For the Lonely: Eighteen Greatest Hits
The Unearthly Voice
Inducting Roy Orbison (1936–1988) into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, Bruce Springsteen contrasted the exuberance of early rock with the tender musings of one shy bespectacled kid. "Roy's ballads were always the best when you were alone and in the dark. Because they addressed the underside of pop romance. They were scary. His voice was unearthly."
Of all the figures on the scene during the first decade of rock, the shy, Texas-born Orbison was the one focusing on the cold hours after the sock hop, when the ardent young lover found himself alone, contemplating that unrequited romance. "You walked away, the pain began, I knew I'd never love again," Orbison sings on "I'm Hurtin'," one of the more symphonic of his singles. Other late-night confessions are, of course, more familiar: the dejected "Blue Bayou," perhaps the most achingly vulnerable of Orbison hits; the perpetual sigh that is "In Dreams"; the worshipful "Oh, Pretty Woman." These are not just craftily produced showcases for a trembling voice that ranged three octaves and featured a wondrously controlled falsetto—they're also maps to a world of pent-up longing.
As happened with many of his contemporaries, Orbison's primary singles have been reissued in countless configurations—there are so many hits albums featuring the same set of songs, you might expect a sticker on the outside claiming "Available for the first time in this sequence!" Of them, For the Lonely offers clean sound quality, with none of the gimmicky "enhancements" that often mar recordings from the 1950s and '60s.
Released: 1988, Rhino
Key Tracks: "Only the Lonely," "Running Scared," "Dream Baby," "Blue Bayou," "Oh, Pretty Woman."
Catalog Choice: Authorized Bootleg Collection (4 CDs); Mystery Girl
Next Stop: Eddie Cochran: Somethin' Else! The Fine Lookin' Hits Of
After That: Chris Isaak: Heart Shaped World
Book Pages: 564–565