Album Reviews

The Traveling Wilburys

The Traveling Wilburys Collection (Deluxe Limited Edition)

Artist:     The Traveling Wilburys

Album:     The Traveling Wilburys Collection

Label:     Concord Records

Release Date:     06/03/2016


Who doesn’t love the Traveling Wilburys? Believe it or not, when I first heard them back in the ’80s, I didn’t. At the time, my teenage cynicism prevented me from latching onto their joyous, rollicking sound. Fortunately, I’ve outgrown that. Not only do I now love the tunes, but as a musician, I’ve come to appreciate the dynamic craft and superior songwriting from this dream team of mega-musicians. Plus, it’s a great story.

How did this group come to pass? Mo Ostin’s introduction in this new Deluxe Edition explains how Warner Bros. Records’ International Department asked George Harrison to come up with a B-side for “This Is Love,” a single from his Cloud Nine album.

“This was mid-1988. Cloud Nine was just out. George, along with co-writer Jeff Lynne and their friends Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and Roy Orbison, had been hanging out in Dylan’s studios. I suppose George figured that as long as his pals were on hand, why not use them to knock off this flipside?”

Just like that they put together the now classic “Handle With Care,” which spurred the record execs to ask for more.

“George took over. The five frontmen decided not to use their own names… They first named their fivesome the Trembling Wilburys. Jeff suggested “Traveling” instead. The group was born… but it was George who created this Wilbury environment where five stars could enjoy an ego free collaboration. Everybody sang, everybody wrote, everybody produced- and had great fun doing it.”

Harrison, well known as a Beatle and solo artist, was also extremely gifted at bringing people together. “Think about Concert For Bangladesh, only George Harrison could have pulled that off.” There was mutual admiration all around, and that energy is what give these fantastic tracks their everlasting appeal.

So what’s different about this collection? It contains all the hits in one nice package from Volumes 1 and 2, Bonus Tracks “Maxine,” “Like A Ship,” “Nobody’s Child” and “Runaway,” as well as a DVD disc featuring all the videos and an informative documentary called The True Story Of The Traveling Wilburys. Of course “true” is to be taken with a grain of salt, as much of the band’s mystique is wrapped up in farcical humor, evident in the original liner notes which explain the origins of the group.

“They have their roots deep in the obscure civilization of Asiatic Pygmies (called Travelians), whose musical intrigue was well renowned at that time.”

Don’t forget “The Four Lads From Liverpool” found their comedic foil in Monty Python, and that Harrison provided financing for The Life of Brian through his company Handmade Films when EMI pulled funding. George was known for his deep spirituality, but also for having a great sense of humor. Fun is what these sessions were all about.

Though Jeff Lynne’s lush production squarely places their work in the ’80s, the simple song structures and good vibrations make for timeless tunes. The irresistible chorus of “End Of The Line” reverberates through space and time like a mantra of cosmic positivity.

“Well it’s all right, riding around in the breeze
Well it’s all right, if you live the life you please
Well it’s all right, even if the sun don’t shine
Well it’s all right, we’re going to the end of the line”

And it is. Eternally, highly recommended!

-Mike Cobb

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