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Music Review: Roy Orbison – The Best Of The Soul Of Rock and Roll

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The Soul Of Rock and Roll by Roy Orbison is a massive career spanning four disc, 107 song set. The Best Of The Soul Of Rock and Roll is an independent 18 song, single disc that is basically a sampler of the larger set. Obviously, if you are a fan of Orbison or of early rock ‘n’ roll the big box set is essential. If you would just like a sample of the Orbison sound or cannot afford the big one then this disc will do just fine.

Roy Orbison was an important figure in the early development of rock ‘n’ roll. He began as a rockabilly singer on the Sun Label in the 1950’s along with such artists as Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash. It was his years recording for the Monument Label, 1959-1965, that would bring him lasting fame.

His smooth yet powerful tenor voice and three octave range placed dozens of hits on the American charts as well as those of other countries. Such songs as “Oh, Pretty Woman,” “Only The Lonely,” “Blue Bayou,” and “In Dreams” remain well known over forty years after their release.

His late 1980’s work as a member of The Traveling Wilburys with Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty, brought him a new generation of fans. He would die of a massive heart attack at age 52 on December 6, 1988.

The tracks that comprise The Best Of The Soul Of Rock and Roll are well thought out and span his career. The album as a whole has a somewhat overall disjointed feel because of its nature. However, the individual tracks are strong and are an excellent and enjoyable listen.

“Ooby Dooby” is from his Sun Label career. Recorded in 1956, it is a frenetic up-tempo rockabilly tune. It presents the early period of Orbison’s career where he is still searching for a musical style. “Mean Woman Blues,” recorded in 1963 has a similar rockabilly song structure but now he has refined his vocals in a pop direction which makes the song and his sound a lot smoother.

Orbison remains known for his ballads. “Crying,” “Blue Bayou,” “In Dreams” and “It’s Over” give a good taste of his ballad style and vocal prowess. They all are smooth building songs that show the purity of his voice.  

Two rare live songs are included. “What’d I Say” from 1965 and “(All I Can Do Is) Dream You” from 1987 show that he could produce his songs live without any studio trickery. They also show that he had lost little vocal power in the 22 years between the performances.

Roy Orbison could also rock upon occasion. His biggest hit, “Oh Pretty Woman,” is instantly recognizable from the opening notes. “Working For The Man” remains one of my favorite Orbison songs. It is a story song with attitude that just rocks along.

One of his late career hits is also wisely included. His duet with Emmylou Harris, “That Lovin’ You Feelin’ Again,” from the movie Roadie would become a country hit and win a 1981 Grammy Award.

The Best Of The Soul Of Rock and Roll is an enjoyable journey through the career of a music legend. Fans and casual listeners will not be disappointed.

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