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Image Entertainment presents
Roy Orbison: Black & White Night (1988)

"You don't always get a chance to sing harmony with Roy Orbison. That's a dream." 
- Bruce Springsteen

Review By: Jon Danziger  
Published: March 24, 2005

Stars: Roy Orbison
Other Stars: Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, T. Bone Burnett, k.d. lang, J.D. Souther, Tom Waits, Jennifer Warnes
Director: Tony Mitchell

MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 01h:04m:29s
Release Date: February 08, 2005
UPC: 014381277920
Genre: rock

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- A-A-A B

DVD Review

Too often we don't celebrate the great ones until after they're gone; and that's even more heartbreaking when they leave us too early, as Roy Orbison did, late in 1988 at age 52. Fortunately, though, his body of work got the celebration and appreciation it deserved in his lifetime; a year or so before his death, this concert was recorded for Cinemax, featuring Orbison backed by some of the brightest lights in popular music. Orbison's influence on them is obvious, as is the joy with which they all seem to be playing—rock and roll is a young man's game, but Orbison here, in his trademark dark glasses, seems to be very much enjoying being the grand old man up on the stage, teaching the young folks a thing or two as they run through the highlights of his songbook.

Bruce Springsteen is on hand, of course, fresh off the release of Tunnel of Love and close to the apex of his Born in the U.S.A. popularity; a dozen years before, he paid respects to Orbison in the lyrics to Thunder Road, and you can see Springsteen's downright adoration for the man. Just as smitten is Elvis Costello, on guitar and harmonica, and Tom Waits, on keyboards; singing backup are a variety of Orbison acolytes and protégés, including Bonnie Raitt, k.d. lang, and Jackson Browne. The audience is peppered with celebrities and is just as worshipful; this is like the greatest nightclub band of all time.

Orbison wasn't a conventional rock star, by any measure; his control and heady voice differentiate him from just about any other musician of his generation, and there's an overwhelming sadness that's deeply heartbreaking in many of his songs. (Crying may be the roughest, most poignant breakup song ever written, and it sounds unbelievably good here.) To fill out the sound, the band is backed by a string session in Orbisonesque shades; the celebrities throw focus to Orbison, though I admit I was sort of hoping for a Frank Booth cameo on the opening bars of In Dreams. Recorded in 1987 and first broadcast in 1988, this concert was at least two years away from arguably Orbison's most famous song being forever associated with Julia Roberts playing a hooker; it is the necessary and fitting finale, though, of a great hour of music. Here's your set list:

Only the Lonely
Dream Baby (How Long Must I Dream)
Blue Bayou
The Comedians
Ooby Dooby
Running Scared
In Dreams
Go, Go, Go (Down the Line)
Mean Woman Blues
(All I Can Do Is) Dream You
It's Over
Oh, Pretty Woman

Rest in peace, Roy Orbison. You are much missed.

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


Image Transfer

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

Image Transfer Review: The smoky, contrasty photography lives up to the title of the concert, and gives the film an appropriately retro look. Strong transfer, with a muted palette.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: You can't really make a bad choice here—which way you want to go probably will have more to do with your home theater setup than with the quality of the transfer, which is excellent. I'm partial to the 5.1 track myself; the mix seems to overdo it a little with the backing vocals on the 2.0 offering. But wherever you land, it's going to sound great.

Audio Transfer Grade: A


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu
Music/Song Access with 17 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Production Notes
Packaging: Gladiator style 2-pack
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. accompanying DVD audio disc
  2. photo gallery
  3. DVD and concert credits
Extras Review: The most notable extra is certainly the second disc, which offers all the music from the concert in DVD-Audio format. (Image is also releasing a version in which Disc 2 is an SACD instead.) On the first disc, you'll find brief notes from Roy Kelton Orbison Jr., and biographical sketches on Orbison and the many musicians, their pictures clustered around Roy in a sort of makeshift family tree. There's also a photo gallery, featuring shots from the concert and backstage, and a look at the all-access pass distributed on the night of the show, and at the packaging for the original VHS release.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

A fitting and full-blooded tribute to one of the great and probably the saddest rock singers, who died too soon.


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