s dry humor gets a workout in this song that started the whole Wilburys phenomenon off. His protagonist is just looking for a little bit of tenderness after getting knocked around a bit by life, and some of the complaints sound like they hit pretty close to home (especially when he claims that he’s been “overexposed, commercialized.”) George’s slide guitar and Dylan’s harmonica turn out to be an inspired combination.

3. “End Of The Line”- This is another song where the juxtaposition of the disparate voices produces fantastic results. Harrison, Lynne, and Orbison trade off on the verses, reassuring listeners with the “It’s all right” refrain even as all mattersof hypothetical disasters loom in the distance. Petty serves as the wry counterpoint, making small talk about his car and Jimi Hendrix. This is the song where Lynne’s back-porch production is at its finest.

FIVE STARS

2. “Tweeter And The Monkey Man”- We can’t say for sure if the Wilburys ever considered including Bruce Springsteen in their little party, but he’s here in spirit thanks to Dylan’s hilarious parody. Thanks to some slinky horns and the catchy “And the walls came down” refrain, you don’t need to know any Boss references to enjoy the song. Yet if you do, you’ll find yourself chuckling along even as you admire Dylan’s ingenious tale of a bizarre love quadrangle featuring bullets, car chases, and gender confusion.

1. “Not Alone Anymore”- Jeff Lynne is most likely the author of this song (his publishing company holds the copyright), so he deserves credit for crafting a weeper that can hold its own with colossal Roy Orbison classics like “Crying,” “Running Scared,” and “It’s Over.” The rest is all Orbison, using perhaps the most iconic voice in rock music history to take the whole thing to stratospheric levels of heartache. There won’t be a dry eye in the house by the time this one is through.

(E-mail me at countdownkid@hotmail.com or follow me on Twitter @JimBeviglia. Books and e-books of material that originated on this site can be purchased in the link below.)

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8 Comments on “CK Retro Review: The Traveling Wilburys Vol.1 by The Traveling Wilburys”

  1. Baggy says:

    I think you’ve nailed this one with your rankings CK; this is a very under-rated, or maybe under-regarded album. it doesn’t tend to crop up in our present obsession with lists , and hence seems to be forgotten, but there is some great work on here, and they all seem to have brought in their A game.

    • countdownkid says:

      I do agree it’s underrated. Some critics harp on Lynne’s production, but I feel like it’s held up well over time and that he generally gets a bad rap. The bottom line is that these songs are fun and surprisingly moving for how relaxed it all was supposed to be, and it’s still an album I go back to often. Come back Friday when I talk about Volume 3.

  2. Terry Peck says:

    Just wondered what your musical credentials are for writing this review. There is a lack of information, in the musical sense, about the individual songs, ie no mention of key, tempo, song form, etc. It would have been useful for you to give some sort of musical analysis, doncha think?

    • I think that anyone with musical credentials, and they’re probably the only ones who would care about such information, would already know that stuff. The rest of us, we just know what we like.

    • countdownkid says:

      Well, while I do mention musical techniques occasionally, I tend to focus on the visceral impact of the music on the listener (and me personally) and the songwriting aspects. As for credentials, I don’t have a degree in musical theory or anything, but I have been writing about music for close to a decade now. I’ll admit that, if you’re looking for intricate breakdowns of the stuff you mentioned, I’m probably not the writer for you. Hope you give it another chance though.

  3. Dave says:

    This is a very fine and timely review of this extraordinary record, and refreshingly economical in statement. I agree absolutely with the star ratings, although I’m not really that happy with the principle of “star rating” the work of such a troupe of seasoned and accomplished musicians. Suffice to say that the review made me dig out the recording, enjoy it immensely, and reflect that the reviewer’s comments were pretty accurate, accorded with my own, and made me take a detailed and better informed (or 119th) view of the record.
    Excellent, many thanks. Regards Dave.

    • countdownkid says:

      Thanks for the kind words. Check back on Friday when I take on Volume 3, and then the week after that I’ll be going album-by-album through the Dylan catalog in leading up to my book release in July.

  4. […] CK Retro Review: The Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 by the Traveling Wilburys (countdownkid.wordpress.com) […]


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