by Roy OrbisonRoy Orbison


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Trying to describe the voice of Roy Orbison is like trying to describe the night sky -- it's evocative and full of hues, shades, colors, and feelings, but it's impossible to accurately reflect their shape or meaning, so I won't try. What is possible, however, is to discuss this gigantic wonder of a box set. The German label Bear Family has issued a seven-CD Roy Orbison retrospective from 1955 to 1965; it collects virtually every known Orbison recording from what has been tagged his "golden decade." And when the folks at Bear Family say "every known recording," they mean it. The first treasure trove is the material recorded by the Teen Kings in Odessa, Texas, which was the first version of "Ooby Dooby," backed with "Tryin' to Get to You." There is also the Sun version, of course, with the backing side of "Go! Go! Go!" and, of all things, the issue of "Tryin' to Get to You" released by Orbison's former label boss at Je-Wel, Weldon Rogers (only it was Orbison's own take he was trying to pass off as his own!). There are oodles of unissued alternates takes, unreleased demos -- including Orbison's original versions of songs written for Buddy Holly ("An Empty Cup") and the Every Brothers ("Claudette" as well as "Love Hurts"). There is an entire CD dedicated to the complete recordings of the material recorded by the Teen Kings -- a first for any Orbison collection. In addition, the latter third of the last disc offers all of Orbison's Coca Cola commercials as a cap off (no pun intended) to the golden decade. Reissue producers Howard Cockburn, Richard Weize, and John Beecher (for the Teen Kings material) looked under every rock and found tracks believed lost or erased from the period -- including the Wink Westerners material (most likely the Teen Kings under another name) -- and have assembled the most complete Roy Orbison collection of the period ever. This one is definitive. In addition is an authoritative -- and most likely definitive -- musico-biographical essay by Colin Escott bound in hardcover (the cover for book and set are deep blue, of course), with over 100 photographs of Orbison posed, candid, in session, and reproductions of various artifacts from his career, including the jackets to his singles and albums and even his high-school drawings. This set completely leaves the travesty that is the Columbia box released in 1988 in the dust. Not only was it ugly, its sound was turgid even for the period. This Orbison box has pristine sound in most cases, and where it doesn't, it is certainly far superior to any other collection on the market -- foreign or domestic, featuring these tunes -- and far better than any of the semi-legal pirates. Containing 151 tracks painstakingly sequenced to give an authoritative picture of one of the rock and pop era's most complex and profoundly influential figures, the Bear Family set tells Orbison's story in bits and pieces, like patches on a quilt, not in chronological order necessarily -- the Teen Kings material, for instance, does not appear in full until disc three -- but more in terms of his development as a singer and writer of songs. The material he wrote with Joe Melson, which included "Only the Lonely," "Blue Angel," and "Running Scared," is featured to stand alone for its particular contribution to the Orbison legacy. While it's true that earlier Orbison/Melson collaborations are featured separately from this material on the set, it is because they were either A: recorded earlier as demos rather than as singles, or B: they aesthetically fit together better with other material from a particular year -- whether the material was with the Wink Westerners, the Teen Kings, or with Melson. There are certainly arguments against this approach of not issuing material strictly chronologically, though most of it is, but in this writer's opinion, it beats to hell all of the arguments that to have every version of "Ooby Dooby" all stacked on top of one another was the best way to portray either a given session or Orbison's development as some labels have done; that is asinine and a complete burden for the listener (anyone remember the Verve Charlie Parker box with 17 takes of "Ornithology" all in a row?). Orbison, as both singer and songwriter, was a storyteller, a massive one, and what better way to document his legacy than to present it as an unfolding story with twists and turns in the plot along the way. In fact, the argument could be made for looking at creating archival sets in this manner if the artist warrants it. What the producers of the Bear Family set have done is instead issue tracks together from a particular year, where few takes were done. For instance, on the first disc there are two versions each of "Ooby Dooby" by the Teen Kings and the Sun A-side "Tryin' to Get to You" -- same thing on the B-sides -- and "Claudette" the demo version given to the Everlys and the single Orbison recorded himself. None of the tunes stacked on top of one another. The reason is simple: The Sun and Teen Kings sessions were identical material recorded the same year and were similar in approach but not in sound. As for the Teen Kings material, it is revelatory in how much a solid rockabilly band they were, and they would try anything once, including "Brown-Eyed Handsome Man" and "Bo Diddley"! By the time the set reaches the "modern" period of Orbison's sound, when his voice had developed from a thin reedy frail lilt to a full-blown operatic force of nature on discs four, five, and six (where many of the more familiar Orbison tunes will be found, including the Melson material, "Crying," "The Great Pretender," "Dream Baby," "In Dreams," a second, very different version of "Blue Bayou," "Oh, Pretty Woman," "Pretty Paper," "Darkness," and others), the sound quality of the material is just stunning. It's never been heard like this before, probably not even on the original masters. All of the drama and dynamic in Orbison's music comes through as if the moon were opening the clouds and shining through. In the lesser-known songs, "Party Heart," "The Crowd," "Leah," "Sleepy Hollow," "Yes," the Orbison version of "Love Hurts," and others, the full story emerges and we see the singer who believed in his voice but not himself emerge as a believer in both things. Orbison wanted big music for his voice, the bigger the mix the more he was able to push his limit, and this is true to a song across the entire collection. Finally, on the last disc, Bear Family's producers opted to place either alternate or re-recorded and released versions of tunes such as "Gigolette," "Born on the Wind," "It's Over" (usually for the overseas market), and many more, with numerous alternate takes of "Double Date" (four), "Paper Boy" (five), and "With the Bug" (five). These are all minor tunes in the Orbison canon, but they do reveal his working process if not his best work. Finally, the awesome Coca Cola adverts -- which will have you laughing your ass off -- tell the rest of Bear Family's version of the story. The only argument with this set is that the MGM material through 1968 wasn't included because there are still so many pieces of Orbison's expansive vision from that time that remain in the vault -- for instance, there are reportedly three completely different versions of "Southbound Jericho Parkway." The only CD that ever collected that material was a shoddy, cash-in attempt based on the resurgence of Orbison's fame after David Lynch used his music in Blue Velvet. It's easy to see Bear Family's point in that from 1955 to 1965, Roy Orbison couldn't miss charting, even if it was near the bottom of the rack. After 1965, with the dawn of the Beatles' Revolver, music would change forever, and for a time, at least, Roy Orbison would be a forgotten man. Thankfully, as Colin Escott states in his wonderful notes, "that while many of his peers were trying to stage comebacks, Roy died in the middle of one." The box tells the story of the glory years, the years that created the man, the myth, and the legend. Bravo, Bear Family, you've done it again.

