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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I recall the first time I heard about The Traveling Wilburys -
Harrison, Dylan, Orbison, Petty and Jeff Lynne all making music
together - who could ask for a more stellar lineup. Every song on that
first album was a keeper, and "End of the Line" became a favorite with
my kids and I on the way home from a vacation trip; we played it over
and over again. It became something of our getaway anthem.
The twenty five minute or so documentary of the first days of the band together recording isn't what you'd call a cinematic masterpiece. The footage is grainy and not focused at times, but it puts down for the generations what Jeff Lynne described as "pretty sort of, unbelievable stuff". I'd have to second that, the music the boys put out is what I'd consider good time rock and roll without getting too heavy or stylistically complicated. Interestingly, you can pick out the lead on any of the Wilbury songs because each member has such a distinctive voice, and the tunes have a way of staying with you long after hearing them.
The whole effort came together in the spring of 1988, a dream brought to fruition by former Beatle George Harrison who imagined what it would be like to bring these rock icons together in one place at one time. After putting together the song "Handle With Care' at the home of Bob Dylan, the group got together again in an effort to create enough songs for an album. They met at the home of Dave Stewart over a span of ten days or so, knocking out a song a day. The mini-documentary makes it look almost too simple, as each of the the musicians contributed something to every tune making it a truly collaborative endeavor.
In hindsight, there's some nostalgic sorrow over the fact that Roy Orbison and George Harrison have passed on. I didn't know it at the time, but "End of the Line" turned out to be something of a tribute to Orbison's legacy; the music video attached to the song has the four members of the band, each a noted Wilbury singing and playing, while filmed with a lone guitar occupying a guest chair sitting in for Orbison.
For the record, the songs in the mini-doc include in order - Last Night, Tweeter and the Monkey Man, Rattled, Dirty Word, Not Alone Any More, Congratulations, and End of the Line. If you're catching the DVD version put out in the three disc Traveling Wilburys set, you'll find some additional tunes packaged as music videos. Fans of the musicians, either individually or as the Wilburys, will be impressed, as George Harrison offers the best tribute one can offer the singers - "It was just a bunch of friends who happened to be really good at making music."
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