[Review] Traveling Wilburys: Vol. 1 (1988)

Talk about your planetary alignment of talent, this is musical serendipity on a galactic scale.

Kronomyth 1.0: Wilbury’d treasure.

Sometimes Fate smiles, but this is a big old belly laugh where Fate is concerned. The real legend of the Traveling Wilburys, far more interesting than the fabricated one around a band of traveling brothers, begins with Jeff Lynne (Otis Wilbury) and George Harrison (Nelson) looking to record a new B-side for the third single (“This Is Love”) from George’s triumphant Cloud Nine. Lynne was working with another resurgent relic, Roy Orbison (Lefty), and it was decided that the three would record the song together (“Handle With Care”). The recording location? Bob Dylan’s (Lucky’s) home studio. But first, a stop off at the home of Tom Petty (Charlie T. Jr.), where George had left his guitar…

Had all this resulted in one drunken session or a single song, Fate might have been said to merely smirk. Instead, the band of five recorded an entire album’s worth of material over 10 days in May, and not just any material, but some of their best material in years. Lynne, who went on to produce albums by Orbison (Mystery Girl) and Petty (Full Moon Fever), had recently perfected a kind of modern retro sound heard on hits like “Got My Mind Set On You,” “You Got It” and “I Won’t Back Down.” You’ll find more of the same magic on here: “Handle With Care,” “Not Alone Any More,” “End of the Line.”

Honestly, fitting the craggy personas of Dylan and Petty into the mix isn’t always easy. The Dylan songs particularly feel like a different side of the band. Recalling that the bard was coming off the disappointing Down in the Groove, his contributions are a slightly miscalculated risk that give the impression someone has slipped half a mediocre Bob Dylan album into the party. The album was spared that kind of critical assessment, however, when Fate once again stepped in, this time taking Lefty with him. What remained was a remarkable swan song for Orbison, a second hit for Harrison and an introduction for stellar followups from Orbison and Petty. In 2007, an expanded remaster was released, including a song each led by Nelson (“Maxine”) and Lucky (“Like A Ship”).

Original LP Version

A1. Handle With Care (George Harrison) (3:20)
A2. Dirty World (Bob Dylan) (3:29)
A3. Rattled (Jeff Lynne) (2:59)
A4. Last Night (Tom Petty) (3:51)
A5. Not Alone Any More (Jeff Lynne) (3:25)
B1. Congratulations (Bob Dylan) (3:29)
B2. Heading For The Light (George Harrison) (3:36)
B3. Margarita (Tom Petty) (3:16)
B4. Tweeter And The Monkey Man (Bob Dylan) (5:27)
B5. End of the Line (George Harrison) (3:26)

CD reissue bonus tracks
11. Maxine (Bob Dylan/George Harrison/Jeff Lynne/Tom Petty) (2:49)
12. Like A Ship (Bob Dylan/George Harrison/Jeff Lynne/Tom Petty) (3:31)

The Players

Lucky Wilbury/Bob Dylan (acoustic guitar, lead & backing vocals), Nelson Wilbury/George Harrison (guitars, lead & backing vocals), Otis Wilbury/Jeff Lynne (keyboards, guitars, lead & backing vocals), Lefty Wilbury/Roy Orbison (acoustic guitar, lead & backing vocals), Charlie T. Jnr/Tom Petty (acostic guitar, lead & backing vocals), Jim Keltner (drums) with Ray Cooper (percussion), Jim Horn (saxophones), Ian Walalce (tom toms on A1), Ayrton Wilbury/Dhani Harrison (guitar solo and backing vocals on 11/12). Produced by Otis and Nelson Wilbury; engineered by Richard Dodd, Phil Macdonald, Don Smith, Bill Botrell and Ryan Ulyate on 11/12; 11/12 mixed by Otis Wilbury and Ryan Ulyate.

The Pictures

Art direction by David Costa (for Wherefore Art). Sleeve photography by Neal Preston, Gered Mankowitz, Chris Smith.

The Plastic

Released on elpee, cassette and compact disc on October 18, 1988 in the US and Australia (Wilbury, 25796-1/2), the UK (Warner Bros., WX-224W), Argentina (Wilbury, 80770/90770), Canada (Wilbury/WEA, 92 57961), Colombia (Warner Bros., 23(1031)00083), Germany (Warner Bros., WX-224/925796-2) and South Africa (Tusk, WBC-1652) with picture innersleeve and stickers. Reached #3 on the US charts (RIAA-certified 3x platinum record) and #16 on the UK charts; won Grammy award for Rock Duo/Group. Also released on brown vinyl in 1988 in Mexico (WEA, LXWB-6787).

  1. Re-released on expanded, remastered compact disc in 2007 in the US (Wilbury/Rhino, R2 255036) with 2 bonus tracks.
  2. Re-issued on expanded, remastered compact disc in 2008 in the UK (Rhino, 79918) and on September 24, 2008 in Japan (Warner, WPCR-75452) with 2 bonus tracks.

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