Roy Orbison – In Dreams Greatest Hits – Legacy Roy Orbison In Dreams – Legacy Recordings – DVD (2013)

by | Jan 15, 2014 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews

Roy Orbison – In Dreams Greatest Hits – Legacy Recordings 88883759742, 51:08 [9/17/2013] ****1/2:

Roy Orbison In Dreams – Legacy Recordings – DVD (2013)
Studio:  Sony Legacy 82876 86940 9 
Video: 4×3, Color & Black and White
Audio: English PCM Stereo
Length: 90 minutes
Rating: ****

(Featuring Roy Orbison, guitar/vocals on re-mastered tracks)

Rock and Roll was distinguished by great singers. Many of them were signed to Sun Records, including Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis. After seeing these stars in West Texas, a singer/songwriter named Roy Orbison got an opportunity to become part of the rockabilly movement. What distinguished Orbison (perhaps more than any other singer of his generation) was his voice. Despite having a baritone, he was able to stretch over four octaves, displaying an uncanny higher register and falsetto. His compositions explored the popular themes of lost love, but with a darker interpretation. He was credited with popularizing the Nashville sound. Orbison recorded once with Sun Records, but achieved his success with Monument Records, charting several hit singles, including “Pretty Woman”, “Crying”, “Only The Lonely” And “In Dreams”. After this career arc, he seems destined for minor stardom.

But his influence on a new generation of rock musicians was significant. One of his ardent fans, Bruce Springsteen, alluded to him in the first verse of ”Thunder Road” (“…Roy Orbison singin’ for the lonely…”).  David Lynch inadvertently (and to the dismay of Orbison) re-booted the singer’s popularity with the psychopathic use of “In Dreams” in the film Blue Velvet. Orbison’s expressionless performance style was impersonated by John Belushi on Saturday Night Live. In 1988, the concert film Roy Orbison And Friends: A Black And White Night established him as an icon. Backed by Springsteen, Jackson Browne, Tom Waits, T-Bone Burnett, Jennifer Warnes, Bonnie Raitt, J.D. Souther and Elvis Costello, Orbison and his musical legacy was captured for posterity. The same year he teamed with Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, George Harrison and Bob Dylan to record The Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1. The album resulted in a Grammy award. Later that year, Roy Orbison passed away.

Legacy Records has released a re-mastered CD of Roy Orbison, In DreamsGreatest Hits. Originally re-recorded in 1987 on double vinyl with state-of- the-art technology, a digital reproduction is finally available. Containing nineteen tracks (all but one under three minutes), Orbison sounds great, though fifteen years older than his prime. All the hits are here. “Only The Lonely” exhibits the relaxed rockabilly grooves with male backup singers, violins and the warbling baritone/tenor. Orbison’s songs are precisely-written and arranged. His vocals are dramatic, approximating operatic proportions (just listen to the final verse on “Leah”). His style has blues roots and he rocks out on the sax-flavored “Uptown” and songs like “Mean Woman Blues” and the sly romp “Candyman” (with tempo stops and harmonica).

There are songs that are hauntingly intense: “Crying” might be overwrought, sung by a lesser singer. When Orbison performs it, his voice modulates at a fever pitch, hitting a crescendo at the finish. The same dynamics inhabit “Dream Baby” and “It’s Over”. And of course, there is “Pretty Woman”. Simply put, this is a pop masterpiece with guitar hooks, march-time percussion and expressive transitions in the chorus and bridge. For extra measure there is a well placed “Mercy!” and a humorous “growl”. It was cool fifty years ago and still is. As a composer, his compositions are complex with some classical undertones. “In Dreams” has elements of a folk dance but with counterpoint violin accents. “Blue Bayou” (which was covered successfully by Linda Ronstadt) has a tight rhythmic flow and Caribbean flourish. Unique and authentic can be overused at times, but with Roy Orbison they ring true.

The digital reproduction is excellent. The flatness of early sixties technology is replaced with crisp stereo separation and centered mixing. Roy Orbison In DreamsGreatest Hits is a lyrical reminder of what a musical pioneer is.

TrackList: Only The Lonely; Leah; In Dreams; Uptown; It’s Over; Crying; Dream Baby; Blue Angel; Working For The Man; Candyman; Running Scared; Falling; I’m Hurtin’; Claudette; Oh, Pretty Woman; Mean Woman Blues; Ooby Dooby; Lana; Blue Bayou

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There is a companion DVD titled Roy OrbisonIn Dreams. Drawing on interviews with rock and roll stars like Bruce Springsteen, Johnny Cash, Robert Plant, Barry Gibb, Bono, Jeff Lynne and a host of others, there are first-hand accounts of Roy Orbison’s far-reaching legacy. Also iconic country artists (Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Chet Atkins and Emmylou Harris to name a few) share their insights. More importantly there are several performances (actually excerpts) of Orbison, including two duets. The ninety-minute documentary opens with Orbison recounting his West Texas childhood association with music. There are interspersed concert snippets (including several performances from the Black And White tribute). A vintage, sunglasses-free rendition of “Uptown” is a glimpse into a young, emerging  star. The DVD does a credible job of sequencing his career starting with Sun Records (Cash tells a funny touring story) and Monument Records and finishing with The Traveling Wilburys.

Most of the early performances are in black and white. Interview cut-ins with rock stars are in color. The viewer is treated to some ‘inside” anecdotes (e.g. how the guitar line for “Pretty Woman” was developed, and the astounding tragedies that shaped his life). Also included is Springsteen’s heartfelt introduction at Orbison’s induction into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. Jeff Lynne reminisces about recording with the rockabilly legend. It is a very informative and uplifting film.

—Robbie Gerson

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