Recording information: England.
As though to distinguish it from his previous ballad album (The Many Moods of Roy Orbison), Roy Orbison opened The Big O with a rousing, upbeat, rhythm-driven number, "Break My Mind." The Big O has the distinction of being the only Roy Orbison album never to get a U.S. release -- it was actually a substitute for an intended live album that didn't quite come off, recorded at the Batley Variety Club. That tape was eventually released as part of a live anthology on Orbison, but for the album, he made a series of studio recordings encompassing some of the same oldies, mostly in a rock & roll vein, including "Help Me Rhonda," "Money," and "Land of 1,000 Dances," that were part of his concert set, broken up by originals such as the highly charged and exciting "Down the Line." MGM in America apparently had no enthusiasm for the record and passed on it, which was a pity, as it turned out to be one of the best albums that Orbison had cut in years, and a superb vehicle for his rock & roll singing (as opposed to the ballads that he'd loaded onto his prior album). The only bizarre moment comes, ironically enough, with the single from these sessions, "Penny Arcade," which sounds more like the kind of song you'd hear at a beer hall than a rock & roll single. ~ Bruce Eder