With the current restoration of rockabillys on the C&W airwaves, and with the likes of Bruce Springsteen invoking his name and influence, there seems little reason for Roy Orbison to continue languishing in semiobscurity. Yet, while Orbison’s new Mercury LP improves considerably over his dismal output at MGM, he still hasn’t quite recovered the form that saw him go through nine Top Ten hits between 1961 and 1964.
There are two key problems with the LP, one involving Orbison, the other, producer Jerry Kennedy (whom Mercury’s flacks have prematurely taken to calling “legendary”). Problem number one is Orbison’s voice: Once a prodigious instrument, it now sounds shopworn, wobbly, a shadow of its former self. As a consequence, Still in Love suffers from the occasional uncertainty of Roy’s pitch and the absence of his unnerving falsetto, which climaxed such epic singles as “Only the Lonely” and “Crying.”
Problem number two is the lackluster treatment accorded most of the new cuts. Kennedy, on tracks like “Hung Up on You,” takes a stab at duplicating the bolero buildup that producer Fred Foster used to such telling effect during Roy’s Monument days. But the music lacks punch, with Orbison’s voice dominating the mix rather than being swept along on a tidal wave of sound. The results fall far short of the thundering theatrics that distinguished hits like “Running Scared.”
Finally, the album lacks any of the rock & roll that Roy once sang so well; there’s no attempt to re-create the Orbison style on “Oh, Pretty Woman.” Although some of Kennedy’s concepts seem inspired — the choice of “Pledging My Love” as the opening cut, for example — Orbison’s execution and Kennedy’s production consistently miss the mark. They’re close, though.