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Eagle Vision presents
Roy Orbison: Greatest Hits (2003)

"Maybe tomorrow, a new romance
No more sorrow, but that's the chance you gotta take...."

- Roy Orbison (from Only The Lonely)

Review By: Jeff Rosado  
Published: September 19, 2003

Stars: Roy Orbison, Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne, Elvis Costello, Tom Waits, Bonnie Raitt, k.d. lang, T Bone Burnett, Jennifer Warnes, J.D. Souther
Other Stars: James Burton, Glen D. Hardin, Jerry Scheff, Ronnie Tutt,
Director: various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 00h:54m:29s
Release Date: July 15, 2003
UPC: 801213004393
Genre: rock


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- A+BA+ A+

DVD Review

In an era before lyrics and pretty pictures adorned the inner sleeve of record albums (or as I humorously heard them dubbed recently, old CDs), music labels like Capitol and MGM utilized the vinyl protection devices to promote current offerings from their artists. In the case of the latter company, I recall a time in my childhood looking at one such sleeve that accompanied a Herman's Hermits album. Amidst all the plugs for other hot British commodities, The Animals and what seemed like a million Hank Williams records, the profile of a rather curious-looking male caught my attention. Decked in dark Ray Ban-type sunglasses, clad in black, and accompanied by a tie-less button up shirt, he stood out. Even then, before I became a so-called 'walking encyclopedia and font of musical knowledge', before I heard one quivering syllable emerge from his mouth, I knew there was something uniquely special about this person. Even his last name stood out—Orbison. Sounded like a planet in a mid-1950s lowly budgeted sci-fi movie (perhaps one on which everybody wears sunglasses).

Several years later during a typical mom-chauffeured lift to school with the car radio on, a dramatic, string-driven ballad captured my senses in much the same fashion as that record sleeve had. Starting with a baritone approach and winding up with a jaw-dropping falsetto at the coda, Only The Lonely made me an instant Orbison convert. In time, such impressions were not uncommon. On page 131 of Rolling Stone's Illustrated History of Rock & Roll (great book if you can find it, by the way), there's a wonderful story surrounding the making of Running Scared, his most haunting, dramatic ballad. Originally slated to end with a falsetto, Roy's voice couldn't be heard above the din of approximately 30 musicians, including a string section. So taking a deep breath, he went for that high "A" note on the last line ("and walk away with me…") in his natural voice. Unfortunately, the initial take was botched. In a room filled with seen-it-all session hands who had worked with everyone from Elvis Presley to The Everly Brothers, the powerful beauty of an operatic voice emerging from a plain, unassuming country boy, left them stunned to such a point, they stopped playing.

Helping bring back such memories? Roy Orbison: Greatest Hits, a low-key release from Eagle Vision/Orbison Records that deserves to be in the collection of any serious lover or student of pop music. Mostly a compilation of memorable live performances spanning the mid-1960s through his last television appearance prior to his passing in 1988 (including classic moments from the marvelous 1987 Cinemax specia,l A Black and White Night and his legendary stint on PBS' Austin City Limits) most of the selections are tied together via a most unlikely tour guide. During the taping of one such entertainment program, Roy was invited to talk about his career directly to the camera without the assistance of an interviewer. Surprisingly, the reclusive performer agreed and seemed extremely comfortable in this context. Effectively interspersed between most of the dozen-plus gems (including In Dreams, Crying and Claudette), its like a long lost commentary track as Orbison takes us through the high points of his initial rise to fame.

In addition to the hits that comprise the main part of the disc, several interesting oddities are unearthed (mostly of a supplemental nature discussed in the Extras section below), with the best coming in the form of an eerie promotional video for Walk On, a criminally ignored 1968 single that may have been the best vocal performance of his career. Although clumsily staged and predictable on the surface (departing lover looks longingly at Roy from behind the glass of a recording studio booth), its Lynch-ian lighting (strong enough to give us a rare look at Orbison's peepers) and the singer's vulnerable presence make it one of the highlights of the program. Other notable moments include a solo turn on That Lovin' You Feelin' Again (his 1980 duet country hit with Emmylou Harris from the film Roadie), a late career rendition of It's Over and a barn-burning jam on Oh, Pretty Woman taken from the aforementioned celebrity-studded cable special featuring some killer guitar interplay between masterful Ricky Nelson/Elvis Presley sideman James Burton and Orbison devotee Bruce Springsteen (who inducted his hero into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame).

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Considering the various conditions of all the visual elements that form this disc (multi-generation video tape, primitive black & white kinescopes, etc), I think the producers did an admirable job to mask the shortcomings. To me, the most recent material from A Black & White Night and Austin City Limits looked extremely pristine, while the '60s contributions and the grainy interview segments are the weakest. But honestly with music this grand, who cares?

Image Transfer Grade: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishyes
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes
DTSEnglishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Unlike the visual counterpart, I do care about the presentation of music near and dear to my heart presented in any format, and this disc delivers brilliantly in that department. No less than four separate mixes are contained: Dolby Digital mono, Dolby stereo, Dolby Digital and DTS. All are very well done, but the vibrancy of the latter format gets me every time; every nuance from Roy's falsettos to the chicken pickin' of Burton sounds comes off perfectly. Those preferring a warmer sound will be very pleased with the Dolby Digital option; in fact, on a couple of the ballads, I preferred this track. Bottom end on both 5.1 mixes is also very impressive given the age of the material. Perhaps the biggest surprise? How good the early mono source material comes off in multi-channel incarnations. Purists may balk, but these cleaned-up performances compliment the songs so well with just the right amount of expansiveness in the rears that doesn't sound fake or processed. Not surprisingly, the material from 1987 onward sounds nothing short of fabulous, particularly on You Got It and She's A Mystery Girl (which makes one hope that a DVD-A version of the singer's Mystery Girl album is in the works).

Audio Transfer Grade: A+

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Music/Song Access with 22 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. She's A Mystery To Me/Crying Music Videos
  2. King Of Hearts/I Drove All Night Press Kits
  3. An Empty Cup (And A Broken Date) Acetate (Original and Restored Versions)
  4. Crying (1960s live performance) Mono to 5.1 Comparison
Extras Review: In the vein of hidden treasures on a CD boxed set, Greatest Hits offers two vintage music videos (his remake of Crying with K.D. Lang and the clip for She's A Mystery To Me); a restored version of a recently found acetate for An Empty Cup that showcases the wonders of modern-day aural restoration that doesn't destroy the feel of a vintage recording; entertaining behind-the-scenes looks at two posthumous projects (the I Drove All Night video and King Of Hearts album, the latter featuring interviews with wife Barbara, ELO wunderkind Jeff Lynne, and producer extraordinaire Don Was); and a mono-to-5.1 demonstration on a 1960s-era television performance of Crying that brings home my praise in the revitalization of material such as this.

Extras Grade: A+

 

Final Comments

To paraphrase John Belushi on the Briefcase Full of Blues album, I suggest you go out and buy as many "Big O" albums as you can. While you're at it, definitely add Roy Orbison: Greatest Hits to your shopping list. Filled with all the essential hits and fascinating bonuses, it's not only a must for fans, but can also serve as an instant primer to newcomers.

 


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