Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Traveling Wilburys

  • Volume One [Warner Bros., 1988] A-
  • Volume 3 [Wilbury/Warner Bros., 1990] B+

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Volume One [Warner Bros., 1988]
The clumsy conceit--has-been supersession masquerading as family road band--produces more or less the mishmash you'd expect. Roy Orbison and Bob Dylan have never sung like brothers to anyone, much less each other, leaving Tom Petty's chameleon, Jeff Lynne's teddy boy, and George Harrison's dork to blend as best they can. Harrison's the only lead guitarist; Lynne plays not piano or Hammond B-3 but a marooned synthesizer; Orbison and Harrison take solo turns on songs that obviously belong on their own sorry albums. Yet from Harrison's hook on "Margarita" to the ridiculous ride-your-automobile metaphors of "Dirty World," this is the fun get-together it's billed as--somebody was letting his hair down, that's for sure. My nominee is Dylan, who dominates half the tracks and is the only man here capable of writing a clever lyric on call. Maybe he's a genius after all. A-

Volume 3 [Wilbury/Warner Bros., 1990]
A genre piece without a genre, this plays down the masquerade--Tom Petty's superstar equipment-storage problems coexist naturally with toxic golfers, blood-yellow skies, uppity wimmin, elusive wimmin, greedy wimmin, and of course beautiful wimmin. From the gal who's "got a body for business, got a head for sin" to riffs that date to when they were pups, it shows off just enough of the colloquial command of the old masters they hype themselves as. Inspirational Verse: "Lift your other foot up/Fall on your ass/Get back up/Put your teeth in a glass." B+