The Traveling Wilburys – Vol. 01 (1988)

FrontCover1.jpgThere never was a supergroup more super than the Traveling Wilburys. They had Jeff Lynne, the leader of ELO; they had Roy Orbison, the best pop singer of the ’60s; they had Tom Petty, the best roots rocker this side of Bruce Springsteen; they had a Beatle and Bob Dylan, for crying out loud! It’s impossible to picture a supergroup with a stronger pedigree than that (all that’s missing is a Rolling Stone), but in another sense it’s hard to call the Wilburys a true supergroup, since they arrived nearly two decades after the all-star craze of the ’70s peaked, and they never had the self-important air of nearly all the other supergroups. That, of course, was the key to their charm: they were a group of friends that fell together easily, almost effortlessly, to record a B-side for a single for George Harrison, then had such a good time they stuck around to record a full album, which became a hit upon its 1988 release. The Traveling Wilburys was big enough to convince the group to record a second album, cheerfully and incongruously titled Vol. 3, two years later despite the death of Orbison. Like most sequels, the second didn’t live up to expectations, and by the time it and its predecessor drifted out of print in the mid-’90s, with the rights reverting to Harrison, nobody much noticed. A few years later, though, it soon became apparent that the Wilburys records — mainly, the debut, widely beloved thanks to its two hits, “Handle With Care” and “End of the Line” — were out of print, and they soon became valuable items as the Harrison estate dragged its heels on a reissue. Finally, the two albums were bundled up as a two-CD set simply called The Traveling Wilburys and reissued with a DVD containing a documentary and all the videos in the summer of 2007 (there is also a deluxe edition containing a longer, lavish booklet).

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Looking back via The Traveling Wilburys, the group’s success seems all the more remarkable because the first album is surely, even proudly, not a major statement. Even under the direction of Lynne, who seems incapable of not polishing a record till it gleams, it’s loose and funny, even goofy. It’s clearly a lark, which makes the offhanded, casual virtuosity of some of the songs all the more affecting, particularly the two big hits, which are sunny and warm, partially because they wryly acknowledge the mileage on these rock & roll veterans. “Handle With Care” and “End of the Line” are the two masterworks here, although Roy’s showcase, “Not Alone Anymore” — more grand and moving than anything on the Lynne-produced Mystery Girl — comes close in the stature, but its stylized melodrama is a ringer here: it, along with Dylan’s offhand heartbreak tune “Congratulations,” is the only slow thing here, and the rest of the album just overspills with good vibes, whether it’s Tom Petty’s lite reggae of “Last Night,” Jeff Lynne’s excellent Jerry Lee Lewis update “Rattled,” or Dylan’s very funny “Dirty World,” which is only slightly overshadowed by his very, very funny Springsteen swipe “Tweeter and the Monkey Man.” These high times keep The Traveling Wilburys fresh and fun years later, after Lynne’s production becomes an emblem of the time instead of transcending it. (The album contains two bonus tracks in this reissue, the excellent Harrison song “Maxine” — a low-key waltz that should have made the cut — and “Like a Ship,” a folky dirge that builds into ELO-esque pop which is pretty good but doesn’t have the effervescence of the rest.)

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The Traveling Wilburys built upon Harrison’s comeback with Cloud Nine and helped revitalize everybody else’s career, setting the stage for Dylan’s 1989 comeback with Oh Mercy, Petty’s first solo album, Full Moon Fever, produced by Lynne (sounding and feeling strikingly similar to this lark), and Orbison’s Mystery Girl, which was released posthumously. Given the success of this record and how it boosted the creativity of the rest of the five, it’s somewhat a shock that the second effort falls a little flat. In retrospect, Vol. 3 plays a little bit better than it did at the time — it’s the kind of thing to appreciate more in retrospect, since you’ll never get another album like it — but it still labors mightily to recapture what came so effortlessly the first time around, a problem that can’t merely be chalked up to the absence of Orbison (who after all, didn’t write much on the first and only took lead on one song).

