Roy Orbison

RCA Sessions

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Only Bear Family would issue a CD like this. The pairing of Roy Orbison with Sonny James isn't because the two performed together -- and the consumer is nowhere led to believe this is so -- but because the sessions featured here showcased both artists in transition and between hits. For Orbison it was this initial period at RCA doing sessions in 1958 and 1959 for Chet Atkins where the record company was trying to make the best use of Orbison's original voice. The first session doesn't feature any original material, but instead the putrid Billy Sherrill ballad "Sweet and Innocent," J.D. Loudermilk's syrupy "I'll Never Tell," and Boudleaux Bryant's equally drippy "Seems to Me." Have no fear, though, there are four other Orbison tracks, from the silly, yet totally rocking "The Bug," to his teen mid-tempo rocker "Jolie," "Paper Boy," and "Happy Little Bluebird." It's true none of these are the strongest Orbison tracks, but they nonetheless showcase him beginning to work that voice to dark effect and feature the Jordonaires on backing vocals. As for the James material, all of it is taken from his RCA sides, recorded between 1961 and 1962. There are 12 little-documented sides that are sown in the pipe of James' ballad style that was a signature with that tenor voice of his. His guitar playing added a special kind of rock & roll darkness to the proceedings. These sides, including "Magnetism," "Legend of the Brown Mountain Light," "Hey Little Ducky," and "No Lana," feature James' ringing Telecaster against standard teen rock arrangements and production for the time. It's obvious Atkins and company had no idea the Beatles were coming. The songs are, like the Orbison tracks, interesting, but not compelling and are strictly for the collectors.

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