Greetings, Glancers! We ‘re getting through these 1966 albums at a fair old pace. Or at least I’m listening to them frequently – I can’t guarantee when you’re actually going to see this post given that, at time of writing I haven’t even published the 1966 Series announcement post yet. But enough of that. Roy Orbison is one of the greats, but yet another who I haven’t listened much to beyond a few hit singles. I’ve certainly never heard a full album by him. That changes today. I know nothing about this album, except that it has twelve songs and clock in under thirty minutes, so I’m expecting quick pop rock songs with strong vocals. Let’s do this.
‘Crawling Back‘ opens a little like YNWA. A similar arpeggio. Sweet, low vocals. Strings come in on second verse, vocals, go a little higher, still smooth. They go higher again. I wish he’d taken the melody a little higher and really pushed for it, but he goes in a different direction. The strings complement and accentuate. He pushes it at the end, and it’s good.
‘It Ain’t No Big Thing‘ opens with something which sounds like an organ, just before the guitar joins. The verse is very Beatles, but he comes into his own for the chorus as the vocals soar. It’s another broken-hearted song of lost love, even if he’s making light of the subject. Great stuff on the ‘I’m dying’ line at the end.
‘Time Changed Everything‘ starts neatly, nice dynamic between vocals, keys, and drums. Very sweet vocals and melodies again, more doubt in the lyrics. I like how the melodies change four or five times until the chorus finally comes, the chorus acing as a crescendo.
‘This Is My Land‘ has swelling strings, harmonica, and another familiar arpeggio. Sublime vocals again. I think the music is better than the actual vocal melody, but it’s hard to complain about something so endearing and well-performed.
‘The Loner’ starts out with an interesting string introduction, reminiscent of Egyptian/Arabian scenes in old movies. I think at this point we accept the vocals are going to be good, that’s a given. Nice swells at various points, a climbing and falling melody at others.
‘Maybe‘ seems like a more traditional ballad. There are stabbing guitars and drums to counter the central piano lines. It’s a little plain, but still gets by on charm.
‘Breaking Up Is Breaking My Heart‘ is much faster than anything else on the album so far. That definitely spices things up as things were getting a little slow and samey. The song continues to build with extra bass and beats and sudden strings in its second movement. Fun melodies go with the lyrics. Great stuff. Just wish it hadn’t faded out.
‘Go Away‘ spices things up further with its more unusual arrangement. For large parts it’s Roy and no instruments, but it gradually builds into a more traditional ballad. Groovy instrumental piece in the middle with organ and guitar.
‘A New Star‘ opens like an old-fashioned Country ballad. It gets better, thanks to Orbinson’s vocals and another nice choice of melody. There’s a lot of twinkling, some sweet violins join the fray. It stays away from the standard pop song structure, which is both to its credit but also makes it feel a little directionless.
‘Never‘ has sprinkles of fun, shambling along breezily and making me think of a lot of the cliched Swinging Sixties sounds. There is throng in the background which could be horn, keys, or guitar. It definitely sounds happier and more light-hearted than the other material.
‘It Wasn’t Very Long Ago‘ has a touch of Sixties London too. Slow and steady, nice peaks in the vocals, great melodies – especially the lead refrain.
‘Why Hurt The One Who Loves You‘ starts with sleepy bass and piano like a dance hall from the 1930s. It feels like a song to slow dance to, but the lyrics say otherwise. A drifting end to the album.
Well, I think I can safely say that was the best ‘new’ album I’ve heard from 1966 so far. I always knew Orbison was a great singer, and this showcases his abilities quite well. There isn’t as strong a single as something like Pretty Woman but I’d happily listen to the whole thing again. I would probably get bored with the whole over time as many of the songs tread similar ground musically and lyricially, but at least structurally things are kept interesting by introducing many different elements – changes in time and pace, and plenty of instrumental choices which the so called crooners generally were not adventurous enough to try. I can easily grab a few of these for the playlist as I ferry the family to and fro in the car.
Nightman’s Playlist Picks: It Ain’t No Big Thing. Time Changed Everything. Breaking Up Is Breaking My Heart. It Wasn’t Very Long Ago.
Let us know what you think of The Orbison Way in the comments!