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Künstler: Roy Orbison
Label: Edsel


Roy Orbison was such an imposing talent, as a songwriter as well as a singer, that it's easy to forget that he also loved doing the work of composers he respected, even if it meant giving up a copyright or two on an album. The two LPs represented on this Edsel CD carried that generosity of spirit as a performer several steps further, and pairing them is a stroke of genius, as both are all-but-forgotten releases from Orbison's mid- to late-'60s period, when he was hardly burning up the charts in the United States. Each is a "concept" album of sorts, devoted to the work of specific composers, and both also played up the country aspects of Orbison's sound, an element that was usually pushed into the background on his records -- but also radically reinterpreting the material at hand. Producers Wesley Rose and Jim Vienneau, and arranger Bill McElhiney, give the music a full, big-band Nashville sound with a reinforced rhythm section. He's in excellent voice throughout Sings Don Gibson, an album the recording of which was interrupted first, just a few days after work started on it, by the death of his wife Claudette in a motorcycle accident, and then by his work on the movie The Fastest Guitar Alive; he also seems to revel in the long melodic lines accorded him as a singer on numbers such as "(I'd Be) A Legend in My Time," "(Yes) I'm Hurting," and, most especially, "Far Far Away." But he does just as well on the more beat-driven "Big Hearted Me," and "Sweet Dreams" -- on the latter, he carries us across most of his prodigious vocal range, with results that are impressive even when one knows what to expect. But nothing can prepare one for "Oh, Such a Stranger" or "What About Me," a pair of cuts on which he crosses paths with Elvis Presley's sound of the same period, and demonstrates just what Orbison might've been able to do with the kind of exposure that the King of Rock 'n' Roll was able to generate with the snap of a finger. Hank Williams The Roy Orbison Way was one of Orbison's more straight-ahead rocking albums of the period, albeit with a country twang, and sounds damn good today -- in 1969, however, amid the burgeoning counterculture and given the weakness of MGM as a label, one can't imagine a less appealing album to show up in stores from Orbison. His sound here is a little too countrypolitan to appeal to rock listeners, while his approach to the songs -- with a big-band accompaniment and beat -- was probably not accessible to those who remembered Williams with sufficient fondness to check out the record. The Edsel re-release offers excellent sound and reasonably informative notes, as well as reprinting the annotation from the original LPs. ~ Bruce Eder