ROY ORBISON Orbison 1955-1965
189 tracks including Ooby Dooby, Claudette, Cat Called Domino, Rip It Up, Love Hurts, Candy Man, Dream Baby, Only The Lonely, Running Scared, Crying, In Dreams, It's Over Oh Pretty Woman Producers: various Bear Family BCD 16423 GL 7xCD (7h 59m 53s) [Germany] *** This Roy Orbison set can only be for completists. Any casual fan of Roy Orbison is not going to wait three and a half hours until we get to Orbison's first hit, Only The Lonely. And any completist is going to be irritated to find that CD3 is simply the whole of the 1995 Rollercoaster CD, Are You Ready?, where over half the playing time is a poorly recorded telephone interview with the remaining members of Roy's first band, the Teen Kings.
They tell us very little about Roy Orbison and have nothing of any substance to offer, the most interesting fact being that Roy based Down The Line on Kaw-Liga. Even the compilers found these 40 rambling minutes boring as no attempt has been made to divide the conversation into tracks for easy reference. The time could have been better filled with sessions on which Roy guested or with songs that he wrote for other performers. Because of the many outtakes on offer, there are only 124 different songs on the seven CDs. Unfortunately, the outtakes tend to be for Roy Orbison's least interesting songs: he himself called Ooby Dooby the worst record he had made and yet we have seven takes, plus six of Paper Boy and eight, just count them, of With The Bug.
Who but a marketing executive would want eleven adverts for Coca Cola? To make matters worse, the tracks are only partly in chronologial order. The fiiist version of Ooby Dooby is on CD2, track 18, the second version opens the first CD, the third version on Sun is also on the first CD along with three other Sun takes scattered over the first two CDs, and a live version opens the third CD. Confusing or what? Admittedly, the fine Bear Family discography in their house style helps me sort this out. The tracks that Roy cut for Je-Wal, Sun. RCA and Norman Petty are worth hearing but he had yet to find his style. Did Sam Phillips at Sun and Norman Petty for Je-Wel not realise Roy's potential? From 1960 to 1965 Roy Orbison cut some stunning sides for Monument, starting with Only The Lonely. However, playing through five years' work, I came to appreciate that he only had a limited number of good ideas, which was usually to start a song from the bottom of his range and work up. All too often he rewrites his hits and they sound lack-lustre - I'm Hurtin', Come Back To Me (My Love) and Let's Make A Memory are retreads of Only The Lonely. He ruins the country standard, No One Will Ever Know, by giving it the same arrangement as Running Scared. This is showing off, showing what his voice can do, and not listening to what the song says. Naturally, there are wonderful moments. Workin' For The Man is his most underrated single and I love Norman .Petty's production of Cat Named Domino, which was not released at the time.
The false start on Mean Woman Blues is fun and Love Hurts, Crying; Indian Wedding and the mysterious Leah will always sound good. The accompanying book praises Roy's personality but I have my doubts. I saw the stage musical, Only The Lonely, starring Larry Branson. (Note to Douglas McPherson: Larry's voice was fine but the acting came from Timberland.) The production had a sequence in which Roy loses his wife and two children in a fire. Any other man would have comforted the surviving child but, according to the play, Roy locked himself in a hotel room for six months. Such self-pitying behaviour hardly matches the "Zen-like calm" in the notes. The package reproduces lots of memorabilia but couldn't any of Bear Family's researchers identify the "British comedian" in one photograph as Les Dawson? There are very few photos of Roy with his first wife, Claudette, and hardly any with his children. Did he really wear sunglasses when he went for a swim and have a dog run alongside when he rode a scooter? When Roy left Moument for MGM in 1965, it was with the promise of a film career. Looking at all these photos, I'm amazed to think he could make it as a film star.