Traveling Wilburys – Volume One
Warner Bros, 1988
Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2007
So funny this should come up the day I discovered George Harrison's All Things Must Pass. I randomly put it on at work today and was completely floored and felt foolish that I'd never listened to it, given that I always assumed George would be my favorite Beatle if I'd ever bothered to pay attention to the Beatles, or much less George. But yeah, that is relevant because Traveling Wilburys are the ultimate supergroup. It looks like someone's fantasy football sheet or something. The best of the best from a particular era (with the exception of Orbison, who is just 100% all of the time). George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, Jeff Lynne, and Tom Petty. Amazingly, Traveling Wilburys still seem like an under the radar band. Shit, the only reason I know about them is because Jenny Lewis covered their hit “Handle With Care” on her album Rabbit Fur Coat, casting indie luminaries Ben Gibbard, M. Ward, and Conor Oberst as Orbison, Petty and Dylan. The cover is almost as good as the original specifically because it captures the same sense of joy and absolute fun that these guys had making this record. I mean, I'm sure it's documented, but Traveling Wilburys basically seems like four friends getting together in someone's garage and writing a bunch of songs without thinking about anything but having a good time together. It's not exactly the deepest record, but it's a really goddamned good listen. The guys take turns with the lead vocals, and Orbison's “Not Alone Anymore” is one of my favorite tracks on the record just because fuck, it's Roy Orbison and no one else on earth sings like that. There's almost something corny about his voice but it's so perfect, emotive, and sounds like fucking butter. Honestly, everyone gets a chance to shine. The tracks where Dylan takes lead are a little hit or miss. “Congratulations” is one to skip and “Margarita” is just fucking weird, but “Tweeter and the Monkey Man” is surprisingly good, given that this was recorded in the midst of what are typically regarded as Dylan's two worst records, Knocked Out Loaded and Down in the Groove. “Monkey Man” seems to illustrate the eventual upswing that would come in '89 when he released the excellent return to form Oh, Mercy. That song is also apparently a parody of Bruce Springsteen songs in a way, which is pretty funny. I am taking extra special notice of Jeff Lynne's spectacular “Heading for the Light,” which comes off as a rootsier ELO jam with angelic harmonies and a bitching corny 80s sax solo (how so many artists thought this was a good idea is beyond me, although I'm sure there's something about music today that's gonna sound really stupid in ten years). The only time Petty really gets to shine is on the closer “End of the Line,” but it's worth it, as it's one of the best songs on the record. Shit, this is a real good record.