This week I review new releases from Sony Legacy, one profiling one of the great pop songwriters and another batch of vinyl for Record Store Day today.
- Roy Orbison, "Black and White Night"
Roy Orbison was one of the great pop writers and vocalists of the past 50 years.
A man born with an almost operatic voice, Orbison also was the king of cool with his trademark dark shades and mysterious voice.
There was something different that set Orbison apart from most pop singers of the late 1950s and early '60s. There was something almost desperate-sounding about his classic hits on the now-defunct Monument label from 1960 to 1964. Maybe it was the eccentricity of his ethereal voice and brooding presence, but the appeal was undeniable. Neither were the songs, which made Orbison a star, including "Blue Buyou," "Crying," "Only the Lonely," "In Dreams" and the snappy "Oh, Pretty Woman," redone a generation later by metal gods Van Halen.
His songs also were used in a variety of ways long after the hits stopped. The use of the majestic "In Dreams" in fellow weirdo director David Lynch's disturbing-in-a-good-way film "Blue Velvet" brought Orbison's career back to life in a big way.
All of a sudden Orbison was everywhere, including in the supergroup the Traveling Willburys, with fellow popsters Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, George Harrison and Jeff Lynne. "Black and White Night" was a made-for-TV concert - filmed in glorious black and white - featuring Orbison with a slew of artists he influenced, including Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Bonnie Raitt, Tom Waits, K.D. Lang and more. Orbison and friends featured his marvelous instrument in a concert that was stunning and chilling, more so in that he died two days later after this was filmed.
It's hard to believe Orbison died of a heart attack two days after his rapturous performance, as he seemed strong and vital. It was a great loss and a premature end to a career on the rebound.
There's also a companion CD that features some songs from the concert as well as re-recorded versions of his greatest songs.
In a world filled with so much pop fluff and junk, every once in a while lightning strikes and creates someone totally unique and strange in a good way. When I listen to Roy Orbison I still get goosebumps. No one has ever sung like Orbison, and it's doubtful anyone ever will again. Highly, highly recommended.
- Legacy was kind enough to send me three classic Miles Davis vinyl albums as part of today's Back to Black Record Store Day-palooza.
I was lucky enough to score the wonderful, 180-gram mono gems "Kind of Blue," "Miles and Monk at Newport" and "Jazz Track," and each sounds the way these records were originally meant to be heard. But that's by no means the end of it. Also being released Friday is the "Cheap Trick - the Classic Albums 1977-1979," which includes the seminal albums "Cheap Trick," "In Color," "Heaven Tonight," "Live at Budokan" and "Dream Police." I was a huge Cheap Trick fan as a kid, and I still am today. To me, these were the big five, the best the band ever did.
Also set to be released today on vinyl are rarities collections featuring Harry Nilsson and Bob Dylan; Paul Simon's self-titled debut album, "There's Goes Rhymin' Simon" and "Still Crazy After All These Years"; a four-record box set featuring the complete Monument recordings of Roy Orbison; and 7-inch singles by Jimi Hendrix, Sly and the Family Stone and Uncle Tupelo.
The idea is to get the public interested in vinyl again, and Record Store Day seems to be helping skyrocketing sales of vinyl in the past five years. Once you've spun the black circle, it's hard to go back.