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Star studded vid of a great singer/lyricist
on October 17, 1999
When Springsteen wrote and created his Born To Run album he explained to critics that he wanted "to have an album with lyrics like Dylan, singing like Roy Orbison, and a sound like Phil Spector." If you're 25 or older and you can only give your children one snapshot of popular music, circa '60- '90, buy them a copy of this tape. Bonnie Raitt, Jennifer Warnes, k.d. lang, John David Souther, Jackson Brown and Steven Soules sing backing vocals. Elvis Costello, Tom Waits, Bruce Springsteen and T-Bone Burnett, among others,play instrumental second fiddles. And they all do it for The Man. Roy Orbison. The architect of the symphonic, Ravel-like love song. The singer of singers. Just weeks before he died he played a concert in Boston and the local critic said, (I paraphrase) "he repeated that last line, in his falsetto voice, over and over and over as if to say, 'I'm still here and can do it...anytime.'" The videotape is revelatory. Stephen Burton (gtr) shows, over and over again, why he is to studio musicians and especially to guitar players, an icon non-pareil. He is Chet Atkins, Django Reinhardt, Bucky Pizzarelli, all in one. The tape does a tidy review of Orbison's hits. More remarkable than the performance of those hits is the reverential looks and obvious excitment of Springsteen, Costello, lang, Raitt, Browne, etc. as they accompany him on his tour of transistor radio hits. Forget the Wilbury's. This is Roy's night. Deservedly. Roy knew how to constrain all that emotion behind his words until he was ready to release it. In the last moments of the tape Roy sings "Pretty Woman" and it opens up into a jam-for-all. Noteworthy is how Springsteen acquits himself in a mano a' mano guitar trade with Burton. First they trade twelve bar solos, then they raise the stakes and trade four bar exchanges. Springsteen shows that all those hours spent in his bedroom paid off, ("..well I got me a guitar and I learned how to make it talk...") not topping Burton but filing a tasty, even nasty, testament of his own licks and sources. Perhaps most easily, and unjustly, overlooked in a star studded vid like this is Elvis Costello who plays, no, contributes in a huge way, turns as a harp (harmonica) player, guitar player, singer and pianist. But instrumentally, Burton, Springsteen and Alex Tutt (long-time Orbison drummer) truly set themselves apart. And...It's a real hoot to see k.d. lang and Bonnie Raitt and Jennifer Warnes doing "steps" and singing "sha la la la" and "doo wah doo wah doo wah" and obviously loving it. It is a video to love. And that doesn't even begin to address Orbison's lyrics: "A candy colored clown they call the sandman; tiptoes to my room every night; just to sprinkle star dust and to whisper: "go to sleep, everything is alright." Dylan, Springsteen, Orbison, ..... Quick. Name three more lyricists of that stratum. Buy the tape. Re-learn what was good and true (men "do" cry") about popular music in the sixties and the seventies.