In rotation: Roy Orbison's 'The Monument Singles Collection: 1960-1964'
A series in Sunday Calendar about what Times writers & contributors are listening to right now...
But out of such sadness comes Roy Orbison to manifest our heartbreak, to engulf our sorrow in rose petals, to comfort us. “The Monument Singles Collection: 1960-1964” is an essential document, one that deserves a spot in what remains of your CD shelf — even if by now you’ve got many of these songs in triplicate. From age 23 to 28, young Texan Orbison released a flow of singles on Washington, D.C., label Monument Records that remains astounding a half-century later: “Running Scared,” “Only the Lonely,” “Crying,” “Blue Bayou,” “In Dreams,” “Oh, Pretty Woman,” “It’s Over,” and “Dream Baby” among them.
The Monument set compiles the A sides of 20 of these singles in superior, remastered monaural versions on Disc 1, and their B sides on the second, and includes a DVD containing a live German television performance from 1965. The first disc contains all the songs you love, aural Prozac that can calm a restless mind; Orbison had the voice of an angel, filled as it was with compassion, bountiful energy and space. It’s on the B sides that the surprises come, and they arrive quickly: the soft, humming tenor saxophone that punctuates “Pretty One,” the harmonica intro to “Candy Man,” as well as the uncharacteristically sassy, confident — and, OK, a little creepy — way in which he offers himself as a provider of sweetness. And “Leah,” of course, is the saddest song ever written.
The DVD captures the lush but subtle sound of seven musicians re-creating these songs: two electric guitarists (in addition to Orbison on his hollow-body), a pianist, a keyboard player, bassist and drummer. The singer wears all black, dons sunglasses, and hits every note. He looks into the camera but rarely smiles. Watch his fingers as he strums his guitar and fluidly frets the chords with an ease and grace that mirrors his voice. Here is the essence of smoothness, of calm, of heart.
“The Monument Singles Collection: 1960-1964”
— Randall Roberts