It's difficult to say exactly what Roy Orbison was doing with the Memphis album, although one wishes he'd done another album's worth of material like it. On one level, it shows his rock & roll batteries recharged with the opening number, "Memphis, Tennessee." But then it moves on to more familiar sentimental country-pop territory of the kind that Glen Campbell had been charting with and filling his albums with for a few years -- and after that comes a hot, beat-driven, chorus-laden, big-sounding number. Further down the line is a carefully understated interpretation of Don Gibson's "I Can't Stop Loving You" that shows how less can be more with a voice like Orbison's, and then there's the pop/rock country "Run the Engines Up High," which incorporates some heavy, rock-style fuzz guitar, and a version of "I Fought the Law," complete with phased drums, that is as good as any you'll ever hear this side of Bobby Fuller's single. Perhaps this was intended to be Orbison's answer to the pair of albums that Elvis Presley had generated out of Chips Moman's American Studios in Memphis in 1969-1970, except that Orbison didn't need the "comeback" -- he hadn't squandered time and years on bad movies (except one) and bad soundtrack songs; he just needed to sell some records, which this didn't really do. So what we have here is Orbison veering very successfully between rock & roll, country, and pop, with excellent production by the singer and Joe Melson. Reissued by Edsel Records in 2004 as part of a two-CD package with killer sound.
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AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder