I'm reading the Wikipedia entry for Roy Orbison, and at one point they quote various singers attempting to describe what most referred to as his "operatic" voice -- some of these images are amazing:
*Roy Orbison's voice*
Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel both commented on the otherworldy quality of Orbison's voice; a particularly poetic comparison was Dwight Yoakam's, who stated Orbison's voice sounded like "the cry of an angel falling backward through an open window". Barry Gibb of The Bee Gees went further to say that when he heard "Crying" for the first time, "That was it. To me that was the voice of God."
Bob Dylan marked Orbison as a specific influence, stating that there was nothing like him on radio in the early 1960s:
"With Roy, you didn't know if you were listening to mariachi or opera. He kept you on your toes. With him, it was all about fat and blood. He sounded like he was singing from an Olympian mountaintop. [After "Ooby Dooby"] (h)e was now singing his compositions in three or four octaves that made you want to drive your car over a cliff. He sang like a professional criminal... His voice could jar a corpse, always leave you muttering to yourself something like, 'Man, I don't believe it'."
Angel falling backwards. Drive your car over a cliff. "He sang like a professional criminal." -- I don't even know what that *means* yet it stuns me!
Sigh.... Reminds me of a phrase the Europeans sometimes use when describing a particularly smooth wine, a phrase that is so weird it could only have been dreamed up in another language: "