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Where the humor flowed naturally and absurdly throughout the debut, it feels strained on Vol. 3 — nowhere more so than on “Wilbury Twist,” where Petty implores you to put your underwear on your head and get up and dance, the epitome of forced hilarity — and the production is too polished and punchy to give it a joie de vivre similar to the debut. That polish is an indication that Lynne and Petty dominate this record, which only makes sense because they made it between Full Moon Fever and Into the Great Wide Open, but it’s striking that this sounds like more like their work, even when Dylan takes the lead on “Inside Out” or the doo wop-styled “7 Deadly Sins.” Both of these are quite good songs and they have a few other companions here, like the quite wonderful country stomp “Poor House,” but they’re songs more notable for their craft than their impact — nothing is as memorable as the throwaways on the debut — and when combined with the precise production, it takes a bit for them to sink in. But give the record some time, and these subtle pleasures are discernible, even if they surely pale compared to the open-hearted fun of the debut. But when paired with the debut on this set, it’s a worthy companion and helps support the notion that the Traveling Wilburys were a band that possesses a unique, almost innocent, charm that isn’t diminished after all this time. (by Stephen Thomas Erlewine)

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Personnel:
Charlie T. Wilbury Jr (Tom Petty) (vocals, guitar)
Lefty Wilbury (Roy Orbison) (vocals, guitar)
Lucky Wilbury (Bob Dylan) (vocals, guitar, harmonica)
Nelson Wilbury (George Harrison) (vocals, guitar, slide guitar)
Otis Wilbury (Jeff Lynne) (vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards)
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Ray Cooper (percussion)
Jim Horn (saxophone)
Buster Sidebury (Jim Keltner) (drums)
Ian Wallace (tom-toms on 01.)

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Tracklist:
01. Handle With Care 3.19
02. Dirty World 3.30
03. Rattled 3.00
04. Last Night 3.48
05. Not Alone Any More 3.24
06. Congratulations 3.30
07. Heading For The Light 3.37
08. Margarita 3.15
09. “Tweeter and the Monkey Man” Dylan 5:30
10. End Of The Line 3.30

All song written by The Traveling WilburysCD1
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What a line-up !

 

Roy Orbinson – Mystery Girl (1989)

FrontCover1Mystery Girl is the twenty-second album by American singer Roy Orbison. It was completed in November 1988, a month before his death at the age of 52, and released on the Virgin record label in February 1989. It includes the hit single “You Got It”, which was co-written by Orbison and his Traveling Wilburys bandmates Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty, and “She’s a Mystery to Me”, written by Bono and The Edge. The album was a critical and commercial success; it peaked at number 5 on the Billboard 200 in the United States, the highest position Orbison had achieved on that chart, and number 2 on the UK Albums Chart.

Mystery Girl was Orbison’s first album of all-new material since 1979 and its success posthumously continued the resurgence that his career had undergone since 1986. Among the many other contributors to the album were Mike Campbell and other members of the Heartbreakers, T Bone Burnett, George Harrison, Jim Keltner and Rick Vito. For the 25th anniversary of its release, the album was reissued with bonus tracks including “The Way Is Love”, a song recorded by Orbison on a cassette tape in the 1980s that was subsequently completed by his sons and producer John Carter Cash. (by wikipedia)

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Roy Orbison’s comeback started in 1986, when David Lynch used “In Dreams” for a pivotal sequence in his masterwork Blue Velvet. So mesmerizing was Dean Stockwell’s pantomime of the 1963 hit that Orbison soon became in demand. He re-recorded his hits for a collection naturally called In Dreams, he gave a star-studded concert called Black & White Night, and then he began work with ELO leader Jeff Lynne on a comeback album. The duo tabled the album to join the supergroup the Traveling Wilburys, a collaboration with Tom Petty, George Harrison, and Bob Dylan that turned into a surprise smash in 1988. Once that record began its run up the charts, Lynne and Orbison completed the album that became Mystery Girl, but the record didn’t come out until February 1989, a few months after Roy’s tragic death. His passing colored the reception of the record, helping turn it into a genuine hit — it peaked at five on Billboard’s 200 and two in the U.K. and went platinum in both countries — and while his death may have helped boost sales, it’s likely Mystery Girl would’ve been a success anyway. Orbison, unlike any of his ’60s peers, was an actual hot property at the end of the ’80s, and he surrounded himself with collaborators who cared enough to showcase him at his best.

