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Rock - Released January 1, 1963 | Legacy Recordings

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How does one recover enough to hear an album in its entirety when the first cut is "In Dreams"? Whoa! Roy Orbison's 1963 album of the same name, recorded for the Monument label, is devastating for a number of reasons, namely that his "Blue Bayou" and his readings of Johnny Mercer's "Dreams" and Stephen Foster's "Beautiful Dreamer" are here, as is his gorgeous reading of Cindy Walker's "Shahdaroba." Half of these cuts were recorded during the sessions for Sings Lonely and Blue, the other half in Nash Vegas in 1963 with Fred Foster producing both. The big difference on this set is the less intrusive presence of the Anita Kerr Singers. There are even more strings here, but they are relegated to a lesser place as well. Orbison's voice was never better than on this recording. The heights he reaches on the title cut, "Lonely Wine," the swaggering country and R&B of "Blue Avenue," and "My Prayer" are simply mind-blowing. The emotion and deep atmospherics of the tunes here reflect Foster's sophistication, but also Orbison's willingness to develop himself as a singer and as a persona. Orbison wrote or co-wrote four tracks this time out, but the song choices are impeccable. In addition to the original album being wonderfully remastered, the Legacy reissue contains four bonus cuts. These include a woolly read of "Mean Woman Blues," simpatico versions of Cindy Walker's "Distant Drum" and Willie Nelson's "Pretty Paper," and his own beautiful "Falling." © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Rock - Released November 3, 2017 | Legacy Recordings

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Roy Orbison's old Sun labelmate Elvis Presley wound up scoring an international hit in 2015 with If I Can Dream, an album where the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra played over old Elvis recordings. With an audience established, other artist estates stepped into the breech, including Orbison's, who endorsed pairing old Roy recordings with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Given that Orbison's hits often verged on the symphonic, this pairing might seem to make more sense than Presley, but A Love So Beautiful contains a considerable amount of rockers -- "Oh, Pretty Woman," "Dream Baby," "Uptown," "Mean Woman Blues" -- that do not lend themselves well to ornate arrangements; they sound pretty silly with the strings sawing. Odder still, Orbison's lush classics -- "In Dreams," "Crying," "It's Over," "Running Scared" -- do not benefit from the orchestral reinterpretations; they sound sticky and heavy. What was once elegant has curdled into something syrupy, and while the technological achievement is admirable -- the seams can't be heard between the old and new recordings -- the resulting record does a disservice to the imagination of the original Orbison recordings and his gorgeous voice. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released October 22, 2007 | Orbison Records - Legacy

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Pop - Released April 29, 2014 | Monument - Orbison Records - Legacy

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Country - Released January 1, 1960 | Legacy Recordings

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Rock - Released January 1, 1962 | Columbia Nashville Legacy

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Pop - Released March 28, 2006 | Monument - Orbison Records - Legacy

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Pop - Released February 3, 1989 | Legacy - CBS - Sony

The best-recorded Roy Orbison live disc ever issued, taken from the soundtrack of the HBO concert from the 1980s with VIP guests like Bruce Springsteen and Elvis Costello. This was a sort of magical video, and the performances are splendid, along with the good feelings involved. On the other hand, the performances are extremely reverential to the established studio versions of the songs (all of the hits are here), and intended to mimic them, so this isn't quite the same as a live album as it would have been done back when. The pity is that neither Monument nor MGM ever taped any complete concerts by Orbison from the 1960s, and all that remains are TV appearances from Europe. © Bruce Eder /TiVo
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Pop - Released February 24, 2017 | Legacy Recordings

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Pop - Released April 22, 2011 | Monument - Orbison Records - Legacy

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Rock - Released October 23, 2015 | Roy Orbison P&D

