Following their vinyl compilation, The Cat Called Domino, Bear Family Records has continued to pay tribute to Roy Orbison on the eighty-fifth anniversary of his birth. Similar to the volumes of The Elvis Presley Connection, this collection comprises 34 tracks showcasing Orbison-associated tracks performed by other artists; recorded before or after the fact. Is this worth picking up?
A selection of tracks celebrating Orbison’s years at Sun records opens the album, starting with Janis Martin’s rip-roaring version of Ooby-Dooby; A punchy recording that (arguably) improves on The Teen King’s version. As with every song that is featured several times, each artist puts their own spin on it.
The album then travels through Roy’s career, starting with Sun Records and working its way through his signature ballads and other popular compositions from his repertoire.
- Excellent sounding recordings from Sun Records labelmates including, Narvel Felts, Billy Lee Riley, Vernon Taylor and Jerry Lee Lewis. Each putting their own stamp onto the compositions.
- Johnny Cash (another Sun Labelmate) performing the rare demo version of You’re My Baby.
- Bobby Fuller’s unissued 1962 version of the Harold Jenkins (Conway Twitty) composition Rock House is an underrated gem.
- Vince Taylor’s take on I Like It sticks to Roy’s arrangement but delivers the song with a dash more rapid energy.
- Both Kris Jensen and Everly Brothers’ versions of Claudette, which demonstrate how Roy’s songwriting could be adapted to suit different singers.
- The original version of Today’s Teardrops, written and recorded by Gene Pitney. The sickly sweet production a stark contrast to Roy’s version.
- Bobby Vinton’s version of Crying, complete with nicely orchestrated backing and satisfying falsetto.
- Rikki Henderson and Bruce Channel’s same but different takes on the much-covered Dream Baby; The former an intriguing Embassy label recording from the UK.
- Del Shannon’s Pretty Woman, featuring hard-panned harmonies that are best heard on headphones.
- The unique Brazillian version of Only The Lonely, sung by Ronnie Cord.
The artwork may seem a little misleading at first, considering the artist pictured does not audibly feature at all on this compilation. The Connection series is a unique one, as it allows the listener to experience fresh perspectives on songs closely associated with one artist; With that artist always firmly in mind. Roy’s prescience feels present throughout the album, many performances owing a great deal to his personal songwriting or style.
As with many compilations of this type, the quality of the sound varies greatly. Aside from the Sun Recordings included here, many of these tracks originate from different sources; Some have survived better than others. Material derived from master tapes sound as fresh as when they were recorded, others are as good as is possible given the circumstances.
A Little Something Extra…
The accompanying 36-page booklet is interesting and useful. It makes a handy guide to refer to while listening to this collection as it contains information on each artist and track; written by music journalist Bill Dahl. There are also rare photos and illustrations.
The album does a great job of giving a small taster of the influence that Orbison has had on the music world. His songs have been covered countless times, and so the selection would have been difficult to narrow down. I can think of a couple of inclusions that I would have preferred, but the balance is good; The mix of recordings are varied enough for it to be interesting. The rarity of some of these records make it worth it too. Purists may wish to stick to the Orbison interpretations, but they might be missing out on an experience. For fans who love Orbison but want to change it up, this is a perfect way to do it.
- Janis Martin – Ooby Dooby
- Narvel Felts – Go, Go, Go
- Sid King & The Five Strings – Oobie-Doobie
- Bobby Fuller – Rock House
- Johnny Cash – You’re My Baby
- Billy Lee Riley – You’re My Baby
- Vernon Taylor – Sweet And Easy To Love
- Vince Taylor – I Like It
- Kris Jensen – Claudette
- Jimmy Gilmer & The Fireballs
- Don Duke – Only The Lonely
- Gene Pitney – Today’s Teardrops
- Paul Rich – Running Scared
- The Everly Brothers – Love Hurts
- Bobby Vinton – Crying
- Wanda Jackson – Candy Man
- Bruce Channel – Dream Baby (How Long Must I Dream)
- Joe Melson – Dance
- Waylon Jennings – The Crowd
- Les Carle – In Dreams
- Mike Redway – Blue Bayou
- Jerry Lee Lewis – Mean Woman Blues
- Willie Nelson – Pretty Paper
- Dalida – Je T’aime (It’s Over)
- Del Shannon – Oh, Pretty Woman
- The Velvets feat. Virgil Johnson – Lana
- The Schneider Sisters – Ooby Dooby
- Ken Cook – Problem Child
- Jerry Lee Lewis – Down The Line (Go Go Go)
- Terry Wayne & The Dukes – Rock House
- The Everly Brothers – Claudette
- Ronnie Cord – Only The Lonely
- Ray Ellis & His Orchestra – Crying (Instrumental)
- Rikki Henderson – Dream Baby (How Long Must I Dream)