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Flawed but fine endeavour
on 13 April 2005
When I notice in the track list entries such as "Oh, Pretty Woman (Original single version) (Mono)" and later "Oh, Pretty Woman (Stereo) ('Come With Me' Lyric)", I feel that the compiler is exactly the kind of obsessive completist I want to be responsible for anthologies such as this one.
There is a fairly simple concept behind this 1998 UK collection: all 24 of the original Monument label singles, with the A-sides in chronological order on disc 1 and their B-sides on disc 2. A table in the booklet lists the highest chart positions and dates of chart entry where relevant, and there are cover shots of some of the record labels and sleeves.
It isn't as simple as that, of course, and when it all unravels the sleeve information says nothing. All is well for the first 14 tracks, with the corresponding B-sides in order on the second disc, though track 14, Pretty Paper/Beautiful Dreamer, was a US-only release (not mentioned in the liner notes).
Borne On The Wind and its B-side, What'd I Say, complicate matters slightly by being released in the UK but not in the USA, but the notes cope with this. The collection also supplies the original mono variant of another single, (Say) You're My Girl, because it includes Roy Orbison saying "Mercy!" at the end, as is right and proper, except that it appears to have been transcribed from a well-worn vinyl single and has some distortion. All the other A-sides are presented in stereo, and the single version of Oh, Pretty Woman bizarrely bursts into stereo on the very final note. CD2 ends with a German-language single comprising two of his hit songs.
In 1965, Roy Orbison was disappointed with the commercial failure of Goodnight, and, blaming Monument Records, moved to MGM. Monument continued to release singles, but these were old recordings, either previously unreleased, like (Say) You're My Girl, Let The Good Times Roll and Sleepy Hollow, or album tracks like Lana, House Without Windows and Summersong (the B-side of the belated UK single of Pretty Paper, a Willie Nelson Christmas song which had been a festive US hit the year before). As these did not chart, it isn't possible to tell the year of origin from the CD, or that the A/B side parallels between the 2 CDs has gone awry for a few tracks.
In 1976, having run out of hits with MGM and after a brief spell with Mercury, Roy Orbison returned to Monument and recorded the LP Regeneration, from which three singles were taken. All of the 6 tracks involved are included, but as none charted there is no mention as to what they are, and no indication of a ten-year gap. The problem is mostly not with the compilation, which is more comprehensive than the notes claim, but with inadequate information.
Most of side one was very familiar and stands up well, apart from some over-production and dated girlie choruses, but there were some pleasant surprises on side 2, including The Actress, a ballad which surely should have been an A-side, and a sturdy version of Mean Woman Blues.
Sound quality is good overall but on my copy at least a handful of the tracks suffer from some extraneous noise and distortion, notably on Crying, Falling and Candy Man. These faults are absent from the same tracks on the Definitive Collection CD, and rob this CD of a fourth star