When the reactivated Monument label recently re-released "The All-Time Greatest Hits of Roy Orbison," the double-album set quickly moved onto the country-western charts as a best seller. Not surprising when you consider the quality of Orbison's Monument hits.
From 1960 to 1964, he recorded some of the most perfectly constructed singles in pop history, all graced by a voice of almost transcendent emotional power. From the gently swaying doo-wop of "Only the Lonely" in 1960 to the ominous guitar rock of his last smash in 1964, "Oh, Pretty Woman," Orbison set new standards for pop production with a creative blend of classical flourishes, Spanish rhythms and dashes of country, blues and rock'n'roll.
His tasteful production, his dramatically autobiographical mini-operas and his magnificent singing turned such songs as "It's Over," "Running Scared" and "Crying" into some of the most tension-packed and cathartic musical moments in rock. At the heart of every song was Orbison himself, exercising such masterful control over his operatic range that his voice became a mirror of his heart.
Listening to the grandeur, the almost classical sentiments that infuse such masterpieces of longing as "Blue Bayou" and "Love Hurts," it's hard to even think of Orbison as a rock'n'roll or pop artist. In short, while much of '60s pop has long since hit the scrap heap of teen culture, Orbison's best songs and Orbison himself persist as grand and timeless monuments to the art of melodrama. ON RECORD, ON STAGE THE ALBUM ROY ORBISON -- The All-Time Greatest Hits of Roy Orbison (Monument KWG-2784-38384-1). THE SHOW ROY ORBISON Sunday at 8 and 11 at the Bayou.