Roy Orbison – The Orbison Way

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  • Only the second copy to ever hit the site and boy is it KILLER — Triple Plus (A+++) or very close to it throughout
  • If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this Tubey Magical record for you 
  • “The band-backed stuff has a lean texture that’s a marvel of sonic conciseness, while the orchestra-accompanied sides allow Orbison to open up vocally as never before, casting him in an almost operatic setting…” – All Music

This ’60s LP has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern pressings cannot BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back.

Having done this for so long, we understand and appreciate that rich, full, solid, Tubey Magical sound is key to the presentation of this primarily vocal music. We rate these qualities higher than others we might be listening for (e.g., bass definition, soundstage, depth, etc.). The music is not so much about the details in the recording, but rather in trying to recreate a solid, palpable, real ROY ORBISON singing live in your listening room. The best copies have an uncanny way of doing just that.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of older recordings (this one is now 53 years old), I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but less than one out of 100 new records do, if our experience with the hundreds we’ve played can serve as a guide.

What outstanding sides such as these have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1965
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

What We’re Listening For on The Orbison Way

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to most LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

Three Key Qualities

Copies with rich lower mids did the best in our shootout, assuming they weren’t veiled or smeary of course. So many things can go wrong on a record! We know, we’ve heard them all.

Top end extension is critical to the sound of the best copies. Lots of old records (and new ones) have no real top end; consequently the studio or stage will be missing much of its natural ambience and space, and instruments will lack their full complement of harmonic information.

Tube smear is common to pressings from every era and this is no exception. The copies that tend to do the best in a shootout will have the least (or none), yet are full-bodied, tubey and rich.

Best Practices

If you have five or ten copies of a record and play them over and over against each other, the process itself teaches you what’s right and what’s wrong with the sound of the album. Once your ears are completely tuned to what the best pressings do well that the others do not do as well, using a few specific passages of music, it will quickly become obvious how well any given pressing reproduces those passages.

The process is simple enough. First you go deep into the sound. There you find something special, something you can’t find on most copies. Now, with the hard-won knowledge of precisely what to listen for, you are perfectly positioned to critique any and all pressings that come your way.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Crawling Back It Ain’t No Big Thing 
Time Changed Everything 
This Is My Land 
The Loner 
Maybe

Side Two

Breakin’ Up Is Breakin’ My Heart 
Go Away 
A New Star 
Never 
It Wasn’t Very Long Ago 
Why Hurt The One Who Loves You

AMG Review

On his second MGM album, Roy Orbison works alternately in an orchestral and a band setting (the latter with his new backing group the Candy Men), and offers two distinctly new wrinkles on his sound throughout this album, while guitarists Billy Sanford and John Rainey Adkins reveal themselves as powerful yet amazingly articulate players. The band-backed stuff has a lean texture that’s a marvel of sonic conciseness, while the orchestra-accompanied sides allow Orbison to open up vocally as never before, casting him in an almost operatic setting, in terms of emotional pitch, though the material itself is pure pop/rock with some elements of country-pop.