Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Roy Orbison's 'Mystery Girl' revisited out now

This week, Roy Orbison fans can relive the magic that was the rock 'n' roll legend's final solo album Mystery Girl with a fine new expanded 25th Anniversary edition via Legacy Recordings/Roy's Boys.

When I first got the CD upon its original release, I distinctly recall putting the haunting Bono & Edge-penned "She's a Mystery To Me" on repeat.

Re-listening to the whole thing again after several years away, it is still captivating, as it the hit single "You Got It," yearning "In the Real World," rockabilly-tinged "(All I Can Do Is) Dream You," "The Only One" and pretty much everything else.

"Unraveled,” a new documentary about Mystery Girl's genesis, is the centerpiece of the new edition's DVD content. It also features four official music videos and four new ones incorporating found footage (an alternate version of the Bono-produced "She's a Mystery To Me," directed by David Fincher, is intriguing). Eight bonus audio CD tracks comprise studio and work tape demos with either spare arrangements, unfinished lyrics or studio chatter. Additionally, there are extensive liner notes, with rare photos, lyrics and an informative essay. 

Several principals involved in making the original 1989 CD (co-producers Jeff Lynne and Mike Campbell, Tom Petty, Steve Cropper, Jim Keltner, Billy Burnette and others) shed fascinating new light on the process in new “Unraveled" interviews. 

Bono and Roy Orbison's late wife/manager Barbara also provide insight in old clips. Campbell's home garage served as a studio and the archival footage (briefly with fellow Travelling Wilbury band mate George Harrison) is often quite humorous.

Although most of the Mystery Girl songs are described in the film, Elvis Costello's T Bone Burnett-produced "The Comedians" was not. Apparently, that will be part of another future project.
courtesy Legacy/Roy's Boys Records
After the credits roll, an addendum section details how the brothers crafted previously unreleased track "The Way Is Love" into a loving tribute to their father. Longtime family friend John Carter Cash (pictured right, standing, with the Orbisons seated) produced it at Johnny Cash's Cabin studio in Hendersonville, Tenn. last year and also comments within the segments.

The 64-minute film had a formal West Coast screening last night during Reel to Reel, a special program at the Grammy Museum's Clive Davis Theater in Los Angeles. Orbison's sons Roy Jr., Alex and Wesley, who shepherded the project, participated in a panel discussion. 

During the revelatory Q&A (following a similar event the day before in Nashville), Roy Jr. and his siblings talked about the influence of his father's bolero sound on acts like Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix; how the DVD's visual footage comprised "everything and the kitchen sink"; hinted that a long-gestating Roy Orbison biopic delayed by record company politics might finally be in the works and described "new" track "Love" they played on languishing on a cassette in an old open boom box exposed to the elements.

They recalled their father's sense of humor, how he shared a love for old Monty Python comedy skits (Eric Idle was in the theater audience Tuesday) with Lynne and Harrison and addressed the origin of the signature dark sunglasses.

Roy and Alex touched upon their mother's guiding hand in Orbison's career (back in the early '80s, she said "I'll do the dirty work in dealing with promoters" and other business) and that Barbara suggested the 1988 Cinemax TV concert broadcast (later titled "Black and White Night") not be shown in color. Alex told a humorous anecdote about chatting with Tom Waits at the show as well as Billy Idol stealing his seat. This reissue project was in the works when Barbara died in '11.

All told, I'd highly recommend the excellent 2014 edition Mystery Girl to new and old fans - even those who already own the original.

The Grammy Museum is located at LA Live, 800 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles.
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