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.”
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.”