The Traveling Wilburys (2 CD + DVD) By The Traveling Wilburys

December 27, 2016

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The sons of Charles Truscott Wilbury were a true super group. Lucky (Bob Dylan), Nelson (George Harrison, Otis (Jeff Lynne), Lefty (Roy Orbison), and Charlie Wilbury Jr. (Tom Petty) came together as an accident, released two albums; one after Orbison’s death in December of 1988, and disbanded.

Harrison, producer Lynne, along with Orbison and Petty gathered in the studio to record a B side to Harrison’s single “This Is Love.” The resultant song “Handle With Care” was so good that it was decided to release it on its own under the Traveling Wilburys moniker complete with fictitious names. Dylan later joined to make the group a quintet. Jim Keltner as Buster Sidebury was the drummer.

The result of all the tongue-in-cheek shenanigans was some of the best pure rock/pop of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. Their entire catalogue has now been released as a two CD + 1 DVD Box Set titled The Traveling Wilburys Collection.

From pieces of pop heaven such as “Handle With Care,” “End Of The Line,” and “She’s My Baby” to the quirky “Wilbury Twist” and “Tweeter And The Monkey Man;” it is a journey through the best pop music has to offer. Their first album with Orbison’s soaring voice finds them at their best but everything is above the norm.

Jeff Lynne is a master producer and their sound was always clear and crisp and remains so on this release. The accompanying booklet is extensive. The DVD presents a history of the band and takes one back a quarter of a century to where everyone looks a lot younger and in the case of Orbison and Harrison are still alive.

The Traveling Wilburys were a short term project by five superstars. In some ways I can’t help but think the other four wanted to play with Orbison as the band only carried on for one more album following his death. They left behind a stunning collection of well-crafted music that represented a unique and creative career stop for the musicians involved. High recommended for any fan of American rock and roll.


Bangla-Desh 45 by George Harrison

August 12, 2013

Bangladesh

George Harrison spent the 1960s as the lead guitarist of The Beatles. Every once in awhile, one of his songs would be included on an album. “Something” was a rare tune of his released as a single by the band.

When the Beatles disbanded, he released one of the classic albums in rock and roll history, ALL THINGS MUST PASS, proving that he was a major talent. He followed this with his famous CONCERT FOR BANGLA-DESH. He was always interested in humanitarian causes and the concert and subsequent album benefited the starving in Bangla-Desh.

The single was released during the summer of 1971 and peaked at number 23 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100. It may not have been one of his best songs but it was one of his most important.


What Is Life 45 by George Harrison

September 5, 2012

When The Beatles disbanded, it signaled a coming out party for George Harrison. He had always been over-shadowed by the team of Lennpn/McCartney. His 1970 album, ALL THINGS MUST PASS, remains one of the classics in rock ‘n’ roll history and quickly proved that he was a first rate songwriter..

The first single release from his chart-topping debut was the number one “My Sweet Lord'” which was a difficult act to follow.

“What Is Life” has always been one of my favorite Harrison songs. The guitar intro leads into a smooth rock tune that just flows along. It may not have been as big a hit as “My Sweet Lord” but it did reach number 10 on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart. It may be somewhat lost at times on the ALL THINGS MUST PASS triple album but it remains one of the better tracks of the early 1970s.


All Those Years Ago 45 by George Harrison

May 26, 2011

“All Those Years Ago” was a fitting tribute to the deceased John Lennon from one of his old bandmates. It also included contributions from Ringo Starr and Paul McCatney, which was as close to a Beatles reuniuon as we would ever get.

The single was a big hit in the United States. Released May 23, 1981, it reached number two on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart for three weeks.

Given the emotional content, it’s a shame it did not reach number one.


My Sweet Lord 45 by George Harrison

December 9, 2010

“My Sweet Lord” was George Harrison’s coming out party. He had trouble getting his songs onto Beatles albums due to the Lennon and McCartney juggernaut. It seems as if he had all these songs salted away and they were released on ALL THINGS MUST PASS. That album would become a standard of its era as it topped the American charts for seven weeks.

“My Sweet Lord” was the lead single from the album and remains the biggest hit of his career as it topped The American singles charts for four weeks. It may have been spiritual in content but remains instantly recognizable.


Concert For George by Eric Clapton and Various Artists

September 27, 2010

George Harrison died of cancer November 29, 2001, at the age of 58. Exactly a year later Eric Clapton organized a tribute concert at Royal Albert Hall which featured a line-up of friends and former band mates. The resultant album was released almost a year later on November 17, 2003.

When Eric Clapton calls, people usually respond. Jeff Lynne, Gary Brooker, Joe Brown, Tom Petty, Billy Preston, Ringo Starr, and Paul McCartney would all play and share lead vocal duties on various tracks. In addition his son Dhani Harrison, guitarist Albert Lee, plus old Harrison sidemen, bassist Klaus Voorman and drummer Jim Keltner were also present to fill out the sound.

