The Petty Archives

Celebrating the road with the Wilburys
By Tom Moon
The Spokesman-Review - November 4, 1988

Being the savvy marketing geniuses that they are, the five Traveling Wilburys -- Bob Dylan , Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison and George Harrison -- have left their real names off but their faces on the cover of "Volume One," their first meeting of the minds (Wilbury Records).

What's the message here? That this is five guys having fun? And not a supergroup? Or is it supposes to be a wistful evocation of troubadour lore, five insulated millionaires longing for the good old days?

Whatever the intentions, the thrumming, acoustic-guitar-heavy music on "Volume One" works its own spell apart from the marquee. And remarkably, has its own sound -- one of happiness, lost innocence, the power of the song as elixir.

The vocal harmonies -- one Wilbury trademark -- occasionally come off as though they were hatched in a barber shop. The lead vocals are shared, round-robin style, and though they're spread fairly evenly among the five, it's easy to see who wrote what. (The biting, hurled words of "Congratulations" can belong only to Bob Dylan, for example, just as the too-chipper "Heading for the Light" reeks sourly of Lynne's not-so-dearly-departed Electric Light Orchestra). "Congratulations" is the only song that leans even slightly toward the bitter side of the emotional spectrum.

For the most part, the 10 selections cheerily celebrate the traveling life. Split between road songs, blues, love songs and epic stories, they chug contentedly along.

There are few singular standout moments -- Orbison's warbled entrance on the bridge to "Handle With Care," the first single, is one -- but more important, there's lots of stuff you'll be singing along with months and years down the road.