The Petty Archives

Records: Wilburys truly a super group
Review by Terry Higgins
The Milwaukee Sentinel - December 16, 1988

It's a sad fact of life that what passes for a supergroup in the 1980s leaves something to be desired. Where we once thrilled to the sounds of Cream and the Yardbirds, we know have to settle for Asia, GTR and the Firm.

Restrictive contracts, and superstar egos, have conspired to limit joint efforts by our top stars. Sure, we still get the occasional duet or guest shot on an album, but the true supergroup, a full collaboration of musical giants, is a rare commodity.

Fortunately, the Traveling Wilburys have surfaced to remind us of the good old days. "Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1" (Wilbury Records) is a masterful collaboration of Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, the late Roy Orbison, Jeff Lynne and George Harrison. This lineup, which began as a lark to knock out a quick B-side, instead has produced a witty, rocking record.

Unencumbered from the start with the "artistic" high seriousness that could sabotage such a group effort, the Wilburys write and play lighthearted tunes with a heavyweight commitment. From the Caribbean rhythms of "Last Night" to the rockabilly rumble of "Rattled," the band has turned dozens of years' worth of cumulative experience into a great party record. It's a cleanly recorded, crisply produced effort with some great guitar playing and even better singing.

While the casual listener should enjoy the easily hummed tunes, this record is a gold mine for the student of popular culture. It's fascinating to hear the unlikely but largely successful combinations that read like something from a Marvel Comics alternative universe: Lynne and Orbison; Orbison, Petty and Harrison; etc. "Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1" is highly recommended as a stocking stuffer for that hard-to-please music lover on your gift list.