One of the great voices in rock ‘n’ roll, and any genre really, Texas’ own Roy Orbison will be seeing a bit of a revival this holiday season.
The Vernon-born Orbison died in 1988 just as he was seeing a resurgence of interest in the singer who had 22 songs on the Top 40 between 1960 and 1964. Known for his lush, operatic vocal style, Orbison was known for his dramatic ballad style, but he had several rockabilly hits as well. He was also a hell of a guitar player.
Willie Nelson wrote Pretty Paper in 1963 after seeing a man with no legs selling paper and pencils in front of Leonard’s Department Store in Fort Worth. The man, later identified by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram as Frankie Brierton of Santo, Texas, was hawking his offerings to passersby, calling out “Pretty paper!,” referring to holiday wrapping paper.
Roy Orbison recorded the song and made it a hit and many others have followed. Now, Orbison’s version is back, recorded as a last-minute addition for A Love So Beautiful: Roy Orbison With the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, according to the record company.
Utilizing Orbison’s original 1963 vocal track, the Royal Philharmonic laid down instrumentation for the holiday standard written by Nelson before he became famous in his own right. The song joins 15 other Orbison classics tracks that comprise the album. Due out November 3, A Love So Beautiful is to be released through Sony Music’s Legacy Recordings in partnership with Roy’s Boys LLC, the Nashville-based company founded by the late icon’s sons to administer their father’s catalog and safeguard his legacy. Available on CD, vinyl LP and digital formats, this album infuses some Orbison classics such as “Oh, Pretty Woman,” “Crying” and “Only the Lonely,” with the Royal Philharmonic. Roy’s sons Wesley (guitar), Roy Jr. (guitar) and Alex (drums) provided instrumental backing on selected tracks, along with 10-month-old grandson Roy III (guitar, tambourine).
When made aware of the new recording of his “Pretty Paper,” Nelson commented, “Back in 1963, right after I wrote it, I brought the song to Fred Foster, the head of Monument Records, the label I was with at the time. He really liked it and said ‘It’s perfect for Roy Orbison.’ I was more than ok with that idea since I had wanted my tunes to be covered by big stars and Roy was certainly that. Fred told me he was going to play the song over the phone for Roy who was in London at the time and that’s exactly what happened. I was glad that he liked ‘Pretty Paper’ enough to record it over there. It’s kind of amazing that the same song by the same great artist, recorded again in London 54 years later, is now having a second life.”
Ever the trouper, Orbison, suffering from a 102 degree fever at the time, entered Pye Studios there and put down the vocal track for the original record that would be released in November of 1963, a mere month after Nelson had written the song. It became a holiday classic and reached No. 15 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No.10 on the Adult Contemporary chart. Nelson recorded his own version the following year.
Another addition to A Love So Beautiful: Roy Orbison with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is an alternate version of “I Drove All Night” that features a virtual collaboration between Roy and British modern country duo Ward Thomas. Consisting of 23-year old twin sisters Catherine and Lizzy Ward Thomas, the duo has been dubbed “Britain’s first country stars,” and their 2016 sophomore album Cartwheels became a UK #1 hit. Their vocal performance enriches the song that was originally recorded by Orbison in 1987 and covered by Cyndi Lauper in 1989.
A Love So Beautiful was produced by Don Reedman and Nick Patrick, who were also at the helm for the hugely successful albums If I Can Dream: Elvis Presley with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and The Wonder of You: Elvis Presley with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The orchestral component was recorded at Abbey Road Studios, Studio 2, in London (a mere 1.5 miles from where Roy’s “Pretty Paper” vocal track was first recorded), while Roy’s sons recorded their parts in Nashville at Black River Studios, which was previously owned by their father.
Also out this fall (release date: October 17; Center Street/Hachette) is the first ever estate-sanctioned Roy Orbison book, The Authorized Roy Orbison. Filled with over 300 photographs, many never before seen, gathered from across the globe and uncovered from deep within the Orbison Vault, The Authorized Roy Orbison shows Roy as a young child and follows him all the way through to the peak of his stardom and up to his tragic end. The book was written by Wesley, Roy Jr. and Alex Orbison – Roy’s Boys – with the help of Jeff Slate,
The album will be highlighted as part of An Evening of Orbison at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles on October 17, where Roy’s three sons Alex, Wesley and Roy Jr. will be discussing the making of A Love So Beautiful as well as The Authorized Roy Orbison.
A Love So Beautiful: Roy Orbison with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is available to pre-order on CD, vinyl, and digitally: https://orbison.lnk.to/ALSB
A Love So Beautiful: Roy Orbison with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra track list:
1) In Dreams
3) I’m Hurtin’
4) Oh, Pretty Woman*
5) It’s Over
6) Dream Baby +
7) Blue Angel
8) Love Hurts
10) Mean Woman Blues+
11) Only the Lonely (Know The Way I Feel)
12) Running Scared
13) I Drove All Night**
14) You Got It
15) A Love So Beautiful**
16) Pretty Paper
17) I Drove All Night** featuring Ward Thomas
*featuring Alex Orbison- drums; Wesley & Roy Jr.- guitars; Roy III- guitar, tambourine
+featuring Alex Orbison- drums; Roy Orbison Jr. – guitar
**featuring Alex Orbison- drums