The first disc is a presentation of three pieces of Indian music composed by Ravi Shankar, which were performed and conducted by his daughter Anoushka. She was in her early twenties at the time, yet was already a virtuoso of the Sitar. The 23 minute “Arpan” is a production, and whether this track is enjoyed or passed over will be determined by the listener’s affinity for Indian music. Nevertheless the music was an appropriate addition to the tribute for George Harrison as it was an important part of his life. The fourth song was an interesting cover of “The Inner Light” performed by Anoushka and Jeff Lynne.

The second disc begins with Jeff Lynne’s vocal on “I Want To Tell You” from Revolver and rocks through twenty tracks.

Some of the songs work better than others. Ringo Starr’s two-song set is one of the highlights of the concert. He co-authored his number one hit “Photograph” with George Harrison and here gives a performance that provides an emotional center for the album. This is followed by a rendition of “Honey Don’t” with some fine guitar work by Albert Lee.

Another highlight is the vocal performances by Joe Brown. He was a famous early rock era British performer and personality but was little known outside of his home country. His vocal on “Here Comes The Sun” is just perfect. His choice of performing the obscure “That’s The Way It Goes” from Gone Troppo was brilliant.

Billy Preston’s exuberant performance of “My Sweet Lord” was the result of the song being a part of his live act for decades. Paul McCartney’s take of “Something” proves that many times simple is best. He also shines on “All Things Must Pass,” which is amusing given the fact it was a song The Beatles passed on at one time.

On the other hand the Tom Petty tracks are just average and Jeff Lynne’s voice is not in the best form. Eric Clapton provides the lead vocal on three tracks, but it is his support work throughout the album that ties everything together. The evening and album draws to a close with Joe Brown providing the lead vocal for the old (1924) popular tune “I’ll See You In My Dreams.”

Concert For George was the best and most fitting gift his friends could offer. It is rare tribute album that works.

Article first published as on Blogcritics.org


Brainwashed by George Harrison

September 27, 2010

George Harrison died of cancer November 29, 2001 at the age of 58. He had not released a studio album since 1987’s Cloud Nine. His participation with the Traveling Wilburys, a tour with Eric Clapton and its resultant live album (Live in Japan), plus his work on The Beatles Anthology project had kept him out of the studio for well over a decade.

He had been working on a new release for a while but once he realized that his latest cancer diagnosis was not treatable he began a final push to complete the album. He died before finishing but left notes for his son, Dhani, and longtime friend, Jeff Lynne, concerning its completion. It took a number of months to finish the work but it was finally released just about a year after Harrison’s death in November of 2002.

Brainwashed was a worldwide commercial success and received a gold record award for sales in the United States.

While a number of musicians appeared on various tracks, the core band consisted of only four people. Harrison provided the vocals, lead guitar, ukulele, plus some keyboards; Jeff Lynne played bass, keyboards, and guitar, Dhani Harrison was on guitar and piano, and old friend Jim Keltner was the drummer.

The album had a distinct advantage over most posthumous releases in that it was always intended as a real album rather than just an assemblage of tracks after the artist’s death. It may not be Harrison’s best work, but it is still very good in its own right and the poignancy behind its release certainly made it the most emotional.

“Any Road” has a flowing melody, tight harmonies, and reminds one of his work with the Traveling Wilburys. “Looking For My Life” is an introspective piece which is representative of his facing his mortality. “Marwa Blues” is a beautiful instrumental and may be the album’s best track. The only non-original cut is a cover of the old “Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea,” which he resurrects as an upbeat ukulele driven tune. The album ends appropriately with the title song, which is a criticism of the material world, allowing him to be true to himself right to the end.

Brainwashed is the last musical will and testament of George Harrison. As the final chapter of his life it is memorable, touching, and ultimately triumphant.

Article first published as on Blogcritics.org


Live In Japan by George Harrison

September 27, 2010

After the negative experiences of his 1974 Dark Horse tour, George Harrison did not go on the road for over 15 years. It took a call from old friend Eric Clapton to entice him to perform live again. He and Clapton would share the stage for a series of successful performances during December of 1991. Following the tour, he would become involved with The Beatles Anthology project. As such, it would be the final live performances of his lifetime and the resultant album, Live In Japan, would be the last release before his death.

He was accompanied by Eric Clapton and his touring band. Guitarist Andy Fairweather-Low, bassist Nathan East, keyboardist Greg Phillinganes, pianist Chuck Leavell, drummer Steve Ferrone, and percussionist Ray Cooper are typical of the excellent hands Clapton would assemble to support himself in concert. Of course, having Harrison and Clapton sharing lead guitar duties is a treat.

Harrison’s set, as represented on this album, is a fine retrospective of his career. He reaches back to some Beatles obscurities and well-known performances, plus a nice selection of his solo work.

