Monday, August 23, 2010

Roy Orbison

Over the course of the past year or so, Roy Orbison has gradually become one of my favorite American song writers. I bought this record, "The Orbison Way," for about five bucks a couple years back, and I think when everything is taken into consideration, song writing, arrangements, quality of playing, and above all else engineering and production, it may be the best rock and roll record I have ever heard.

It doesn't include any of his hits, but there is zero filler, no wasted space. I recently picked up an album from the same era titled, "There is only one." Same business. The consistency of quality material isn't where it is on "The Orbison Way," but the engineering, production, and arranging stand out in the same way.

I watched a staged performance from 1988 titled "Black and White Night" for the first time last night. His backing band consists of Bonnie Rait, KD Lang, Tom Waits, Elvis Costello, the Boss, and James Burton. Burton being one of the more legendary blues/rockabilly guitarists in the history of rock and roll. There is a statue of him in his hometown of Shreveport,LA.

Listening to these records and watching this performance pushed me over the edge to investigate the people who played on these Orbison albums. I didn't find much, but I did find this article about the Wrecking Crew, whom Burton was briefly a part of. If you read the article, you'll learn about these other communities of musicians in Memphis, Nashville, Detroit, and New York who selflessly drove the songs we consider staples of the rock and roll cannon.

I'm always at a loss trying to describe why I feel like rock music is continually losing something significant with each new release, but these Roy Orbison records and this era of production and songwriting have helped me identify a specific point where things happened the right way.

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