Just another testament to the fact that Roy Orbison was the greatest rock singer that ever lived. Shelved for 46 years, One of the Lonely Ones was discovered by Orbison’s surviving sons, known professionally as Roy’s Boys, when they were researching tapes for the new 13 album box set, The MGM Years: 1965-73. Recorded in 1969, the album was therapy for Orbison, who had lost two young sons the year before when a fire destroyed his Nashville home. Under contract to MGM at the time, the singer had committed to deliver an astounding 42 sides a year. After the tragedy, he went into exile when he was scheduled to be promoting his then current album, Roy Orbison‘s Many Moods. Because it disrupted his schedule, the company shelved One of the Lonely Ones, and it has remained unreleased until now.
Orbison lets you know right away who you’re messing with, opening with a version of Rogers and Hammerstein’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone” that should put that one on the shelf for all times. Orbison chose to record it as a tribute to friends and tourmates Gerry and the Pacemakers(“Ferry Cross the Mersey” and “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying.”) Gerry’s vocals on their ’63 version sounds like a hoarse goat compared to Orbison’s version here in ’69. And to drive more nails into the Pacemaker coffin, Roy’s Boys are at work on a music video of the cut.
“Sweet Memories” deserves a shelf of its own. It’s a gorgeous demonstration of Orbison’s power and range that would have charted well in ’69 and still soars alongside Roy’s greatest operatic efforts.
The title cut is an original, string-sweetened ballad apparently alluding to his wife’s Claudette’s death in a motorcycle accident in ’66. The song shows that he’s trying to work his way out of his depression: “Everyone has lost someone the way that I lost you,” Orbison moans, declaring that he’s “sick, tired, uninspired and would rather be deaf and dumb than to be what I’ve become.”
“Laurie” could have been a Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons side, a falsetto teen beat piece of fluff save for Orbison’s celestial vocalizing.
“Give Up” sounds like a Ricky Nelson song crafted for the teen market. Tip-toeing along to a Buddy Holly beat, with a Beatle chorus of “Yeah-yeah-yeahs, in anybody else’s hands you’d label it bubblegum, but Orbison’s magnificent voice takes anything he does to a higher level.
Orbison finishes with a bang as well. Don Gibson’s “I Will Always” almost stayed shelved, hidden on a reel with several other takes, only discovered when his sons were sifting through hours of tapes of retakes when they found this one, recorded on the first run though. Once again, Orbison delivers a performance that’d make any would-be competitor gnash his teeth with envy and slink off into obscurity. It’s rather low key for Orbison, but his phrasing and tone on this one, as well as the rest of the offerings here, make it something you’ll keep going back to, marveling at how easy he makes magnificence sound.