“I Want To Tell You,” from Revolver and “Old Brown Shoe,” which was originally the B-Side to “The Ballad Of John and Yoko” single were inspired choices, as they resurrect some lost gems in a live setting. I could have done without the lyrical updates to “Taxman,” but the dual guitar work by Clapton and Harrison on “If I Needed Someone” is excellent.

The guitar work on “Something” veers a little from the original, but his takes of the White Album composition “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and Abbey Road’s “Here Comes The Sun” are classic.

Most of his well-known solo hits are present. “My Sweet Lord,” a jazzy version of “All Those Years Ago,” “Isn’t It A Pity,” and a rocking “What Is Life” all find him at his post-Beatles best.

The album comes to a fitting conclusion with “Roll Over Beethoven,” which was a Beatles staple during their live shows.

George Harrison could not have chosen a more fitting live album to present his legacy. It remains a fine representation of his music and talent.

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Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3 by The Traveling Wilburys

September 22, 2010

The second Traveling Wilburys album may not be as consistently excellent as their debut, but it remains a very good release in its own right. Maybe it was due to the loss of Roy Orbison, who was treated as the grand old man of the first release, or possibly it did not contain the surprises of the group’s first album.

George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, and Jeff Lynne returned to the studio during April and May of 1990. The result was Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3. There had been no volume two; skipping that number was a joke to confuse their fans. They also took on new names: Harrison was now Spike Wilbury, Dylan was Boo, Lynne assumed the name Clayton, and Petty became Muddy.

The album was released October 29, 1990 and while it did not achieve the massive commercial success of its predecessor, it did receive a platinum sales award for selling over a million copies and reached number eleven on the United States album charts.

My favorite tracks have always been the first and last. For the opener, the rocking “She’s My Baby,” they imported guitarist Gary Moore to play lead; and play he does as he dominates the recording. And I never get tired of “Wilbury Twist,” the amusing piece of pop paradise that closes the album.

There are a number of other excellent songs as well. “If You Belonged To Me” is a nice outing by Bob Dylan, harking back to his folk days of the ’60s complete with some nice harmonica work. “The Devil’s Been Busy” has more lyrical depth than most of The Traveling Wilbury compositions, featuring a Petty/Dylan vocal with Harrison providing some backing on the sitar. “7 Deadly Sins” has a ’60s feel and the sax work by Jim Horn is exemplary. And like before, good old Jim Keltner was back as the drummer.

The album finds Tom Petty and Bob Dylan dominating the vocal and probably writing duties even though all compositions are credited to the group. And while he co-produced the album with Harrison, it primarily bears Jeff Lynne’s imprint. Harrison is most active as a musician, playing acoustic and electric guitars, sitar, and even some mandolin.

While it remains a cut below their first volume, Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3 contains a nice selection of early ’90s rock/pop. It is certainly still worth a listen twenty years after its initial release.

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Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 by The Traveling Wilburys

September 22, 2010

The Traveling Wilburys were one of the most understated and consistently excellent supergroups to ever grace the American music scene. Their saving grace was just having fun and not trying to overreach or become something they were not.

Some groups were just meant to be. George Harrison needed a B-side for a European single he was about to release. He was having supper with Jeff Lynne and Roy Orbison and they decided to work on the song together. They then called Bob Dylan who had a home studio. By chance Harrison had left his guitar over at Tom Petty’s house and so he came along for the ride.

The result was “Handle With Care,” which the record company declared too good to release as a throwaway flip side. The five musicians then agreed to create a whole album together and went into the studio during the spring of 1988.

They had fun with the group name, portraying themselves as the Wilburys, who were half brothers. George Harrison was Nelson, Jeff Lynne took the name Otis, Bob Dylan was Lucky, Roy Orbison was Lefty, and Tom Petty assumed the name Charlie T. Jr.

And while he was uncredited on the album, longtime Harrison drummer Jim Keltner provided the percussion. He eventually appeared in some of the group’s videos as Buster Sidebury.

Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 was released October 18, 1988 and was an instant smash, reaching number three on the U.S. album charts and eventually selling over three million copies. It also went on to win a Grammy Award.

The music is joyful, polished pop. Lynne and Harrison produced the album and they added a sophisticated sheen that served the music well. The harmonies were some of the best of the eighties.

It is an album without a weak track. “Not Alone Any More,” which features Orbison’s tenor soaring above the mix, takes on an additional poignancy considering the legend died suddenly less than two months after the album’s release. Both of the Dylan tracks, “Tweeter And The Monkey Man” and particularly “Dirty World” are excellent and present his humorous side. “Rattled” is close to a rockabilly sound and has a nice lead vocal by Lynne. And “Handle With Care” features a Harrison/Orbison vocal with some expert slide guitar from George.

Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 is the lighter side of eighties pop music at its best. Five superstars managed to keep their egos under control and just have a good time, culminating in an album that should be a part of everyone’s collection.

Article first published as on Blogcritics.org