When Roy Orbison unexpectedly died of a heart attack on December 6, 1988 at the age of 52, the world mourned the loss of the rock and roll pioneer. At the time of his death, he'd been enjoying a career revival thanks to his friends George Harrison, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, and Jeff Lynne - all of whom regarded him as an inspiration and were thrilled to call him their bandmate in the Traveling Wilburys. 1989's Mystery Girl was The Big O's first posthumously released album, having been completed a month before his death. It yielded the smash hit "You Got It" (a U.S. AC chart-topper and pop top ten entry) and primed the pump for more Orbison material. A Black and White Night Live followed in 1989, and by 1992, the Orbison family was ready to tap the vault for unreleased studio material. The result was King of Hearts, overseen by Jeff Lynne and released in October 1992 by Virgin Records. This Friday, October 14, a newly remastered edition will arrive on CD, digitally, and limited-edition red vinyl from Legacy Recordings and Roy's Boys, LLC.
Roy's widow Barbara Orbison spearheaded the curation of King of Hearts, selecting completed material that had not yet been released as well as demos recorded by Roy. To complete the tracks, Barbara enlisted his fellow Wilbury Jeff Lynne as well as T-Bone Burnett (both of whom had been involved with Mystery Girl) and other Orbison fans including Don Was, The Band's Robbie Robertson, Neil Young associate David Briggs, R&B legend Chips Moman, and pop gurus Albert Hammond and Diane Warren.
The finished album, while not as cohesive as Mystery Girl, nonetheless painted a compelling portrait of the late artist with the big, powerful, and passionate voice. A handful of tracks had been previously issued, among them "Wild Hearts Run Out of Time" from the 1985 film drama Insignificance; "Coming Home" from the Class of '55: Memphis Rock and Roll Homecoming album; and the Grammy-winning k.d. lang duet of Orbison's classic ballad "Crying" from the 1987 movie Hiding Out. "Crying" reached No. 13 on the U.K. Singles Chart in 1992, while Jeff Lynne's production of Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly's "I Drove All Night" got even further, to No. 7. (Lynne also helmed Troy Seals and Frankie Miller's "Heartbreak Radio" for the album.) Though King of Hearts didn't make commercial waves in the United States, it was considerably more successful in England and around the world.
Barbara Orbison, mother of Roy's Boys' Roy Orbison, Jr. and Alex Orbison, penned the liner notes for the original release which are reprinted in the upcoming edition. Richard Dodd has handled the remastering. Note that no additional tracks are included; Sony's 2007 reissue added one cut not heard here, "Life Fades Away" from the film Less Than Zero.
The remastered King of Hearts is out on Friday from Legacy and Roy's Boys on CD, LP, and digital formats. You'll find the track listing and pre-order links below.
Roy Orbison, King of Hearts (Virgin V2-86520, 1992 - reissued Roy's Boys/Legacy, 2022)
- You're the One
- Heartbreak Radio
- We'll Take the Night
- Crying (with k.d. lang)
- After the Love Has Gone
- Love in Time
- I Drove All Night
- Wild Hearts Run Out of Time
- Coming Home
- Careless Heart (Original Demo)