Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Roy Orbison - The Monument Singles Collection Reviewed

Back To Mono With The Big O
I've been fortunate enough to listen to a  review copy of the forthcoming Roy Orbison compilation from Legacy Recordings: The Monument Singles Collection 1960-64 over the last few days.

Released to coincide with what would have been The Big O's 75th birthday the compilation features all the original mono masters of his greatest hits including Only The Lonely, In Dreams, Oh Pretty Woman, Running Scared and It's Over.

Roy Orbison - The Monument Singles Collection Review

Had he lived, Roy Orbison would have celebrated his 75th birthday on April 23rd, 2011. His early death in 1988 robbed the world of a musical hero particularly in his native America and Great Britain where he enjoyed much success in the early 1960s.

Roy Orbison's popularity in the United Kingdom was assured from the moment Only the Lonely hit number one in 1960. His vocal style and quick guitar playing earned him the affectionate name of 'The Big O' and a multitude of fans including Elvis Presley and The Beatles.

When the Great Britain beat boom exploded in early 1963, the popularity of pre Beatlemania solo singers was affected. Roy Orbison, was the exception to the rule. Unlike Elvis he came to the UK and shared the bill on concert tours with The Beatles and Gerry and The Pacemakers earning kudos with his admirers and pushing two further singles It's Over and Oh, Pretty Woman to the top of the music charts.

New Roy Orbison Compilation Includes Original Mono Masters

Roy Orbison: The Monument Singles Collection (1960-64) not only recognises the diamond anniversary of The Big O's birth, but repackages for the first time the original mono mixes of all his A and B sides recorded for the Monument label in the early 1960s.

Such an extensive collection is a dream come true for 1960s pop aficionados. Most of these tracks for many years stayed exclusive to the 45 RPM single format, with the notable exception of tracks that eventually found their way onto hit compilations. However, by the 1970s most albums substituted the original mono recordings for the more hi-fi friendly stereo versions and it is these mixes, which have found their way onto compilations in recent years.

The notable difference with going back to the original mono masters is that the final mixes are considerably tighter productions than the stereo takes. Orbison's vocal doesn't have to fight for prominence with heavily mixed backing singers or musicians as it does in the stereo versions.

The mono masters also encompass all the energy and rawness that defied the fading radio airwaves of Radio Luxembourg and the pirate radio stations when broadcast to their original audience back in the early 1960s. It is these versions that ultimately pushed Roy Orbison into the hit parade. Further to this on modern technology such as an iPod the recordings still sound excellent, bringing the music of Roy Orbison firmly into the 21st century.

Roy Orbison Compilation Features Hits and Forgotten Classics

All the great hits are featured in The Monument Singles Collection, from the sympathetic Only The Lonely, via the drama of Running Scared, the lovelorn angst of In Dreams, the hurt of It's Over and the bounce back confidence of Oh, Pretty Woman! With the inclusion of overlooked and forgotten hits such as Blue Bayou and Working for the Man, Roy Orbison¹s back catalogue of hits develops in maturity before the listener’s ears.

The second disc in the collection comprises B-Sides that are equally enjoyable as well as familiar. Several of these songs became airplay hits in their own right, including Mean Woman Blues and Candy Man. Candy Man later scored a big hit for Brian Poole and The Tremeloes in early 1964.

Also included is Orbison's frequently overlooked version of Distant Drums, a dramatic interpretation of a song which would eventually become a posthumous hit for Jim Reeves in 1966. Arguably, Roy Orbison¹s version is the definitive cut with heartfelt vocals from The Big O and prominent drum rolls.

Roy Orbison Compilation Is A Musical Masterclass Of Monumental Greatness

It¹s a strong enough testament that all 39 tracks featured on this release stand up in their own right, be they chart hits or relegated as they were for many years, to B sides. The Monument Singles Collection is a musical masterclass of monumental greatness and is a great example as to why Roy Orbison¹s music will continue to be enjoyed for many years to come.

Roy Orbison: The Monument Singles Collection 1960-64 will be released by Legacy Recordings on Monday 11 April 2011 as a 2CD/1-DVD set and will also be available as a single CD release.

  • This post was updated on April 6, 2013 to accommodate the original review

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