To the wealth of Roy Orbison anthologies add this ambitious two-disc overview that spans the artist's career from Sun to Virgin, with the indispensable Monument recordings naturally forming the heart of the collection. Less weighty than the four-CD box set The Legendary Roy Orbison
and more comprehensive than Rhino's excellent For the Lonely: 18 Greatest Hits, Essential
packs Disc 1 with the legendary recordings that earned Orbison his rightful place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, whereas the second disc offers a well-considered retrospective of the post-Monument years. Disc 2 leans heavily on the fine late-'80s Virgin recordings, which teamed Orbison with producers Jeff Lynne and Bono (the latter being the one who seemed to understand Orbison best at the time) while adding interesting tidbits from the underappreciated MGM years. Also included are a couple of selections from the star-studded "Black & White Night Live" extravaganza, when Bruce Springsteen, Tom Waits, Elvis Costello, and Tom Petty were among a wealth of notable Orbison acolytes to join the backing band; the lovely, lilting duet with Emmylou Harris, "That Lovin' You Feelin' Again," from the soundtrack to the justifiably forgotten Roadie;
"Coming Home," an eerie, brooding, string-enhanced cut from the Class of '55
album that reunited Orbison with his Sun labelmates Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis (none of whom are on this cut); powerful remakes of "In Dreams" and "Running Scared" that fed a resurgence of interest in Orbison's work, spurred by David Lynch's Blue Velvet;
and the "In Dreams"-indebted melodrama, "Life Fades Away," co-written with Glenn Danzig and produced by Rick Rubin for the Less than Zero
soundtrack. To paraphrase Gloria Swanson's memorable line in Sunset Boulevard, Roy Orbison's still big; it's the music that got smaller.