Since finishing his long-term commitment to MGM Records in 1973, Roy Orbison has bounced around from Mercury, back to his old home at Monument, and now to the Elektra/Asylum label for another attempted comeback with Laminar Flow. Producers Clayton Ivey and Terry Woodford take Orbison to Muscle Shoals, AL, for a session that aims to update the singer's style for the late ‘70s. The result, inevitably, is largely an embarrassment. Lead-off track "Easy Way Out" and "Friday Night" employ trendy disco beats, while "Lay It Down" and "Warm Spot Hot" settle for funk. Trying for different radio formats, "Tears" is one of several contemporary-sounding ballads seemingly intended for adult contemporary radio. None of this has much to do with Roy Orbison, though he dutifully sings over the tracks. "Movin'," co-written by Orbison with Chris Price, is the album's best song, a midtempo rocker in which the singer reflects on his own life and career, which consists of relentless touring. "Ain't got time to get sick," sings a man who has had to overcome illness in recent years. But at least he's still around, which allows him to pay tribute to a peer who isn't, eulogizing Elvis Presley on "Hound Dog Man." Where there's life there's hope, but Laminar Flow does not represent the comeback Roy Orbison needs and deserves.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann