Artist of the Month: Roy Orbison
November 1, 2017
Joining forces with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the late Roy Orbison releases ‘A Love So Beautiful’, a re-scored collection of classics from his inimitable songbook. And in April next year the record goes on the road, using cutting edge stagecraft to feature a holographic Roy Orbison alongside the Philharmonic.
We couldn’t be prouder to name America’s Maestro our Artist of the Month.
Roy Orbison not only broke the mould, he established a totally new pop archetype. While many of his early Sun Records contemporaries such as Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash boasted classical good looks with a swagger to match, Roy Orbison’s understated demeanour became one of his greatest strengths.
Underneath that everyman exterior was a tremulous and quavering voice that beautifully articulated the yearning and unrequited love that so many of us have experienced.
Orbison’s early years as a professional singer weren’t too kind, though his songwriting skills proved popular as he scored hits for the likes of The Everly Brothers with tracks such as ‘Claudette’. But, as with many of the originals that have helped shape popular culture, when Roy found his voice, it was inevitable that so many would respond to it and so quickly.
Indeed, his run of hits between 1960 and 1965 that included ‘Only The Lonely’, ‘Running Scared’, ‘It’s Over’ and so many more, would go on to alter the course of popular music in more ways than one. The appeal of his vulnerability, coupled with majestic production techniques that included grand, operatic orchestral sweeps, celestial backing vocals and the kind of rolling drums that rivalled Phil Spector, proved irresistible.
And yet for all that, Roy could also show a tougher side – as evidenced by the likes of ‘Dream Baby’, ‘Candy Man’ and, of course, the evergreen ‘Oh, Pretty Woman’, Roy could not only kick it up with the best of ‘em, he could also hold his own against the wave of the British Invasion bands making their way across the Atlantic in the early 60s.
Indeed, many of those British beat bands owe Roy a considerable debt. Take the case of a certain bunch of moptops from Liverpool called The Beatles. Were it not for Roy Orbison, its inarguable that their second single and first UK Number One, ‘Please Please Me’, would’ve sounded very different. And his influence stretched even further – artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Chris Isaak and The Mavericks among others have all paid tribute to the singer who, in his own way, helped them become the figures they are now.
This unassailable musical pedigree was firmly on display when Orbison emerged as part of The Traveling Wilburys – arguably the first ‘supergroup’ and featuring George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty.
It was there again on ‘A Black & White Night’, Orbison’s star-studded 1988 television special featuring, among others, Brice Springsteen, K.D Lang, Elvis Costello and Tom Waits.
And that unlimited influence is in evidence once again with ‘A Love So Beautiful’, a sumptuous, orchestral re-imagining of some of his most popular songs in collaboration with the greatest orchestra in the world.
This is the Roy Orbison that you know and love, but more so.
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