Every weekend I try to pull out some music to take in the car. (Full disclosure -- I do not have my collection on an iPod nor do I own one. I don’t object to them, I just haven’t done it yet.) Anyway, I try to pick out things I haven’t heard in a while. Sometimes I close my eyes, drag my fingers along the spines of the CDs and stop randomly. Last weekend I ended up on a copy of The Essential Roy Orbison, the outstanding double CD collection from 2006. As much as I love to discover new music that moves me, I keep going back to the first generation of rock and roll artists. That group of artists will never fail you musically. Roy, in particular, is worth periodic reexamination. His voice, the songwriting, the arrangements and the records themselves are all without parallel. The arc of his career is completely unique. He starts as a West Texas rocker, like his contemporary Buddy Holly and, along the way, becomes a skilled songwriter. As a performer and recording artist, Roy hit an amazing stride in the early Sixties. The songs from his Monument Records era may have slower tempos than the early recordings “Down the Line” or “Ooby Dooby,” but they don’t easily fall into the ballad category. They have a patient deliberation about them. “Leah,” with its simple percussion open is as cool as a Pacific breeze. Records like “It’s Over” and “Crying” are epic in their power. Listening to these performances, I’m awestruck by the fact that they were cut live in the studio. It’s a testimony to Roy’s towering talent that his records stand the test of time.
This weekend marks Roy Orbison’s 74th birthday. There are a number of events around the U.S. that will mark the occasion. Check the official Roy Orbison website for all the details.