Graham Reid | | 1 min read
With his extraordinary range, a catalogue of original songs which (like Arthur Alexander) told often told interior monologue stories, personal tragedies hidden behind dark glasses and a mystique enhanced by so few interviews, the great Roy Oribison was as unique in popular culture as Johnny Cash, Leonard Cohen and Scott Walker.
Few would try to cover Orbison's classic songs (Pretty Woman, Crying, Running Scared, Leah etc) because his operatic reach and ability to inhabit the lyric was so singular.
Orbison's songs often threw you right into the centre of his narrative, the singer as hurt outsider, a man apart looking at the world. Pretty woman are walking past him, only the lonely know how he feels, he was alright for a while but now he's crying and running scared . . .
Oh yes, he goes out with the crowd but he's only playing the game, he knows its over and when he finds happiness it's only in dreams and then he awakes . . .
Although signed to Sun in his early days, Orbison (out of West Texas and bringing a little Tex-Mex into his sound) was never really part of the world that nurtured Buddy Holly (also from West Texas), Sun labelmates like Elvis and Johnny Cash.
He could certainly write songs that Presley and Cash could appreciate (Crying, Working for the Man, Blue Bayou) but string-enhanced dramatic works like Leah, Crying and It's Over were a world apart from his peers. They are masterpieces of pop miniatures. It was rare Roy song from his classic period that broke the three minute mark.
There was certainly that fallow patch before he re-recorded a number of his classics, became the centrestage star of the famous Black and White Night surrounded by Springsteen, Waits, Costello, Raitt and others paying homage and enjoyed a short renaissance with the Traveling Wilburys.
When The Big O died in December '88 his star was shining again.
His was a singular career and across 42 songs on this double CD set -- from Oh Pretty Woman to his Crying duet with kd lang, but no Wilburys -- you can be reminded of his remarkable voice, songwriting art and storytelling.
And at just $10 from JB Hi-Fi stores here, that also makes it a damn fine Bargain Buy.
For another Elsewhere article on Roy Orbison go here.