Buck Owens & The Buckaroos – Third Set: 3 Reissues
In the Palm of Your Hand / Ain’t It Amazing, Gracie / (It’s a) Monster’s Holiday
This, the 3rd reissue set of CDs by Omnivore Recordings of vintage Buck Owens LPs originally released by Capitol Records in the 70s includes 3 separate titles. The first 3 came in early Aug. & the second in late Aug.
The late Buck Owens (Alvis Edgar Owens, Jr.) was a Sherman, Texas-born, Bakersfield, CA raised country singer who scored 21 #1 Country Chart Hits in a 61-year career. Inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in ‘96 & The Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame he was country music royalty until the day he died (2006).
This reissued set dropped Oct. 1st with music originally released in 1973 & 1974. The 10-cut, 26-minute In the Palm of Your Hand charted at #21 on the country LP charts. The title track scored #14 on the singles chart. 9 of the 10 tunes were written or co-written by Owens with the exception of the melodic “Made in Japan.” Capitol was accused of oversaturation when it came to artists like Owens who released more than one LP per year. But whatever Buck managed to put out had quality & these were recorded & produced at the Buck Owens Studios in Bakersfield, CA.
Owens was entrenched in the real hayseed world of country music but what made him special was that his showcases were never hokey cornpone or lame. The musicians were inspired & were exceptional players. The song selections were often good choices – & I was never a big country fan when these were hits. Thanks to the late Gram Parsons I started to take notice. Parsons was right. So, was jazz sax player Charlie Parker when he was heard to say by a jukebox “listen to the stories man, listen to those stories.”
“Arms Full of Empty,” is excellent & serious. “You Ain’t Gonna Have Ol’ Buck To Kick Around No More,” could be a borderline novelty but it isn’t. It’s clever. Then there’s the walking bass line that dominates “A Whole Lot of Somethin’” which is excellent. The final song “I Love You So Much It Hurts,” is superb. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QHhWzrZpXaY
The band: Buck (vocals), Don Rich (guitar/fiddle), Doyle Curtsinger (bass/vocals), Jerry Brightman (steel guitar), Jerry Wiggins (drums), Jim Shaw (keyboards/Farfisa), with Buddy Alan & Ronnie Jackson (guitar), & Ralph Mooney (steel guitar on “Arms Full of Empty”).
Two months after the previous LP Capitol released the 24-minute “Ain’t It Amazing, Gracie” & this is where the over-saturation comes in. That’s amazing that a new LP would come in 8 weeks. But maybe Capitol’s marketing department knew what a remarkable artist Buck was. The Gracie LP reached #17 on the country charts. The LP was loaded with 10 more excellent country songs.
The long-out-of-print LP recorded in 1972 at the Owens studio released a sole single. The title track in 1973 peaked at #14 on the singles chart. Lots of viable songs – “Long Hot Summer,” Homer Joy’s song “Streets of Bakersfield,” (later became a hit in 1988 with Buck & Dwight Yoakum). Joy’s “She Had All the Dreaming She Can Stand,” is a cool fiddle/steel guitar-driven song that is typical country clever lyrics.
The band: Buck (vocals), Don Rich (guitar/fiddle/vocals), Doyle Curtsinger (bass/vocals), Jerry Brightman (steel guitar), Jerry Wiggins (drums), Jim Shaw (keyboards), with Buddy Alan (guitar). Ronnie Jackson (guitar) & Ralph Mooney (steel guitar) both on “Ain’t It Amazing, Gracie.” The Ray Sisters (backing vocals). It doesn’t take a dyed-in-the-wool country fan to appreciate the impeccable recordings that are pristine, played superbly & the new remastering has a polish that makes them more distinctive.
Buck Owens is a precise musician & cultivates a band of ever-evolving musicians. On these 2 LPs, it’s not clear why Owens doesn’t play guitar though in all the pictures he holds an acoustic guitar. While this LP is well-played, the songs, in general, are typical country. It’s what people expect, & it’s all well-played, arranged & performed. But there’s nothing that makes the LP any more special than previous efforts. Fans ate it up because it’s was all done with taste. Owens wouldn’t have it any other way.
With the final reissue, Buck dips into humor & issues his 1974 LP, the 10-cut, 25-minute (It’s a) Monster’s Holiday. I don’t care for this kind of departure but I can’t say the music or singing is poor. It isn’t. Owens dives in with his own composition – with inspiration & aplomb. However, the title track is a tongue-in-cheek novelty.
After that the songs get more serious but why decorate it with a silly LP cover that suggests that the LP could be a Halloween collection. It’s not. “Amazing Love,” follows the novelty & it’s beautiful. This is the group’s 23rd Top 10 LP. The silly, yet energetic, title track peaked at #6 so country fans were fine with the humor.
Buck, after having 21 (#1) country songs on the charts deserved to loosen up. By this time, he became more entertainer than just a country singer. Buck had been on TV with Hee-Haw (1969-1986) for 17 years (though in his autobiography Owens had issues with the show). So, these LPs were made when Owens was “entertaining.”
“Stony Mountain West Virginia,” is cool with its oom-papa beat & fiddle, whereas the old Shel Silverstein hit song (by Dr. Hook) was redesigned for Owens as “On the Cover of the Music City News.” This humor was a stretch. A misstep. It interrupted the good flow of serious songs on side 1. Goofy things don’t always work well between more serious material.
Nonetheless, Owens’ musicians played with expertise & never disappointed. Owens sounds like he’s in the best voice he’s ever had. There’s a tonality that’s exceptional on these cuts for a country singer. “Meanwhile Back at the Ranch,” is one of his best tunes, & the change of pace ballad “You’re Gonna Love Yourself In The Morning,” finds Owens in a different voice.
The band: Buck (vocals), Don Rich (guitar/fiddle/vocals), Ronnie Jackson (banjo/guitar), Doyle Curtsinger (bass/vocals), Jerry Brightman (steel guitar), Jim Shaw (keys/Moog/Mellotron/laughs), Jerry Wiggins (drums), with Sylvia Caricker (screams), LaVonne Payne or Joyce Hawthorne (backing vocals).
Buck’s tonality & phrasing never abandoned him. He’s consistent with song quality though he’s embedded in pure country traditions. By these collections, it was clear Buck developed a style of his own – beyond comparison with peers. The LPs have running times that are lean. Capitol, who also had The Beatles & the label always deleted 1 or 2 songs from their finished British-mastered LPs. The US versions were always shy of tracks from the English releases. Why? So, the label could accumulate enough good studio cuts in the vault to “create” a new LP if there was a lag in the product. Maybe they did this with Buck Owens as well. He always seemed to have a new LP & in short order.
Buck’s vocals — always delivered in a primarily relaxed manner remained engaging. The songs on the newly issued Omnivore CDs are remastered & sound far superior to the samples posted. This is the final scheduled reissue. I’m sure down the line there may be more & deservedly so.
Featured color photo: courtesy Michael Ochs Archives, Getty Images. CA. Reissue CDs: mastered from original analog tapes by Grammy-winner Michael Graves & reissue produced by Cheryl Pawelski. Available @ http://omnivorerecordings.com/buck-owens/