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The Wilburys Travel Again

June 20, 2007

On paper, the Traveling Wilburys were a great idea and a questionable idea rolled into one. Putting such musical horsepower -- Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, George Harrison, Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne -- together for one album would ensure brisk sales, but the egos of such exalted performers and songwriters often clash, making for the musical equivalent of the dance frenzy at the end of Soul Train, with everyone taking a turn at one-upping each other. Yet, the simply named Traveling Wilburys, Vol. 1 was a hit, its alt-country.pop vibe and earnest, heartfelt songs sounding more like something brand new than a retread. Almost 20 years after its release, Vol. 1 sounds fresh, justifying Rolling Stone's naming it one of the top 100 albums of all time.

Rhino has done another reissue right, offering The Traveling Wilburys Collection four different ways. The Standard Package has remastered versions of Vol. 1 and the follow-up Vol. 3 along with a DVD that includes music videos and a documentary, and a 16-page booklet. Both of the CDs have unreleased material. The linen-bound Deluxe Edition includes the CDs and DVD along with a 40-page booklet. The Vinyl Edition has LP versions of the two albums along with an additional LP of bonus tracks and an album-sized booklet plus additional postcards and posters. Finally, the Digital Bundle includes all of the music and video content in downloadable form with an "interactive booklet."

If you have the original CDs, the remastered sound of The Traveling Wilburys Collection will be a surprise. The additional clarity and immediacy are obvious, though they do sacrifice some of the original recordings' warmth. I suspect that the vinyl will split the difference and sound terrific.

Commenting on the formation of the Traveling Wilburys, the late George Harrison said, "It happened completely, just by magic, just by circumstance." The Traveling Wilburys Collection, with its many added goodies, is a fitting tribute to that "magic."...Marc Mickelson, editor@soundstage.com


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