Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Travelling Wilburys Collection

I snatched up the Travelling Wilburys releases when they first came out many years ago and I've enjoyed them every once in a while since then so when it was announced that their two CDs were being re-released I needed a pretty good reason (other than slightly better sound) to buy them again. Fortunately, I found that reason. Partly it was the price – Best Buy had a pretty good deal – but it was also the extras that were put on set. In addition to the two albums, Volumes one and three (there was no volume two), the set contains a DVD with a 25 minute documentary and the music videos that the band made when the singles were released. In addition, each CD had two extra tracks which made the set irresistible. So I didn't resist.

The real reason, though, why anyone should get this set is the that the two original CDs are simply too good to miss. Jeff Lynne's remaster is fine (although not revelatory) and the original tracks sparkle with the fun and enthusiasm of the five Wilburys; George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan and Roy Orbison. Of the five I am mostly a Harrison fan and, in reading the things that have come out about the set, I realize that this was very much George's show. He steered the group and made it happen. He and Jeff Lynne took the rough tracks that the Wilburys made over ten days and turned them into the album we know now. And it was his charisma that brought the five together in the first place. But the real joy for me in this set is Roy Orbison. Listening to him sing "You're Not Alone" is just wonderful. There are, of course, other great tracks, the most noteworthy being "Handle With Care," but I just love hearing Orbison sing these songs. It's too bad he died shortly after the release of Volume One and couldn't be part of Volume Three – it is a weaker album perhaps because of his absence. The extra tracks on both discs are nice but not essential. The documentary is a lot of fun and great for those of us who like to look behind the scenes.

But back to the main course. The fun that these guys had in making these albums almost leaps out of the player at us. This music is hardly the most important that any of them did – it's almost like watching home movies. So it should be listened to with that attitude. Don't look for great insight or lyrics that even make you think for more than a second. Instead, just close your eyes and smile.

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