Ranking the 5 Best Songs on ‘Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3’

The second Traveling Wilburys album (cheekily titled Vol. 3 by those merry pranksters and released in 1990) has retreated somewhat into the background of history, dwarfed as it is by the supergroup’s first release. The second album didn’t have the hit singles like “Handle with Care,” and Roy Orbison’s absence removed something essential.

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But if you haven’t gone back and listened in a while, The Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3 might surprise you. The four old pros (Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, and Tom Petty) pitched in a solid, rootsy set of songs with a few twists (including a “Wilbury Twist.”) Here are our choices for the top five songs in the set.

5. “Cool Dry Place”

We almost went with the “Wilbury Twist” at No. 5, just because it’s so much fun. But instead, we chose Tom Petty detailing a conundrum that all musicians who have been around a while and accumulated their share of gear must face: storage. It’s quite impressive how he’s able to inventory everything and make his equipment sound good as song lyrics. The mid-tempo blues rattle the band works up also reminds you that these guys built up quite a bit of chemistry in a relatively short time playing together.

4. “Inside Out”

This song uses the variety of vocalists at the band’s disposal quite well. Bob Dylan takes the verses in his inimitable growl, snarling about the state of the world and how everything has gone topsy-turvy. Petty steps in on the choruses with his laid-back drawl, suggesting there’s not a lot that can be done about it other than try to duck for cover. And then George Harrison takes over on an exciting middle eight, which ramps up the urgency. For good measure, Jeff Lynne adds some nifty harmonies to Dylan’s lead in the final verse.

3. “You Took My Breath Away”

One thing the Wilburys missed with Orbison gone was the voice that could sing a showstopping ballad (much as he did on “Not Alone Anymore” on Vol. 1). But Petty does a nice job here with a slow one, keeping the melody down in his range while still making it quite affecting. Lynne helps out in the bridge, which requires a bit more vocal heavy lifting. You could certainly hear the song simply as a lament about lost love. But considering it is a ‘50s-style ballad, it’s fair to wonder if Petty was channeling his feelings over the loss of Orbison.

2. “She’s My Baby”

Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 was a wonderful thing, but one thing it didn’t really do was rock out. Vol. 3 rectifies that right off the bat with this firecracker of a track. Special guest Gary Moore takes over on lead guitar and puts in a sparkling effort. That said, as much fun as these guys were having cranking up the amps, it also feels like they were also having a little bit of fun at the expense of the hard rock genre (especially with the innuendo-laced lyrics). Whatever they were doing, “She’s My Baby” still turned out to be an unstoppable blast of adrenaline.

1. “If You Belonged to Me”

While most of the Wilburys’ songs were heavy on collaboration, here is one where Bob Dylan takes center stage, save for some casual backing vocals in the refrain, and runs with it. The guess here is there was less collaboration in the writing department with this one as well. At the time Vol. 3 was released, Dylan was in a bit of a down period in his solo career. It’s interesting then that he would contribute such a gem here. In any case, this love-gone-wrong song brims with all the candor and sting of his finest work in that category of songs.

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