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Roy Orbison

Mystery Girl Deluxe – 2014 (Sony Legacy)

Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman

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CDs by Roy Orbison

When originally released in 1989, "Mystery Girl" was the culmination of a particularly prolific period Roy Orbison had enjoyed since the mid '80s. Finally recognized as the enduring idol he had become, he was embraced by the rock elite, standing on equal footing beside Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne, with whom he shared star billing in the Traveling Wilburys. Elvis Costello and U2 were among those writing songs with him and for him, and the aforementioned musicians seemed only too happy to abandon their place in the spotlight in order to serve in his backing band.

In contrast, immediately after his glory years in the '50s and '60s, Orbison had become little more than a novelty performer on the oldies circuit, his soaring vocal relegated to occasional airings on classic rock radio stations and the status of little more than a historical footnote. But when he made the decision to revisit his roots, first with "Class of '55," a reunion with fellow Sun Records alumni Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins, and later, via a recut version of his own greatest hits, Orbison's comeback began in full gear. At that point, it would have been easy for him to simply capitalize on his renewed fortunes by phoning in a collection of covers or opting for a novelty album, but, instead, he chose to make his masterpiece, a set of songs that rank among the best of his career and sung with a sweeping, surging conviction that never sounded so triumphant. The results - "You Got It," "She's A Mystery To Me" and "The Comedians"- rank among the most gripping songs of his career, making "Mystery Girl" not only his final hurrah, but a high benchmark as well.

It's a credit to Orbison's genius that even when those rich arrangements are stripped away on the various unreleased outtakes and demos that augment "Mystery Girl" in this new, expanded edition, that extraordinary voice is still the singular element that commands attention. Likewise, a behind the scenes documentary that follows the recording of "The Way of Love," a song previously omitted from the original album, offers further fascination. Inevitably though, it's the brilliance and commitment of the man himself that makes "Mystery Girl" such a treasure. Twenty-five years later, it remains a testament to one of music's most affecting artists.