Picks and Pans Review: Vol. 3

updated 12/10/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/10/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

The Traveling Wilburys

Imagine it's next January, late on Super Bowl Sunday. You're walking near the game site when you see a few players from the Raiders and the Giants, who hours before had been competing for high stakes, rolling on the ground, laughing as they play a loosey-goosey game of touch football.

That"s the kind of slaphappy playfulness evident here. You know the boys are having fun from the goofy lyrics ("She can drive a truck/ She can drive a train/ She can even drive an airplane/ She's so good to look at in the rain") right down to the album jacket, for which they pose in mock homage to one of rock's best-known covers, the Jefferson Airplane's Surrealistic Pillow.

The jokes pop up everywhere. For Vol. 3, the group's second LP, they've even switched their noms de Wilbury. George Harrison is now Spike, Tom Petty is Muddy, Jeff Lynne is Clayton and Bob Dylan is Boo. Despite the loss of Roy Orbison, the music is tighter, less whiffy, less country (with the exception of "Poor House," a cute Ozark pick 'n' grin). In fact, Vol. 3 is like a sampler of reconstituted vintage rock styles. It even has a solid Top 40 candidate in "She's My Baby," a chugging rocker.

The boys still pass the vocal duties around like a jar of moonshine. Dylan, who sings the lion's share, sounds particularly sharp and aggressive. A number of these songs ("The Devil's Been Busy," "7 Deadly Sins," "Cool Dry Place") are sloppy throw-aways, but the instrumentation is so strong and Lynne's unmistakable production touch (he co-produced with Harrison) so unerring that even the disposables sound better than they are.

The album's intensity level falls just short of nonchalant. Yet there's a mild but undeniable pleasure in listening to this quartet float up a lazy river without a you know what. (Warner Bros.)

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