Roy Orbison, Sun Recordings

John Morthland

By John Morthland

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Roy Orbison always spoke poorly of his Sun sides and his whole experience with the label, but in truth he had little reason to be ashamed of the music he made there. True, Sam Phillips was trying to make a rockabilly out of him when he wanted to be the world's greatest balladeer. He did not get his wish until after leaving Sun — but while there, he was certainly no slouch as a rockabilly cat. His first single, "Ooby Dooby" b/w "Go! Go! Go!," was a certifiable bopper, irresistibly raw and manic, and tracks like "Domino" came close to maintaining the pace. The medium-tempo ballad "Devil Doll," meanwhile, was a harbinger of the Orbison to come, both in sound and temperament. And his longing reading of "Tryin 'to Get to You" was in a league with Elvis 'own version no matter how much Roy claimed he was uncomfortable with rhythm and blues. Sure, novelties like "Chicken Hearted," which increasingly became his fate at Sun, did not serve him well. But all things considered, these 23 sides offer some auspicious insights into the future of a bona fide original, and provide just plain good-rocking listening as well.