The Soul of Rock and Roll

Roy Orbison was a superhero of song. Unassuming in appearance, he became someone extraordinary when his weeping tenor took flight, rising from deep, dark places on anguished ballads like "Only the Lonely" and "Crying." Orbison rebuilt the stark balladry of Elvis Presley's "Heartbreak Hotel" as a jukebox opera house, expanded rock's arrangement limitations, and opened a door to Phil Spector and Freddie Mercury alike. This 107-track box captures Orbison's Fifties rockabilly beginnings on its first disc, where his energetic spurt at Sun Records gets eclipsed by unreleased demos that reveal tuneful talents primed to explode. The second disc sympathetically sequences his early-Sixties album tracks and B sides, yet more remarkable is how smoothly the third navigates from his triumphant '64 classic, "Oh, Pretty Woman," to his maligned Seventies output without quality plummet. The fourth disc documents his late-Eighties comeback, which justifiably lingered beyond his sudden 1988 passing. This is the only anthology that does justice to every stage of Orbison's career, not just the one lined with gold.