Product Details

Release Date: 05/08/2001
Label: Bear Family
UPC: 4000127164230
catalogNumber: 16423
Rank: 113127


Disc 1

  1. Ooby Dooby
  2. Trying to Get to You
  3. Ooby Dooby
  4. Go! Go! Go!
  5. Trying to Get to You
  6. You're My Baby
  7. Rock House
  8. Sweet and Easy to Love
  9. Devil Doll
  10. Love Dumb Baby
  11. Fool's Hall of Fame
  12. A True Love Goodbye
  13. Chicken Hearted
  14. I Like Love
  15. Mean Little Mama
  16. Problem Child
  17. Domino
  18. You Tell Me
  19. I Give Up
  20. One More Time
  21. Lovestruck
  22. The Clown
  23. Claudette
  24. The Cause of It All
  25. You're Gonna Cry
  26. This Kind of Love
  27. It's Too Late
  28. I Never Knew
  29. Claudette

Disc 2

  1. Ooby Dooby
  2. Ooby Dooby
  3. Ooby Dooby
  4. Trying to Get to You
  5. Chicken Hearted
  6. Problem Child
  7. The Clown
  8. This Kind of Love
  9. It's Too Late
  10. I Was a Fool
  11. Seems to Me
  12. Sweet and Innocent
  13. I'll Never Tell
  14. Almost Eighteen
  15. Jolie
  16. Paper Boy
  17. With the Bug
  18. Ooby Dooby
  19. Hey! Miss Fannie
  20. A True Love Goodbye
  21. An Empty Cup
  22. Domino
  23. I Guess I'm Lonely
  24. You Fool You
  25. Velveteen Doll
  26. She's Okay

Disc 3

  1. Ooby Dooby
  2. Racker Tacker
  3. Blue Suede Shoes
  4. Brown Eyed Handsome Man
  5. St. Louis Blues
  6. All by Myself
  7. Lawdy Miss Clawdy
  8. Jam
  9. Rock House
  10. Singing the Blues
  11. Pretend
  12. Rip It Up
  13. Trying to Get to You
  14. TK Blues
  15. Go! Go! Go!
  16. Bo Diddley
  17. Do You Remember?

Disc 4

  1. Paper Boy
  2. Double Date
  3. With the Bug
  4. Uptown
  5. Raindrops
  6. Pretty One
  7. Blue Avenue
  8. Only the Lonely
  9. Here Comes That Song Again
  10. Today's Teardrops
  11. Blue Angel
  12. I'll Say It's My Fault
  13. Come Back to Me (My Love)
  14. (I'd Be) A Legend in My Time
  15. Bye Bye Love
  16. Twenty-Two Days
  17. Cry
  18. I Can't Stop Loving You
  19. I'm Hurtin'
  20. Darkness
  21. Let's Make a Memory
  22. Love Hurts
  23. Running Scared
  24. Nite Life
  25. Summer Song
  26. Loneliness
  27. Dance

Disc 5

  1. Lana
  2. Dance
  3. She Wears My Ring
  4. Crying
  5. Sunset
  6. The Great Pretender
  7. Candy Man
  8. House Without Windows
  9. (They Call You) Gigolette
  10. How Are Things in Paradise
  11. (They Call You) Gigolette
  12. Wedding Day
  13. Yes
  14. Let the Good Times Roll
  15. Blue Bayou
  16. Party Heart
  17. Evergreen
  18. Love Star
  19. Dream Baby (How Long Must I Dream)
  20. The Actress
  21. No One Will Ever Know
  22. The Crowd
  23. Mama
  24. (I Get So) Sentimental
  25. Leah
  26. Working for the Man
  27. Borne on the Wind
  28. Distant Drums

