December 12, 1988 12:00 PM

The Traveling Wilburys

To the history of rock “supergroups,” add another ignominious chapter. When our rock heroes decide to make music by committee, the resulting whole is invariably much less than the sum of its parts. That’s the case here as Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, George Harrison and Roy Orbison band together to no good purpose. We get a bunch of cast-off songs that weren’t good enough to make it onto their individual albums. The one halfway decent melody is Handle with Care, and that just qualifies by dint of a catchy little chorus. For some mysterious reason, Bob Dylan and George Harrison, the two worst singers in the bunch, are accorded most of the lead vocals. (To give him his due, Dylan does get pretty feisty on Twetter and the Monkey Man.) But then all of the vocals on this album sound pretty lousy, thanks to some very casual production from Harrison and Lynne. They don’t even bother to develop any harmonies. Instead, all the boys sing in ragged unison behind the lead. Lynne provides some of his florid trademark background flourishes in spots. In a silly conceit, the names of the five stars never appear on the cover or the artwork (although their immediately recognizable faces do). Instead, they refer to themselves throughout as Lucky, Otis, Charlie T. Jr., Nelson and Lefty Wilbury. Of course, the album has been accompanied by a publicity push so extensive that only those on polar submarine duty didn’t know exactly who was involved by release date. Anyway, enough is enough. Okay, you guys; sounds like you had a fun time horsing around in the studio. But to slap a bunch of silly country-pop shuffles onto tape and ask fans to pay hard-earned cash for them? Surely you jest. (Wilbury)

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