Roy Orbison - At The Rock House


TJR says:

Not in my collection.

The Pro review:

Although it was technically Roy Orbison’s first album, At the Rock House wasn’t really an LP effort on his part so much as a cash-in effort by Sun Records in the wake of Orbison’s later success on Monument Records with "Uptown," "Only the Lonely," etc. And understandably, the sound is very retro for 1960-1961, comprised as the record is primarily of the rock & roll and hardcore rockabilly numbers that he cut for Sun in 1956 (with his original group the Teen Kings) and 1957, including the Johnny Cash-authored "You’re My Baby," the Orbison/Harold Jenkins collaboration "Rock House," and Sam Phillips’ "Mean Little Mama" and "Problem Child." Not everything is quite as briskly paced as those two numbers, but even the ballads, such as "Sweet and Easy to Love" and "Devil Doll," and the melodic "This Kind of Love" and "It’s Too Late," have an edge to them — they stand midway between the rock & roll that was happening in 1956 and the more lush and dramatic sound that Orbison would perfect at Monument Records from 1959 onward. All of the material is fascinating as a sort of alternate-universe version of where Orbison might’ve headed musically, and most of it is downright bracing and exciting, though it’s easy to see why it never succeeded at the time — numbers like "You’re Gonna Cry" and "Problem Child" were a little too intense and ambitious as rock & roll, with too many changes and involved lyrics, to hold that audience en masse. It was some of the best and most intense rock & roll you could buy in 1961 this side of Elvis Presley, however, and heard today the album is a fascinating curio from what’s usually thought of as a fallow period in rock & roll history.

3.5 / 5
Bruce Eder
AllMusic

Extra notes:

¹ It's pushing it for "A-list" status, with these recordings being 3-5 years old at the time of release, but such was the way of it back in the days when the concept of the LP being driven by new-music was not firmly established. So, another discretionary pass.
² Roy Orbison at the Rock House is the first album by Roy Orbison. It was released in 1961 by Sun Records at a time when Orbison had already moved to the Monument label but had not yet put out an album. Sun Records owner Sam Phillips had a collection of songs Orbison had recorded at Sun between 1956 and '58. Phillips capitalized on the national recognition Orbison had achieved at Monument through three major hit singles in 1960 and '61 that had gone to the top of the Billboard charts. Most of the songs on Roy Orbison at the Rock House were written by Orbison but the songwriting credits were assigned to Sam Phillips, and are in the traditional rockabilly style the Sun label was known for. Notable exceptions are compositions by other Sun artists Harold Jenkins (better known as "Conway Twitty") and Johnny Cash. "Rock House" was written by Orbison and Twitty. For this release all tracks except Devil Doll have been overdubbed with background vocals and/or additional instruments. ~ wikipedia.org
³

The complete “A-list” discography of Roy Orbison:

At The Rock House (1961) Lonely and Blue (1961) Crying (1962) In Dreams (1963) There Is Only One Roy Orbison (1965) The Orbison Way (1966) The Classic Roy Orbison (1966) Roy Orbison Sings Don Gibson (1967) The Fastest Guitar Alive (1967) Cry Softly Lonely One (1967) Roy Orbison’s Many Moods (1969) Hank Williams The Roy Orbison Way (1970) Big O (1970) Roy Orbison Sings (1972) Memphis (1972) Milestones (1973) I’m Still In Love with You (1975) Regeneration (1977) Laminar Flow (1979) Mystery Girl (1989)

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