Graham Reid | | 1 min read
Cannot lie about this: when the first Wilburys album came out in '88 I gave it a cursory listen and wrote it off as some geriatric project which was doubtless enjoyable for all concerned, but was actually just dull.
The Dylan track I heard sounded like a parody or self-parody, Harrison was back into his troppo-strumming style, Petty who used to rock hard had obviously taken the valium, and only Roy Orbison seemed to come out with any dignity.
Jeff Lynne seemed present but absent, if you get my drift.
I promptly forgot about the Wilburys, then Roy died and they came back into the sightlines, and there was the Roy-less second album which I also passed on.
Well, that was then and this is now -- and I was wrong.
Back in the late 80s/early 90s I guess I was spending too much time listening to Guns N'Roses, REM, Nirvana and the Seattle bands, and the Pixies. In that context the Wilburys really did sound rather tame.
Dad-rock I think we called it.
But almost 20 years on their music sounds so much more interesting, especially in the light of the alt.country and country rock which seems to be in the air today.
So this impressive reissue -- the two albums with some extra tracks, a DVD with a 24-minute doco and five video clips -- really is worth attention.
Dylan is more witty than I remembered, the harmonies are cheerful, the melodies memorable (I knew every track of the few I gave attention to 20 years ago, and I'd only heard them once), and there is a mutual respect evident which doesn't translate into shallow mutual admiration of the kind that would have weighed down lesser players. I even forgive Petty for the astonishingly dull interview he did with me at the time, which only confirmed what I thought about this project.
The Wilburys don't "rock" as such (although on their second album they really do toughen up in way I hadn't expected), but they do have a catalogue of fine songs that well deserve this long overdue reconsideration.
I was wrong. And I'm not afraid to admit it.
PS: You might want to count the number of references to Bruce Springsteen songs that Dylan makes in Tweeter and the Monkey Man -- Springsteen of course once touted as "the new Dylan"!