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 only, Orbison tore and growled though his complete canon with a force and passion that was as unexpected as it was transformative and essential. Orbison is one cool cat and the only human being that should ever be allowed to wear sunglasses at night. Breathtaking.
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 … more
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