Roy Orbison: One of the Lonely Ones

RoyOrbison_OneOfTheLonelyOnesMysteriously unreleased 1969 album has several treasures

With an artist of Roy Orbison’s stature, it’s hard to imagine how a fully finished album could simply slip through the cracks of a major label’s release machinery. But such is the case for this 1969 set, which sat in the vaults unheard by the public for nearly fifty years. Released in conjunction with an exhaustive 13-disc box set of Orbison’s MGM albums and singles, one might get the impression that his output was simply too much for the market to handle, but a closer look at this period suggests MGM was losing faith in Orbison’s commercial potential. At the time this album was shelved, 1967’s Cry Softly for the Lonely One had failed to chart, its title single had failed to crack the Top 40, and 1968 found Orbison retreating from the road while he recovered from the death of his two oldest sons.

By early 1969 Orbison was back in the studio, recording the material that would become this unissued album. He paused the sessions for a Spring tour, and reconvened in Summer to finish an album that should have been released in November. And then… nothing. MGM sat on the album, and waited until the next year to release the covers set, Hank Williams the Roy Orbison Way. MGM whiffed again the same year by failing to release The Big O in the US, adding to the picture of a label that no longer believed in its artist. But as both the box set and this newly released album confirm, Orbison’s MGM catalog is filled with excellent, if not always hit single material. In light of the quality, Orbison’s contention that his releases weren’t promoted properly (or, in several cases, actually released) weighs heavily.

One of the Lonely Ones combines catchy original material (co-written with Bill Dees), with covers of Rodgers and Hammerstein, Mickey Newbury and Don Gibson. Like many of Orbison’s MGM albums, there are songs that might have been hits, just not in the year they were released. The wounded falsetto of “Laurie” would have done well in 1963-4, but was out of time for 1969. The personal context in which Orbison sang the title track elevates its drama, and with Elvis having charted “If I Can Dream,” one is left to wonder how this would have fared as a single. Same for “Give Up,” which could have found room on the country chart. This is among the better albums Orbison’s recorded for MGM, and a welcome addition to his legacy. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

Roy Orbison’s Home Page

Tags: , , ,

Comments are closed.