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Archive for June 12th, 2014

Review: Roy Orbison, “Mystery Girl: 25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition”

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Roy Orbison - Mystery Girl DeluxeRoy Orbison never intended Mystery Girl to be an epitaph.  Yet The Big O never had the chance to enjoy the overwhelming success of the 1989 album, as he passed away almost two months to the day prior to its release.  Still, as far as epitaphs go, Mystery Girl was – and is – a stunner, a parting gift from one of the most distinctive and resonant voices in rock and roll.  Roy’s Boys, the company formed by Orbison’s sons, and Legacy Recordings have teamed for a 25th anniversary reissue of Orbison’s grand farewell, and the CD/DVD set adds a wealth of never-before-heard or seen material to what was already a rich experience.

Mystery Girl featured Orbison with a little help from his friends – and what friends they were, including fellow Traveling Wilburys Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty and George Harrison, plus Bono, The Edge, T-Bone Burnett, The Heartbreakers, and Elvis Costello.  There’s such vibrancy to the original album’s ten tracks that it’s almost impossible to believe that Orbison didn’t live love enough to see their release.   The centerpiece, of course, is its opening track and biggest hit, “You Got It.”  Orbison threw his heart and soul into the sublimely, deceptively simple Wilbury-style composition with a hook to die for and plenty of room for his trademark full-throated vocal attack.  It’s a remarkable piece of pure pop songcraft from producer Jeff Lynne, and songwriters Lynne, Tom Petty and Orbison.  “You Got It” is one of three tracks benefiting from former ELO frontman Lynne’s production.  While it sounds very much of a specific time, it doesn’t sound at all “dated” as many other LPs of the era, relying on synthesizers and electronic textures, now do.

“California Blue” likewise emanated from the Lynne/Petty/Orbison team.  Though it has an easygoing shuffle reminiscent of “You Got It,” it also calls to mind Orbison’s other famous “blue” song, “Blue Bayou.”  Here, Orbison is “doing all I can to get back to you,” but the despair of being away from his loved one is also tempered with a faint ray of hope and Orbison’s steely determination (“One sunny day I’ll get back again/Somehow, someway/But I don’t know when…”)  ELO collaborator Louis Clark’s strings add to the rather beautiful anguish.  Often it seemed as if Orbison drew on all of the tragedies he had survived, pouring his grief into his music.  But there was also a sense of hope and liberation in the survivor’s powerful voice.  Lynne also produced “A Love So Beautiful” which he co-wrote with Roy.  The singer brought his emotional vibrato to the dramatic, rueful ballad, which was embellished with acoustic guitar from George Harrison.

T Bone Burnett was at the helm of “All I Can Do is Dream You,” Billy Burnette and David Malloy’s taut little rocker with a virile lead vocal.  T Bone joined with his fellow Coward Brother, Elvis Costello, to produce Costello’s majestic “The Comedians,” a wonderfully withering, wordy ballad with a martial beat provided by Keltner.  It’s one of the richest tracks on the album thanks to Costello’s pitch-perfect evocation of the classic Orbison style with his own signatures lyrical flourishes.  Like Costello, Bono seized the opportunity to write a “Roy Orbison song.”  The album’s title derives from the dark “She’s a Mystery to Me,” penned by Bono and The Edge, produced by Bono, and featuring Benmont Tench and Howie Epstein of The Heartbreakers with studio veteran drummer Jim Keltner.

The ballad “In the Real World,” from the Richard Kerr/Will Jennings team (“Looks Like We Made It,” “I’ll Never Love This Way Again”) and co-producer Mike Campbell of The Heartbreakers, returns to the theme of dreams that play such a key role in Orbison’s early career.  Orbison’s tender, fragile vocal rests in the upward reaches of his range.  Campbell is the most represented producer on the set, working with Roy on four tracks.   (Barbara Orbison joined them to produce “In the Real World.”)  “Windsurfer” from the classic “Oh, Pretty Woman” team of Orbison and Bill Dees is a breezy tune with a mordant twist; the production is in the sonic spirit of the Lynne-produced tracks, and Jeff even joins in on background vocals with Rick Vito supplying Harrison-esque slide guitar lines. There was likely more than a flash of paternal pride when Orbison recorded “The Only One,” co-written by his son Wesley.  The biting track is bolstered by presence of the Memphis Horns arranged by Stax great Steve Cropper. Orbison and Campbell teamed with more surprising compatriots, the hitmaking team of Diane Warren and Albert Hammond, for the pop ballad “Careless Heart” which closed the original Mystery Girl sequence.  It’s not in the overt power ballad mode one might have expected from Warren and Hammond, and the Heartbreakers keep the sound organic.

