Picks and Pans Review: Roy Orbison & Friends: a Black-and-White Night

updated 01/11/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/11/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

Cinemax (Sun., Jan. 3, 9 p.m. ET)

D+

Once upon a syncopated time, music was just about the sleaziest side of showbiz—and the musicians knew it. So they cleaned up their act. They put on Live Aid and Band Aid and did good deeds galore. They started showing up at each other's concerts to share their songs and spotlights. And all of a sudden musicians began to look good and generous. Too bad Roy Orbison missed all that. In this Cinemax Sessions special, he holds on to his microphone, his stage and his show for dear life, all but ignoring the "friends" who came out to play with him: Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne, Elvis Costello, Bonnie Raitt and J.D. Souther. He doesn't chat with his audience or his fellow stars or give them a chance to shine. He shares nothing. Yes, you do see Springsteen, wearing a fat grin and a skinny string tie. But you hear Bruce only on every other note, only when he can get within shouting distance of Roy's microphone. Most Sessions concerts give you not only great music but also lots of chummy charm. This is the exception, a show shot in black and white that looks as cold as it feels. And as for the sound: It lulls the brain, which is precisely what rock 'n' roll should never do.

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