Roy Orbison left Monument for MGM Records in 1965, not long after "Oh, Pretty Woman" gave him his second number one single in 1964. He did not see those heights again during his stint at MGM, but it wasn't for lack of trying. During those eight years, he released 12 full-length albums -- another, One of the Lonely Ones, was rejected in 1969 and wasn't unearthed until 2015 -- and a clutch of non-LP singles, all rounded up and released in this 13-disc box set, The MGM Years 1965-1973 (One of the Lonely Ones is not part of the box). Demon put this material out as a series of two-fers in the mid-2000s, but The MGM Years trumps those CDs by offering each album as a mini-LP in a cardboard sleeve, while adding a disc of B-Sides & Singles, plus a nice thick booklet filled with memorabilia and justifications for a rocky patch in Orbison's career. After a few modest hits -- "Ride Away" and "Breakin' Up Is Breakin' My Heart" made the Top 40 in 1965, "Twinkle Toes" just barely cracked that bar in 1966 -- Orbison dropped off the charts completely but continued to cut records designed with a crossover in mind. The only question was, crossover to what? On these 12 albums, Orbison usually keeps his focus on the middle of the road but he occasionally glances over to country, cutting full album tributes to Don Gibson and Hank Williams, records that wound up livelier than the soft, staid pop albums that constitute the bulk of his catalog. Often, Orbison seemed to be chasing trends that came to a conclusion two years before he headed into the studio. During the swinging year of 1966, he cut string-laden pop that feels targeted at supper clubs; he filmed a cheapo Western at the height of psychedelia; he grappled with Elvis' '68 comeback in 1970, and by the time his contract closed in 1973, it feels like he's just coming to terms with the rise of Glen Campbell. Certainly, this slight time warp couldn't have helped with his commercial fortunes, and time hasn't necessarily been kind to these LPs, either: often, they feel like ill-considered product, the work of talented individuals who couldn't quite make sense of rapidly shifting fashions. This makes the box interesting, of course -- failed commercial endeavors carry a fascination because of their flaws -- and there are a handful of albums that do work (Hank Williams the Roy Orbison Way, The Big O, Roy Orbison Sings Don Gibson, Cry Softly, Lonely One), but taken as a whole, this box feels like a series of compounding detours. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released November 16, 2018 | Legacy Recordings

The fact that this 2018 sequel to A Love So Beautiful -- a 2017 construction which teamed original Roy Orbison vocal tracks with overdubs from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra -- is titled after a song Orbison never released as a single is a signal that the producers poured all the big hits into their first album. Indeed, of the 15 songs on Unchained Melodies, there is only one big song from Orbison's golden decade: "Blue Bayou," whose sultriness is diluted by sticky strings. This means Unchained Melodies relies on songs from Orbison's late '80s comeback -- "She's a Mystery to Me" is here, along with the Elvis Costello-penned "The Comedians" -- but it also means that this relies on stately ballads, not rockers (there is no "Oh, Pretty Woman" or "Mean Woman Blues" in sight). This makes Unchained Melodies hold together as a record better than A Love So Beautiful -- it also means there aren't many embarrassing missteps, like the orchestra sawing away at the riff to "Oh, Pretty Woman" -- but the central conceit is still misguided, turning the elegant, dreamy Orbison into something saccharine and mawkish. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo

Rock - Released February 10, 2009 | Monument - Orbison Records - Legacy

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Rock - Released February 28, 2013 | Master Classics

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Rock - Released November 20, 2019 | RevOla

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Rock - Released October 1, 1967 | Roy Orbison P&D

Cry Softly, Lonely One had a tremendously convoluted recording history, interrupted as it was for work on two other projects (including the shooting and soundtrack of The Fastest Guitar Alive) and not released until 1967. That was sad because that album caught Orbison firing on all cylinders in his best voice ever, and with Joe Melson backing him vocally on the classic Monument sides with a killer array of songs -- from the opener, "She," across to the title track by way of "Communication Breakdown" -- had this record come out in 1964, it might well have charted high behind any of those songs, or the more rhythm-driven "Girl Like Mine." In late 1967, however, the album was an anachronism (the other irony is that, had it come out 18 months later, it might have ridden the same roots rock wave as Elvis Presley's Memphis albums, or Joe South, to success). Some of it, such as "That's a No No," was a true throwback to an earlier pop/rock era, but most of what was here was a great showcase for Orbison's classic sound as it had evolved, oblivious to the musical trends around him (and at least he never tried to emulate the psychedelic sounds of the period in the way that the Everly Brothers did on their live album). © Bruce Eder /TiVo
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Pop - Released October 20, 1992 | Orbison Records - Legacy

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International Pop - Released October 12, 2018 | ELYONS

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Rock - Released January 1, 1970 | Roy Orbison P&D

As though to distinguish it from his previous ballad album (The Many Moods of Roy Orbison), Roy Orbison opened The Big O with a rousing, upbeat, rhythm-driven number, "Break My Mind." The Big O has the distinction of being the only Roy Orbison album never to get a U.S. release -- it was actually a substitute for an intended live album that didn't quite come off, recorded at the Batley Variety Club. That tape was eventually released as part of a live anthology on Orbison, but for the album, he made a series of studio recordings encompassing some of the same oldies, mostly in a rock & roll vein, including "Help Me Rhonda," "Money," and "Land of 1,000 Dances," that were part of his concert set, broken up by originals such as the highly charged and exciting "Down the Line." MGM in America apparently had no enthusiasm for the record and passed on it, which was a pity, as it turned out to be one of the best albums that Orbison had cut in years, and a superb vehicle for his rock & roll singing (as opposed to the ballads that he'd loaded onto his prior album). The only bizarre moment comes, ironically enough, with the single from these sessions, "Penny Arcade," which sounds more like the kind of song you'd hear at a beer hall than a rock & roll single. © Bruce Eder /TiVo
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Pop - Released November 20, 2019 | RevOla

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