King of Hearts

Roy Orbison

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King of Hearts Review

by William Ruhlmann

Although Roy Orbison's album Mystery Girl was issued eight weeks after his death on December 6, 1988, it was apparently in finished form and thus only technically a posthumous release. Orbison's widow Barbara says she has been asked frequently since "whether Roy had recorded enough material for one more album. The answer is yes," she replies in her liner notes to King of Hearts. An examination of the album's contents puts qualifications on this simple affirmative. The ten tracks include Orbison's Grammy-winning remake duet of "Crying" with k.d. lang from 1987, for instance, as well as the original demo of "Careless Heart," a song featured in its finished form on Mystery Girl. There is also a cover of the Cyndi Lauper hit "I Drove All Night." The previously unheard recordings include sessions produced by T-Bone Burnett, Barbara Orbison, George Massenburg, Jeff Lynne, and Don Was, among others, apparently at different times during the '80s. Barbara Orbison acknowledges that sessions were held after Orbison's death to add overdubs to unfinished recordings and demos. So, that simple "yes" is really fairly complicated. That said, this collection of leftovers from various sources is not bad at all. It certainly isn't near the quality of Mystery Girl, but, employing some of the same musicians and producers, it has much the same sound. If the material isn't of the same caliber, that's to be expected. And tracks like "Crying" and "I Drove All Night," if they pad the album out, also bring up its overall quality.

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