Roy Orbison

The Very Best of Roy Orbison [Sony/BMG Australia]

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The most unlikely of rock stars, there are few images as riveting as Roy Orbison standing completely motionless at the microphone in his trademark dark shades as he climbs the notes of one of his haunting, operatic pop songs, sounding for all the world like an angel stranded on earth and yearning to get back home. From his first recordings in the mid-'50s for Sun Records through his unlikely comeback in the late '80s, Orbison never lost an inch of his astounding vocal range or his knack for writing concise and emotionally nuanced pop ballads that seemed for all the world like mini-operas. This well-chosen collection offers up two dozen of Orbison's key sides taken from all phases of his career, including his 1956 debut single for Sun Records, "Ooby Dooby," through his brilliant '60s output ("Oh, Pretty Woman," "Only the Lonely," "Blue Bayou," "It's Over," "Crying") and cuts from his 1989 Mystery Girl album like the well-written and sung "She's a Mystery to Me." The versions here of "In Dreams" and "Claudette" are not the original singles but re-recordings done in the mid-'80s, but it hardly matters, since Orbison gives both the exact same emotional readings as he did the first time around. There are plenty of Orbison best-of collections on the market, but this one gets points for being a true career-spanning survey.

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