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Music Review: Roy Orbison — The Last Concert

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It had been almost fifteen years since Roy Orbison had gotten much airplay other than oldies stuff.  His last album of new material was released in 1979.  When the DJ introduced a song by some new group of which I’d never heard, The Traveling Wilburys, I thought the first voice sounded familiar (it was George Harrison) but when the next verse came along, it immediately got my attention. I turned the volume up to “11” quickly!  The unmistakable voice of Roy Orbison was singing, “I’m so tired of being lonely…I’ve still got some love to give. Won’t you show me that you really care.”

from Orbison's website

It was great to hear his voice again and the words seemed to grab the heartstrings and not let go.  It was a clear double entendre, saying, “Hey everybody, I’m back!  I’ve missed the spotlight and I’ve got a lot of music inside of me to share.”  The album was released on October 18, 1988 and then BAM! The day before the anniversary of Pearl Harbor, he’s gone.  Shocking!

Two nights before, Orbison thanked the band and walked off the stage of what would be his final performance.  On August 10, 2010, Eagle Rock Entertainment will release, The Last Concert on CD. This live recording of the Cincinnati concert was previously released for a limited run through  iTunes to acknowledge the twentieth anniversary of his death.

The Last Concert presents fifteen tracks in the exact order of their performance  and includes seven top-ten singles.  The press release advises that this production is, “..untouched by mixing and enhancements — it’s pure, honest, unmistakable Roy.”  The production quality is remarkable for a live recording. On most tracks, were it not for the applause, it would be easy to mistake it for a studio recording.  Orbison’s voice is strong with a depth of character and a clarity of diction reminiscent of him in his prime.  His amazing range and mastery of four octaves is evident from the opening track, “Only the Lonely” all the way through the finale, “Pretty Woman” complete with his trademark “growl” and a surprisingly long intro that consumes over a minute before the identifying notes.

Orbison comments that track nine (“Ooby Dooby”) was his first recording and that the next track, “Go, go, go (Down the Line)” was his first composition and this arrangement offers a lengthy opportunity for various members of his band to shine with solos.  “In Dreams” brings a smile as I cannot hear that song without the image of Dean Stockwell’s pantomime in Blue Velvet.

The Last Concert displays one of rock and roll’s true greats who seems to have beaten the ravages of time and delivers a standout performance, a performance that will be remembered.  Add this piece of history to your collection, as Roy sings in “Pretty Woman”: “I’ll treat you right.”

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  • ab roos

    what happened to Roys final song that night
    Running Scared plus encore….???

  • zingzing

    but volume 3 was pretty much number 2.

    actually, i haven’t heard it in years. just couldn’t resist.

  • The Wilburys second album was actually Volume 3

  • Roy Orbison’s “Only The Lonely” was one of the first true rock and roll songs I’d ever heard, back in 1960 at the age of 11. From it’s first strains of that “dum dum dum dum dee doo wah” chorus to the last notes of his incredible voice, I could only think, “wow!”

    I followed Roy’s career as best I could in the 60’s, buying what LP’s and 45’s I could get my hands on.

    My collection was lost in the 70’s, and it was difficult to replace at the time. In the 80’s, though, CD technology made it possible to get at least SOME of it back.

    Today I’m grateful that a lot of it has been re-issued, and this live “Last Concert” album is next on my list.

    Thank you for the wealth of information I’ve found here!

  • Tracy Olson

    I grew up listening to Roy Orbison, thanks to my mom and dad. I still enjoy listening to him. He has a sound all his own, no one sounds like Roy, he is unique. I really liked the part of the review that sad, “Orbison’s voice is strong with a depth of character and a clarity of diction reminiscent of him in his prime.” That is the truth. His voice is crisp and smooth~Roy. That night~The Last Concert was magical, all that talent on that stage, being reinged in by Roy. A night I wish could have gone on forever.

  • Tanja,
    Thanks for the update. I should have made it more clear that I was speaking of releases prior to his passing.
    Great info! Looking forward to that boxed set! Thanks again. FCE

  • Tanja Crouch

    Thank you for your review of Roy Orbison’s Last Concert. However, I need to correct you in that Roy’s last release was not in 1979!

    At the end of 2008, Sony Legacy/Orbison Records released Roy Orbison The Soul Of Rock & Roll a box set that contained several never-before-released tracks. It was the first time Roy’s recordings from all his various labels were grouped into one package. King of Haarts, was released in 1992, it contained all new material, including hits like “I Drove All Night” which was written for Roy, “Heartbreak Radio” (killer video), and “Crying” (the duet with k. d. lang). Mystery Girl was released in 1989, again, all new material. It contained hits like “You Got It,” “A Love So Beautiful,” “She’s A Mystery To Me” (written and produced by Bono), “The Comedians” (written for Roy by Elvis Costello), and “California Blue.” The album was re-releasd in 2007 with a bonus track “You May Feel Me Crying” that was produced by Brian Eno and featured in the film “End of Violence.” “Roy Orbison & Friends: A Black & White Night” was also released in 1988–which Roy won a Grammy for best male vocal performance the following year. There was also a “Live from the BBC” of never before released material in 1998.

    You reference The Traveling Wilburys–vol 1 was released in 1988, vol 2 in 1990 and a Collection of Wilburys’, with some never-before-released material, was released in 2007.

    Thank you again for your review and thinking of Roy–I just wanted to correct some of the facts with regard to his releases. Please send me your addresa and I would love to send you Roy’s SORR box set.

    Tanja Crouch
    Vice President
    Roy Orbison Music