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Lynne is the best known of these and his contributions are strong, although perhaps a bit too redolent of the Baroque pop that became his trademark at the turn of the ’80s: they’re big, bright, and bold, slathered in harmonies and guitars, their over-production obscuring the songs’ simple charms. “You Got It,” the hit from the record, perfectly captures this characteristic, but so do the other Lynne contributions “A Love So Beautiful” and “California Blue,” the latter in particular a very nice evocation of Roy’s early-’60s balladry. “In the Real World,” a song co-written by Will Jennings and co-produced by Heartbreaker Mike Campbell along with Orbison and his wife Barbara, is in the same vein, acting as an explicit sequel to “In Dreams,” while “Windsurfer” touches upon a California pop Roy rarely attempted, and “The Only One,” co-written by his son Wesley, evokes a nice southern soul groove. The two showy collaborations with U2 (“She’s a Mystery to Me”) and Elvis Costello (“The Comedians”) garnered headlines at the time but are a shade florid — Costello’s melodrama edges out Bono & the Edge, because it respects pacing — but T-Bone Burnett’s “(All I Can Do Is) Dream You” is the real surprise, a nifty resuscitation of Roy’s early rockabilly sides for Sun. The fact that all involved found a way to get a bit of swing into this attractive, overwrought pop illustrates just how handsome the whole endeavor is: it’s designed as a graceful coda to a legendary career and, amazingly enough, it succeeds (by Stephen Thomas Erlewine)

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Personnel:
Roy Orbison (vocals, guitar)
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Mike Campbell  (guitar, bass, mandolin)
Howie Epstein (bass, background vocals)
Jim Keltner (drums)
Jeff Lynne (guitar, keyboards, bass, background vocals)
Benmont Tench (keyboards, strings)
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Bono (guitar on 06.)
Billy Burnette (guitar, background vocals on 03.)
T Bone Burnett (guitar on 07.)
Gary Coleman (percussion on 07.)
Ray Cooper (drums on 04.)
Steve Cropper (guitar on 08.)
Mickey Curry (drums on 03.)
Mitchell Froom (piano on 07.)
George Harrison (guitar on 04.)
Phil Jones (drums, percussion on 01.)
Al Kooper (organ on 02.)
The Memphis Horns (horns on 08.)
David Miner (bass on 07.)
Buell Neidlinger (bass on 03. + 07.)
Barbara Orbison (background vocals on 02.)
Roy Orbison Jr. background vocals on 02.)
Tom Petty (guitar on 01. + 05., background vocals on 01., 02. + 05.)
David Rhodes (guitar on 7.)
Jerry Scheff (bass on 07.)
Rick Vito (guitar, background vocals on 03., slide guitar on 09.)
Ian Wallace (drums, percussion on 05.)
Tom “T-Bone” Wolk (bass on 03.)

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Tracklist:
01. You Got It (Orbison/Lynne/Petty) 3.30
02. In The Real World (Kerr/Jennings) 3.44
03. (All I Can Do Is) Dream You (Burnette/Malloy) 3.39
04. A Love So Beautiful (Orbison/Lynne) 3.33
05. California Blue (Orbison/Lynne/Petty) 3.57
06. She’s A Mystery To Me (Bono/The Edge) 4.16
07. The Comedians (Costello) 3.26
08. The Only One (W.Orbison/Wiseman) 3.55
09. Windsurfer (Orbison/Dees) 4.01
10. Careless Heart (Orbison/Warren/Hammond) 4.08

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Roy Kelton Orbison (April 23, 1936 – December 6, 1988)