Artist: Roy Orbison with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Album: A Love So Beautiful
Label: Sony Legacy/Roy’s Boys
Release Date: 11.03.2017
Unquestionably one of the great vocalists of the 20th Century, Roy Orbison gave us some of the most moving rock and roll anyone will ever experience. Neil Young may have needed the London Symphony Orchestra to bolster his reedy tenor on Harvest (1972), but when the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra accompanies the operatic Roy Orbison, their classical magic sounds more like an appropriate backing band.
Orbison’s three sons collected some of their father’s best vocal performances–some previously released, others outtakes–paired them with one of the world’s best symphony orchestras, recorded it at Abbey Road, Studio 2 (yes, the Beatles’ room), and kept it in the family by adding their own instrumentals (guitar and drums) on a few tracks.
Many of Orbison’s classic songs show up on A Love So Beautiful, and a symphony orchestra perfectly supports his soaring crescendos, thankfully falling short of sounding melodramatic. “In Dreams,” “Crying,” “Running Scared” and particularly “It’s Over” are memorably—monumentally—executed, showing off Orbison’s unorthodox songwriting to best advantage. Punchy horns on a number of cuts, including “Uptown” and “Mean Woman Blues” sound more like a big band than a symphony. Percussion and guitar (guitar augmented but not overwhelmed by the string section) on “Oh, Pretty Woman” turn the song’s driving rhythms into a primal beat medics could employ to save lives. One song appears twice, as a solo on one track and a duet on another; in either version, “I Drove All Night” is the perfect driving song–if you’ve got a Lamborghini and a Get-Out-of-Jail-Free card, because the lightening drumming is pedal to the metal, I promise.
A couple of songs full of classic ’50s “dum-de-dum, ooh yeah-yeah” background vocals, did not work as quite as well as others, but with 17 cuts, a few incongruities are to be expected. And, after all, it is Roy Orbison, so how imperfect could it possibly be?