Disc 6

  1. Falling
  2. Shahdaroba
  3. In Dreams
  4. Dream
  5. My Prayer
  6. Lonely Wine
  7. Beautiful Dreamer
  8. All I Have to Do Is Dream
  9. Mean Woman Blues
  10. What'd I Say
  11. San Fernando
  12. Mama
  13. Pretty Paper
  14. Almost
  15. It's Over
  16. Indian Wedding
  17. Oh, Pretty Woman
  18. Yo Te Amo Maria
  19. Only With You
  20. Goodnight
  21. (Say) You're My Girl
  22. (Say) You're My Girl
  23. Sleepy Hollow
  24. Ride Away

Disc 7

  1. Oh, Pretty Woman
  2. Twenty-Two Days
  3. Love Hurts
  4. Nite Life
  5. (They Call You) Gigolette
  6. Borne on the Wind
  7. Pretty Paper
  8. Indian Wedding
  9. Blue Avenue
  10. Here Comes That Song Again
  11. It's Over
  12. Today's Teardrops
  13. Blue Angel
  14. I'll Say It's My Fault
  15. With the Bug
  16. Double Date
  17. Double Date
  18. Double Date
  19. Paper Boy
  20. Paper Boy
  21. Paper Boy
  22. Paper Boy
  23. With the Bug
  24. With the Bug
  25. With the Bug
  26. With the Bug
  27. With the Bug
  28. Let's Get Together for a Coke Again
  29. Let's Get Together for a Coke Again
  30. Let's Get Together for a Coke Again
  31. Stayed Out Too Late
  32. Stayed Out Too Late
  33. Things Go Better With Coke
  34. Life Is Fun When You're Refreshed
  35. Life Is Fun When You're Refreshed
  36. Life Is Fun When You're Refreshed
  37. C.O.C.A. C.O.L.A.
  38. C.O.C.A. C.O.L.A.

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Roy Orbison   Primary Artist,Guitar,Leader,Vocals
Chet Atkins   Guitar
Floyd Cramer   Piano
Hank Garland   Guitar
Charlie Rich   Piano
Bill Justis   Tenor Saxophone
Grady Martin   Guitar
Anita Kerr Singers   Vocals
Byron Bach   Cello
Brenton Banks   Violin
George Binkley   Violin
Jack Clement   Bass
Ken Cook   Track Performer
Solie Fott   Violin
Hoyt Hawkins   Vocals
Lillian Hunt   Violin
Roland Janes   Guitar
Jack Kennelly   Bass
Stan Kesler   Bass
James Morrow   Electronic Mandolin
Wayne Moss   Guitar
Billy Lee Riley   Guitar
Billy Sanford   Guitar
Cecil Brower   Violin
Howard Carpenter   Viola
Billy Pat Ellis   Drums
Sid Manker   Bass
William Whitney Pursell   Piano
Wilda Tinsley   Violin
Lillian Vannhunt   Violin
Bob Moore   Bass,Leader
Hugh Gordon Stoker   Vocals,Vocal Harmony
Otis Jett   Drums
Martin Willis   Tenor Saxophone
Ray C. Walker   Vocals
Jerry Glenn Kennedy   Guitar
Marvin H. Hughes   Piano
Neal Matthews   Vocals
Paul Garrison   Drums
Kenneth Goldsmith   Violin
John W. Greubel   Drums
Joseph W. Tanner   Guitar
Jerry Arnold   Drums
Joe Melson   Guitar,Vocals
William Dees   Vocal Harmony

Technical Credits

Chet Atkins   Producer
Willie Nelson   Composer
Fred Neil   Composer
Ray Charles   Composer
Linda Jones   Illustrations
Roy Orbison   Composer
Johnny Beecher   Reissue Producer
Norman Petty   Producer
Felice Bryant   Composer
Boudleaux Bryant   Composer
David Dennard   Illustrations
Colin Escott   Illustrations,Biographical Information
Fred Foster   Producer
Pamela Goldsmith   Contributor
Shirley Goodman   Composer
Rick Hall   Composer
Leonard Lee   Composer
Alan Rush   Composer
Billy Sherrill   Composer
Sam Phillips   Composer
Harold Jenkins   Composer
Beverly "Ruby" Ross   Composer
Howard Cockburn   Reissue Producer,Tape Comparison
R.A. Andreas   Illustrations
Richard Weize   Reissue Producer,Tape Research
C. Buehl   Contributor
Trevor Cajiao   Illustrations
Klaus Schmalenbach   Illustrations
Holger Von Bargen   Art Direction
Hans Peter Zdrenka   Illustrations
Bo Berglind   Illustrations
Bill Dees   Composer
Joe Melson   Composer
Teen Kings   Producer,Illustrations
Wolfgang Taubenauer   Artwork
Dick Penner   Composer
Wade Moore   Composer

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