After the jump: what will you find on the deluxe CD/DVD edition? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

June 12, 2014 at 12:39

Sign of the Times: “Look For A Star” Collects Early Songs of Tony Hatch

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Tony Hatch - Look for a StarEncouraged by his publisher to pen a song for a Norman Wisdom film in pre-production, teenager Tony Hatch wrote “Follow a Star.”  Though the beloved British comedian passed on it, the tune found its way into a B-movie called Circus of Horrors with a new title: “Look for a Star.”  The same week in June 1960, four recordings of the pretty little tune entered the Billboard Hot 100 across the pond.  Dean Hawley reached No. 29, Billy Vaughn made it to No. 19, Garry Miles hit No. 16, and the original by Garry Mills peaked at No. 26.  Two of those recordings, by Mills and Vaughn, feature on the él label’s first-ever anthology of the early recordings of Tony Hatch, future hitmaker for Petula Clark, The Searchers, Scott Walker, Jackie Trent and so many others .

Titled after his first hit record, Look for a Star presents 36 cuts (some impossibly rare) released between 1959 and 1962 including all 22 of the single sides recorded by Hatch for Pye and Top Rank during that period.   Look for a Star has arrived almost simultaneously with Ace’s Colour My World: The Songs of Tony Hatch which spans 1960-1974; as such, it’s an ideal companion and prologue.  You won’t hear “Downtown,” “I Know a Place” or “Sugar and Spice” here.  What you will hear is the composer-arranger developing his own sound from the various strands that were occupying the Brit and American pop scenes.    This is an ideal companion to él’s previous sets chronicling the early, formative songs of Burt Bacharach, a composer to whom Hatch has frequently been compared.

A prime, early influence on Tony Hatch – often writing under the nom de plume Mark Anthony – was the U.S. Brill Building sound.  You’ll hear more than a trace of Goffin and King or Mann and Weil in Julie Grant’s debut single “Somebody Tell Him.”  (Hatch helmed 15 singles for Grant including the supremely melancholy “Lonely without You” which is featured on the Ace compilation.)  He even produced a recording of Barry Mann and Howard Greenfield’s teen-themed “Warpaint,” which Mann had introduced in 1960, for The Brook Brothers.  The arrangement of “Warpaint” improved on the original, with added urgency and a bigger sound; Hatch was already proving adept at adapting youthful rock-and-roll to his widescreen orchestral sensibility.  One of the most enjoyable tracks here is another teen opus, “Tell-Tale,” recorded by Nashville’s Anita Kerr in multi-tracked fashion as the one-girl girl group Anita and th’ So-and-So’s.  Hatch had recorded it himself in the U.K. with The Brook Brothers.

There’s more of an appropriately European flavor on Danny Davis’ buoyant “Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day,” and solid pop offerings from Jimmy Justice (“When Love Has Left You”) and Mark Wynter (the square but pretty, slightly country ballad “Please Come Back to Me” which backed Wynter’s Hatch arrangement of the Jimmy Clanton hit “Venus in Blue Jeans”).  Throughout his career, Hatch wrote and/or recorded a number of novelty songs; an early example here is “Summer Snow” for the Scottish, kilt-wearing teen singing star Jackie Dennis.  Then there’s The Mike Sammes Singers’ “Stork Talk,” a bouncy movie theme from 1962.   The future Engelbert Humperdinck, under his real name Gerry Dorsey, is hardly identifiable on “Crazy Bells,” often identified as Hatch’s first pop composition.  (Many of these tracks were arranged by Johnny Douglas or Bob Leaper; in the future, Hatch would orchestrate his own material.)  The most atypical song on Look for a Star is the acoustic folk ballad “Messing About on the River,” a hit single in 1962 for Josh MacRae.

After the jump, we have plenty more on Look for a Star including the complete track listing with order links! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

June 12, 2014 at 10:33

Posted in Compilations, News, Reviews, Tony Hatch

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