Back From Rio

With his credentials as leader of the Byrds and Bob Dylan associate, Roger McGuinn could have been the sixth Traveling Wilbury. Indeed, Back From Rio, his first album in 11 years, fits comfortably into the vein of Tom Petty’s Full Moon Fever and Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 — pleasant, middle-aged folk-rock that’s meant to re-create the legend of rock’s ”golden era,” not explore new trails. But too many of the songs here are banal, the guitar-based production is a bit monotonous, and McGuinn still doesn’t have very much to say. When he tries to make a statement, as he does on the strident environmental rocker ”The Trees Are All Gone,” you wish he’d stick to his melancholy love songs. Still, when his quivering pinch of a voice and the chime of his ageless 12-string guitar settle into a sturdy melody, the album springs to life; for Byrds fans, the airy ”Suddenly Blue” and McGuinn’s brooding duet with Tom Petty, ”King of the Hill,” are manna. Back From Rio is the musical equivalent of a Stone Age creature frozen in a North Pole iceberg, who when thawed acts as if the last few millennia either never happened or didn’t matter. B

Back From Rio
  • Music