I use to trade bootleg cassettes, and hearing this pair of 1965 European concert recordings of Roy Orbison shows was a deja vu' of the bootleggin' experience. Much of the fun in collecting bootleg recordings is in hearing the different spins artists would put on their best known songs from one tour to the next, or on alternate takes in the studio. Unfortunately many of these recordings are, of course, sub par, but it doesn't take long to start seeing the promise beyond the spit and polish of immaculate recordings. Somewhere along the way you start actually valuing the realism only reality can afford. What you never actually value however, is hearing the same faux pas over and over, so bootlegs are frequently a one-listen-only endeavor.
Which makes this a curious release by Roy Orbison. The tapes themselves are not free of defect. The occasional electronic crackling and warbling of the tape reveals just how far live concert recordings had to go in 1965. The dynamic range of the equipment is noticably limited as well, and the mix could benefit from an enhancement of the background vocals. At times, especially on the Paris tracks, the instruments coalesce into a hopeless muddle. Fortunately this isn't the case with the one unique track from the Paris show, 'Blue Bayou'. Orbison's vocals, of course, are the prime attraction, and they are well represented in both concerts. The master tapes have been remastered, so this is as good as it's ever going to get.
This relatively short collection gives one an appreciation of just how accomplished Orbison was at this point in his career. He performs only one cover, that being a venerable rendition of Ray Charles' 'What'd I Say'. The other eight tracks from the Holland show include two number one hits ('Running Scared', and 'Oh, Pretty Woman'), two number two hits ('Crying' and 'Only the Lonely'), and three other Top Ten numbers ('Dream Baby, #4, 'It's Over', #9, and 'Mean Woman Blues', #5). 'Blue Bayou', featured only in the Paris show, hit number twenty-nine for Orbison in 1963. All of these songs charted between 1960 and 1965. He was nursing another number two hit, 'Goodnight', which appropriately closes out the concert, when the show was recorded in March of 1965. Clearly, Orbison was holding his own with the more celebrated acts of his day, The Beatles and The Stones.
The liner notes are fairly good for a "bargain-bin" disc (I paid only 98 cents for my brand-new in-the-shrinkwrap copy), featuring background information on the concerts, detailed information on each track, and several photographs of Roy with fans from the era. Other aspects of the production speak to its near-bootleg quality besides the price: the bonus tracks are actually labeled as "authorized bootleg recordings" (which sounds like an oxymoron to me...), and instead of "remastered" the back cover says the tracks have been "remasted". Maybe Roy did that himself while he was sailing to Holland!
It's a fun listen for avid fans and the curious at heart.