Roy Orbison – Mystery Girl – Sony/Legacy Records – Deluxe CD+DVD, 75:19 (CD), 64:12 (DVD) [5/19/14] *****:
(Roy Orbison – guitar, vocals; Jeff Lynne (guitar, piano, bass, backing vocals; Tom Petty – acoustic guitar, backing vocals; Mike Campbell – guitar, bass, mandolin; Jim Keltner – drums; Howie Epstein – bass, backing vocals; Benmont Tench – piano, organ, cheap strings; and guest artists including George Harrison, Bono; T Bone Burnett; Steve Cropper, Barbara Orbison; Roy Orbison, Jr.; Al Kooper; Steve Cropper; and The Memphis Horns)
The word comeback is synonymous with rock and roll. Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, The Rolling Stones and countless others saw career re-boots years after their peak success. And Roy Orbison is part of this illustrious group. During the latter part of the eighties, he resurfaced with his induction into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame, an album (Class of ’55) with Sun Records colleagues Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash, and the “supergroup” Traveling Wilburys (Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, Bob Dylan and George Harrison). It is rumored that Harrison jokingly got on his knees to ask Orbison to join this group. The apex of this re-birth was the studio album, Mystery Girl. With an all-star production (Jeff Lynne at the helm) and session roster, the album became a posthumous hit for Roy.
Mystery Girl – Deluxe CD + DVD is a comprehensive audio and video reissue of a meaningful career finale. The CD contains the original ten album songs plus nine previously unreleased studio and work-tape demos. The opening track on the CD, “You Got It” may be his most widely accessible hit. It charted on CHR, AC, Country and AOR simultaneously. And it is vintage Orbison, supplemented with modern production. From the opening acoustic rhythm guitar licks, the song establishes a jaunty, festive mood. Then the country/operatic voice is introduced. Unlike most singers Orbison’s age, enhanced production exposes voice frailties. With Roy Orbison, this is not the case. With a sweeping grandiosity, his vocals soar and match the orchestration flourishes of the studio. “The Real World” showcases melancholy folk sensitivity with interesting violin swelling that only Orbison can elevate above sentimentality. The songs are fresh and well-executed. “California Blue” (written by Orbison, Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty) has the relaxed Southern California vibe and tempo that counters the brilliant singer. Background vocals are a testament to Lynne’s uncanny ear for arrangement. There is also an interesting studio demo of the song as Orbison, Petty and Lynne figure out a good tempo to kick off the tune.
One of the highlights is a song penned by Bono and The Edge, “She’s A Mystery To Me”. Arranged by keyboardist extraordinaire Benmont Tench and produced by Bono, the song is inventive and has aural impact. Veteran session player, Jim Keltner adds a loping, funky drum line, while Tench surrounds the high-ceiling vocals with piano chords. This song (which provided the album title from its chorus) sustains and builds momentum. Another British rock composition (“The Comedians” by Elvis Costello) has a crescendo-laced chorus that energizes this cut. Orbison reaches back to gospel rock roots on “The Only One” (co-written by his son, Wesley). Steve Cropper (guitar) and The Memphis horns bring an assured, but not overly-produced effort. Simply put, the songs are excellent and match the agility and expertise of the prominent studio production. The alternate takes, studio and work-tape demos are not superfluous. They offer some incisive framework to the musical process. The stripped down version of “The Only One” showcases the rockabilly licks of Orbison.
The DVD centers around an informative 60-minute documentary titled Mystery Girl: Unraveled. The movie (a project by two of Orbison’s sons, Alex and Roy, Jr.) is part-labor of love and part-inside story on the making of Mystery Girl. Additionally there are several videos (with alternate versions and original versions). The press notes include a heartfelt and detailed remembrance by the “Orbison Boys”.
When Roy Orbison passed away his musical resurgence was hitting on all cylinders. Fortunately, Mystery Girl is a fitting testimony to a legitimate rock icon.
Disc 1 (CD): You Got It; The Real World; (All I Can Do) Is Dream; A Love So Beautiful; California Blue; She’s A Mystery To Me; The Comedians; The Only One; Windsurfer; Careless Heart; Bonus Tracks: The Way Is Love; She’s A Mystery To Me (studio demo); (All I Can Do Is) Dream (studio demo); The Only One (studio demo); The Comedians (studio demo); In The Real World (studio demo); California Blue (studio demo); Windsurfer (work-tape demo); You Are My Love (work-tape demo)
Disc 2 (DVD): Mystery Girl: Unraveled 60 minute documentary; The Way Is Love; California Blue (new alternate version); You Got It (new alternate version); You Got It (official original video); California Blue (official original video); She’s A Mystery To Me (official original video); She’s A Mystery To Me (alternate unreleased Fincher version); A Love So Beautiful (official original video)