Everything about Roy Orbison was classy. From his soaring, near operatic voice, to the distinctive widescreen productions of his 60s hits and a sedate, shade enhanced stage presence, this was a laid back star who let his music do the talking. Orbison was on a well deserved comeback trail in the late 80s due to “In Dreams”’ appearance during a key scene in David Lynch’s Blue Velvet, a surprisingly successful re-recorded set of his signature tunes helmed by T-Bone Burnett, and the “Black and White Night” live concert originally shown on HBO with an all-star band including Elvis Costello, Jackson Browne, Tom Waits and Bruce Springsteen. Add his appearance as a full-fledged member of the Travelling Wilburys and the timing was perfect in 1989 for a career resurgence with his first solo album in nearly a decade.
Fellow Wilbury (and Orbison fan) Jeff Lynne jumped on as producer and with an “A” list of contributors such as Heartbreakers Tom Petty, Benmont Tench and Mike Campbell, guitarist Steve Cropper, drummer Jim Keltner and a clutch of top shelf songs– many co-composed by Orbison, some written expressly for him– the result was arguably the singer’s most cohesive album. Lynne keeps the ELO-isms that tended to dominate his productions on low boil, the arrangements are full and sumptuous but never overwhelming and Orbison is simply in stunning voice. Sadly he passed away two months before the release of this masterpiece but there could be no better farewell to one of America’s finest pop vocalists than Mystery Girl and to say he went out on a high note is an understatement.
From the easy country groove of the floating “Windsurfer,” to Elvis Costello’s dramatic “The Comedians” and the sweeping, swampy Bono and Edge written “She’s a Mystery” that provides the disc’s title, every track is a gem worthy of Orbison’s mammoth talents and pure spirit.
This 25th anniversary edition cleans up the audio with a stunning remaster that adds warmth to the complex, layered production. Some versions include a terrific one hour documentary on the making of the album with enlightening interviews that take us behind the scenes of its somewhat primitive recording (partially in Mike Campbell’s garage) and provide personal reflections from the participants on just how artistically brilliant and personally humble the singer was. Nine extra tracks include demos and work tapes that are interesting but ultimately for collectors only. Those who missed out previously can now experience this quarter century old yet timeless classic in all its sonic glory. It’s a marvelous, fitting tribute to Roy Orbison’s enormous musical gifts and a sad reminder that we lost him far too soon.