Roy Orbison – One Of The Lonely Ones – Universal 00602547233042, 33:43 [12/4/15] stereo vinyl ***:

Previously unreleased 1969 album surfaces on vinyl.

(Roy Orbison – guitar, vocals; plus many others)

Roy Orbison is an intricate part of the original rock and roll landscape. His rockabilly structures share a common bond with Southern-based artists like Elvis Presley and Carl Perkins. His inspiration was drawn from the pathos of country music. Songs like “Only The Lonely”, “Pretty Woman”, “Crying” and “Blue Bayou” were heartfelt revelations with a personal message. Orbison remained vital into the Sixties. But like a lot of American rock and roll stars, the British Invasion pushed them aside. It was more than ironic that the very musicians idolized by British rockers, became its most notable casualties. Orbison, whose “near-operatic” twangy tenor had no equal pushed back on this and continued to record and tour. In 1965, he left Monument Records and signed (an alleged $1M deal) with MGM records. While not as commercially successful, Orbison scored 12 MGM-era singles, 10 studio albums and maintained relevance. There were dark times for the Kentucky singer that included the death of his wife (in a motorcycle accident) and a second tragedy (car accident) that took the lives of his two sons . A calamitous misfortune became a complicated element of a creative artist. It seeped into his soul and required a release of emotion and cerebral inquiry.

In 1969, Orbison recorded One Of The Lonely Ones for Universal. The 12-song collection, allegedly recorded secretly, never saw the light of day. The mystery of this non-release was not solved. It has been identified as a lost treasure. Now in conjunction with the release of The MGM Years box set (that includes a 14 LP Vinyl Set and a 13-CD Box Set), One Of The Lonely Ones has finally (under the watchful eyes of Orbison’s family) been released on 12-4-2015. Now re-mastered on 180-gram stereo vinyl recording, the album has a modern technical format.

One Of The Lonely Ones appears to be a highly intimate collection of songs, reflecting internal emption. The opening track is a cover of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s inspirational song (from Carousel) “You’ll Never Walk Alone” With opening guitar strumming and marching time, Orbison brings a gospel resonance to the arrangement that includes orchestration and vocal chorus. In the hands of any other rock and roll performer, it would lack authenticity, but not for Orbison. “Say No More” employs a fifties swelling, layered sound with dramatic accents. These songs have a connection to prior hits, but without the visceral impact. The performance of “Leaving Makes The Rain Come Down” has a nimble “Blue Bayou” hook, but is overly subdued. Orbison’s voice is still vibrant and his interaction with the band on “Sweet Memories” is lively. But the arrangements overshadow this iconic vocalist. His falsetto invigorates the Buddy Holly type feel on “Laurie”, despite a questionable organ line. The title track captures the universal theme (“…I run with the lonely ones…”) with its winsome resonance.

Side Two is somewhat different. “Child Woman, Woman Child” establishes a driving rock groove (at least compared to the rest of the album), and is rendered as rock music with sharp backup vocals. There are tempo breaks and a peppy chorus, but the obtrusive strings slow things down. Orbison joins a select group of country stars (like Johnny Cash) to pen an anti-war tune with “The Defector”. Images of “…burning cars back home…” stand out. The dichotomy of lonesome reflections and contemporary musical formats continues. “Give It Up” has a cool blues intro on guitar and evolves into a pop love song (even with “Yeh, Yeh, Yeh” choruses) and then, there is a weird psychedelic break (1969?). On “Little Girl In The Big City” there are roadhouse piano riffs and Orbison’s singing is exceptional. Conversely, “After Tonight” has the makings of a classic country waltz (that suits this performer) until a pop trumpet interrupts the flow. The finale does emphasize the unique talent of Orbison: his voice!

The 180-gram vinyl is a good choice for this project. The warmth and soaring grace of Orbison’s voice is front and center. There is a peculiar album cover of teardrops and rows of smiley faces with a drawing of Orbison and sunglasses in the second row. It is good to hear unreleased material from a rock and roll legend. It would have been better if the album reflected what made him so legendary.

Side One: You’ll Never Walk Alone; Say No More; Leaving Makes The Rain Come Down; Sweet Memories; Laurie; One Of The Lonely Ones
Side Two: Child Woman, Woman Child; The Defector; Give Up; Little Girl (In The Big City); After Tonight; I Will Always

—Robbie Gerson