The Petty Archives

Traveling Wilburys' Volume 3 Lacks Substance, Creativity
By Thomas Kennedy
The Colgate News - November 16, 1990

Listening to a Traveling Wilburys album can be likened to watching an all-star game. It's intriguing, but there really isn't that much depth to it. They're "just out there to have fun." One would expect this from a band with Jeff Lynne and George Harrison (George's post-All Things Must Pass era, that is). However, one might also expect that throwing in Bob Dylan and Tom Petty would counter the overly boppish nature of Lynne. Volume 3 (the group elected to skin a Volume 2; perhaps some perplexing attempt at being witty), the Wilburys' recent release, though, is dominated by Lynne's generic "catchy tune" sound that now graces not only the Wilburys' album, but the solo albums of each member as well.

Such a sweeping criticism requires clarification. Jeff Lynne has a knack for making every song he produces sound too slicked-up. All the backup vocals sound unnatural, the chorus in most of the songs give one frightening flashbacks to the days of E.L.O, and even the Bobby D. numbers are packaged like singles. The loss of Roy Orbison is notable as well, since his voice was one of the few pure sounds that Volume 1 had to offer.

Volume 3, "Cool Dry Place," sounds like a slowed up version of Full Moon Fever's "Zombie Zoo" (also produced by Lynne); "You Took My Breath Away" could easily have appeared on Harrison's Cloud Nine (also produced by Lynne) and several songs could be out-takes from Lynne's solo effort, Armchair Theater (surprise, surprise, also produced by Lynne). I don't follow Bob Dylan's recent work (it's difficult to keep up with someone has has a new release every other week), so I don't know if Lynne has marred any of Dylan's albums, but you get the picture. Too much Jeff Lynne.

Don't get me wrong; the Wilburys' new album is fun stuff and is very listenable. "The Devil's Been Busy" (George dusts off the sitar for this one) is probably better than anything on the first album, and "She's My Baby" kicks (you may have seen the video). "New Blue Moon," with its Latin rhythm, stands out as one of their more unique songs. Other than that, though, it's pretty much straight forward strumming of acoustic guitars resulting in a fairly redundant. "Seven Deadly Sins" features Bob Dylan attempting to sing a '60s doo-wop song that falls flat. "Where Were You Last Night" takes the cake as the most dull, nondescript tune by the band to date.

I can't help but have mixed feelings about Traveling Wilburys' Volume 3. Granted their purpose is to create a light-hearted album and have fun doing it, so if a collection of songs to snap your fingers to is all they hoped to create, they have succeeded. On the other hand, the album lacks substance. I get the feeling that this record must have been written in about a week. This feeling is epitomized by the last song on the album, "Wilbury Twist," which may well have been written and recorded in about five minutes. Knowing that these guys are capable of something so much better than the B-52's mentality, it's difficult not to be a little disappointed with this latest work. Where is the Bob Dylan creativity? And, more importantly, where are the Tom Petty riffs? Get rid of Jeff Lynne; bring in Keith Richards, I say.