There was a time in rock music when the superstar group reigned. Nowadays most groups are lucky to have two members who could be a part of a great group, or so-called “super-groups” come together for all the wrong reasons. But the group with perhaps the most superstars of all, the Traveling Wilburys, came together for all the right ones.
The Traveling Wilburys, of course, consisted of George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne. The band formed almost accidentally — they got together to cut a B-side for a Harrison single — and they approached their music and their collective group image unpretentiously. The group released only two albums: Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1, in 1988, and Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3, in 1990 after Orbison’s death (which was the primary reason the band didn’t stay together for another album). Naming their second album Vol. 3 (and not the logical Vol. 2) highlighted the group’s cheeky humor. Instead of creating tension-filled bombast, the Wilburys made effortless pop music that featured wonderful songs and great harmonies.
The three-disc Traveling Wilburys Collection the two original albums and a bonus disc. Among its many gems, the first disc includes the hits “Handle with Care” (a song that still resonates lyrically) and “End of the Line,” not to mention the Springsteen-esque Dylan composition “Tweeter and the Monkey Man” and two previously unreleased bonus tracks. The second album isn’t as strong as the debut — the songs are just generally less accessible — but it maintains the group’s sense of humor. This reissue also includes “Nobody’s Child,” which was previously released on a charity album of the same name, and a B-side, a cover of a song that was a big hit for Del Shannon “Runaway,” which he co-wrote. The bonus DVD includes five videos and a documentary entitled “The True History of the Traveling Wilburys.”
It was long rumored that Shannon would join for the Traveling Wilburys’ third album. Even if that didn’t happen, it would be interesting to see the surviving members reform with some new members joining. How about Roger McGuinn, Mark Knopfler, T-Bone Burnett or even Richard Thompson?