Album Review

Roy Orbison - Crying

Roy Orbison


Monument Records

Release Date: May 13th, 1962

Words by: Whaley Big Jesus
June 19th, 1962


Where to find:

Purchase: MP3 | vinyl | cd

By the time 1962 rolled around, Roy Orbison had established himself as one of the leading lights out of Nashville. He was a little left of Johnny Cash and a little right of Elvis. But it took Orbison a little while to realise this place within the musical landscape; his voice was reminiscent of the King's and his look presented nothing particularly new either. He toiled away under the guidance of Sam Phillips at Sun Studios, Memphis, for a few years and only minor hits were the result. It wasn't until he met songwriting partner Joe Melson, that things really began to fall into place for Roy. He moved to Monument Records in 1960 where the focus in the studio was centred around exploiting the quality and range of his voice. Orbison also made the key decision whilst at Monument, to insist that orchestral accompaniment be employed as part of his backing ensemble. From here Orbison and Melson penned hit tunes 'only the lonely' and 'running scared', and it became clear in terms of musical styling and success, that Roy Orbison had arrived.

As such, the album Crying was released amidst a swell of new found popularity and anticipation, and at least as far as the title track goes, it didn't disappoint – reaching number 2 on the billboard charts. 'Crying' is a slow burning lament. The instrumentation is initially sparse, allowing for Roy's voice to come shining through. We are then introduced to subtle layers that combine both strings and soulful backing vocals, and this all moves dynamically towards a great vocal hook. The true brilliance in this particular tune though, can be found in the slowly building crescendo throughout. There's a tension and constant elevation here both instrumentally and vocally, which only fully releases the pressure valve and the subsequent pay-off right near the end, and herein lies one of Roy's unique qualities. His voice had such a range that he could feasibly push it more and more throughout the course of an entire song. In other words, his voice allowed him to start right down low with the likes of John Cash or Nick Cave, and end up all the way up in the stratosphere with Robert Plant. And it's when he employs this approach on Crying that he is at his most effective – 'running scared' being another fine example.

Where this album falls down is in the way it often allows itself to simply cruise along in third gear. The simple, uninspired 50's pop structure and lyrical monotony overtakes the quality on tracks, 'she wears my ring', 'wedding day', and 'summer song'. As such, it becomes difficult at times to keep focus as a listener throughout these pleasant yet derived stretches that act almost as a safety net; as if Roy has strayed out in the scary, soul bearing waters on 'crying' and 'love hurts', and the only way to reign him back in is to sit him down in a familiar old arm chair. 'Forget the steady as she goes stuff Roy and just belt it out,' is what the Producer could've/should've said perhaps.

What we have here is at times brilliant and at times dull – another example of an album from the early 60's that doesn't stand up as a complete body of work. The singles are fantastic, original pieces, and at the time that was all that mattered. The long player was not the priority, and that notion is testament to the sound of this record as a whole.

Support Gaslight Records and the artists by looking for this record on vinyl or cd or MP3.