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Image Entertainment presents

Roy Orbison: Live at the Austin City Limits (1982)

"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 all right' "- lyrics from In Dreams

Stars: Roy Orbison
Other Stars: Bucky Barrett, Jim Kirby, Terry Elam, Jim Johnson, Marshall Pearson, Susan Bennett, Barbara South, Richard Law
Director: Gary Menotti

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 01h:03m:34s
Release Date: 2003-03-18
Genre: music

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B AB-A- B-


DVD Review

To casual music fans under, say, the age of 35, Roy Orbison might only be known as the old guy with sunglasses from the 1980s supergroup The Traveling Wilburys (along with George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, and Jeff Lynne). If you fall into that camp, shame on you for not knowing your rock history better. Orbison, who died suddenly of a heart attack in 1988 at the age of 52, had an incredibly long and respected career in rock (over fifteen top 40 hits), beginning in 1956 with the release of his first single on the legendary Sun Records, on through self-penned mega-hits like Oh, Pretty Woman, Only The Lonely, and Crying. Remember Blue Bayou by Linda Ronstadt? Oh yeah, he wrote that one, too. Director David Lynch even utilized Orbison's In Dreams for one of the more surreal moments in Blue Velvet, and for many, made it impossible to hear that song without envisioning Dean Stockwell lip-synching into a mechanic's light.

This disc captures Orbison at the start of his 1980s comeback, with a performance as part of public television's highly regarded Austin City Limits series, recorded on August 5, 1982. His trademark vocal style, full of his familiar falsetto-tinged moments, sounds as strong as ever here, and though no one could ever accuse Orbison of being an overly animated stage performer, his singing is spot-on. He limits his between song banter to an occasional "thank you" or "this was my first single," and churns through a brilliant twenty-song set in just over an hour, backed by a tight eight-piece band. The camera spends most of its time on Orbison, as he stands almost statue-like belting out these pop classics, though I did notice that a couple of audience reaction shots were used more than once (watch for what I call "slow-clapping-guy-in-a-blue-shirt").

All of his big hits are rolled out, and when the camera pans in tight on Orbison's slightly jowled, expressionless face, adorned with the trademark dark shades, it is both odd and wonderful to listen to that seemingly unchanged-by-time voice come from such an nontraditional-looking performer. The songs, full of tales of unrequited and lost love, still hold up as pop-perfect confections.

Set List:

Only The Lonely
Dream Baby (How Long Must I Dream)
In Dreams
Mean Woman Blues
Blue Angel
Blue Bayou
Candy Man
Crying (reprise)
Ooby Dooby
Hound Dog Man
Working For The Man
That Lovin' You Feelin' Again
(Go, Go, Go) Down The Line
It's Over
Oh, Pretty Woman
Running Scared
Running Scared (reprise)

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The 1.33:1 full-frame transfer is, for the most part, decent, with the exception of a handful of moments where the image blurs and looks as if you're watching a 3-D film without the glasses. The first time it occurs is during the third song (Dream Baby), and it only lasts for a few seconds, but it appears again at least three or four times during the duration of the concert. Aside from that imperfection, which may or may not be a flaw with the source print, the remainder of the disc is very clean, with well-balanced colors and no noticeable artifacting.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: My only beef with the beautiful audio transfers on Roy Orbison: Live At Austin City Limits is that there isn't any way to toggle back and forth between the Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS and 2.0 tracks—it's all done only from the menu screen. That functional peeve aside, the nearly dead-even 5.1 and DTS tracks are superb, though if it were a horse race DTS would win by a nose, by providing a deeper, more resonant .LFE track. Rears channels are very active, lending a mix of percussion and backing vocals to markedly fill out the soundstage to create an audio track that could have never have possibly come close to sounding this good in 1982; Orbison himself is crystal clear, but it's the clarity of instrumentation and the various background vocalists that is truly first rate.

The 2.0 track, understandably, is comparatively flat, but serviceable if that is your only listening option.

Excellent job, Image.

Audio Transfer Grade: A- 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 21 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 20 cues and remote access
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Stills Gallery
  2. Song Lyrics
Extras Review: The primary extra here is a short featurette, shot in 2002, entitled Roy Orbison: The Wink Years (07m:14s), and in it we get talking head soundbites from the surviving members of the Wink Westerners, Orbison's first band, intercut with old photos. The content is pretty superficial, but it's worth it to see a very young Orbison at the start of his career in rural Texas.

Similarly, the Stills Gallery is a large collection of photos, spanning from his 1930s childhood to his 1980s comeback. Call me nostalgic, but the old photos are the most enjoyable to look at, especially seeing the young, smiling six-year-old Orbison, knowing how he would come to adopt the pseudo-mysterious "man in black" persona.

Though there aren't any subtitles, there is a section containing onscreen lyrics to all the songs, in case you wanted to study the meaning of Blue Angel in silence, rather than sing-a-long with it. The disc itself is cut into 21 chapters, one for each song, plus the closing credits.

Extras Grade: B-

Final Comments

As a slice of rock history, Roy Orbison: Live At Austin City Limits is a "must own" for music fans. Image has done an outstanding job on the 5.1 and DTS tracks for this release, and the performances are equally as good.


Rich Rosell 2003-08-07