The other night a buddy of mine called raving about a disc he had picked up a few days earlier. I had seen Roy Orbison's "Black & White Night" disc in the rack at my local music store for many years but for some strange reason never paid much attention to it. It turns out that was a huge mistake. My friend was right. "Black & White Night" is a real keeper!
According to the liner notes, during his long and highly successful career Roy Orbison had never recorded a "live" album. About a year before Roy's untimely death in December 1988 a few of his "admirers" gathered together to back Roy Orbison in a memorable "live" performance. This was no ordinary band. The group included Bruce Springsteen, Bonnie Raitt, Elvis Costello, Tom Waits, T Bone Burnett, k.d. lang, J.D. Souther, Jackson Browne and Jennifer Warnes. And let me be very clear about this. This was not a case of a group of all-stars coming together to prop up an aging rocker who had little left in the tank. Not at all. For Roy Orbison sparkled that night as did just about everyone who was involved in this project. There is absolutely no doubt that "Black &White Night" was a labor of love for all of these perfomers.
Included among the 17 tracks on "Black & White Night" is the very first tune that Roy Orbison ever wrote, something called " Go, Go, Go (Down The Line)" I had never heard that one before and I enjoyed it immensely. You will also get a chance to sample Roy's first big hit from his days at Sun Records. The rockabilly song "Ooby Dooby" was a huge hit for Roy in the summer of 1956 and the band seemed to have a grand time playing this one. Of course Roy Orbison's "salad" days were his years at Monument Records in the early 1960's. "Black & White Night" includes a dozen of those memorable hits including "Only The Lonely ", "Running Scared", "Uptown" and one of my personal favorites "It's Over" which was a huge hit in the spring of 1964. Meanwhile, Roy certainly managed to erase any doubts about his vocal prowess with his stunning performance of "Crying". That one is sure to send chills up and down your spine. Roy sounds every bit as good as he did when the song was first recorded more than a quarter century earlier."Black & White Night" closes with an extended version of the Orbison classic "Oh, Pretty Woman" where the musicians get a chance to show off as well. Phenomenal!
"Roy Orbison: Black & White Night" is a great disc that can be enjoyed by both long-time Orbison fans and by younger listeners looking to sample the work of a legendary artist. For my money "Black & White Night" should be added to any list of "essential" recordings of American popular music. Very highly recommended!
Seven superstars paying tribute to a legend - usually these affairs are more reminiscent of a punch-drunk heavyweight rope-a-doping for one last payday as he gamely sings into a dead microphone while his more famous mates gently prop up their mentor. Well, on Black and White Night Roy Orbison had a different idea - taking everyone to school and making it our privilege to sit in on the lesson. With his multiple octave range on full display and his all-star band in support-mode … more
I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on amazon.com. I never could … more
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All-star tribute events can take on a patronizing air as in-the-spotlight performers with shaky staying power prop up legends past their prime, displaying equal parts noble largesse and unseemly smugness. With Black and White Night, however, one gets the sense that the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, k.d. lang, and Bonnie Raitt are in total awe of the man of the night, and for good reason. Orbison's vocal range circa 1987 is nearly a match for his 1960s prime, when he was rock's greatest balladeer. This 2000 remastered reissue adds only one track to the original 1989 concert LP ("Claudette"); the program leans almost entirely on Orbison's early hits, adding Costello's "The Comedians," a highlight from his then-new (and winning) comeback effort, Mystery Girl. Meanwhile, music director T Bone Burnett adorns a crack core group (built around Elvis Presley's old combo) with guest stars who know their roles--and are only too happy to enjoy their close proximity to a legendary performer in what would prove to be his twilight. --Steven Stolder