Stupendous second chapter of Buck Owens’ career at Capitol
Omnivoreâ€™s previous set on Owensâ€™ groundbreaking Capitol singles is now joined by a companion volume that catalogs his expanding reach as an artist. The commercial dominance of his initial rise to fame – which included twenty-two Top 40 hits and thirteen consecutive chart toppers – was unlikely to be matched, and yet this second collection rises to the occasion, both commercially and artistically. Of the eighteen singles Owens released across these four years, all but two made the Top 20; of the two misses, â€œChristmas Shoppingâ€ charted #5 on the holiday list, and only the internationally-themed instrumental â€œThings I Saw Happening at the Fountain on the Plaza When I Was Visiting Rome or Amoreâ€ missed entirely. Fifteen of the A-sides reached the Top 10, and six topped the country chart.
More importantly, the late â€˜60s found Owens branching out from twangy Bakersfield country with innovative pop touches. He opened 1967 with the back-to-back #1s â€œSamâ€™s Placeâ€ and â€œYour Tender Loving Care,â€ dipped to #2 with â€œIt Takes People Like You (To Make People Like Me),â€ and climbed back to the top with 1968â€™s â€œHow Long Will My Baby Be Gone.â€ He scored three more chart toppers in 1969 (the originals â€œWho’s Gonna Mow Your Grassâ€ and â€œTall Dark Stranger,â€ and a cover of Chuck Berryâ€™s â€œJohnny B. Goodeâ€), and just missed the top spot with 1970â€™s â€œThe Kansas City Song.â€ Owens joined Hee-Haw in 1969 and continued to chart throughout the 1970s, but with the passing of Don Rich in 1974, his interest in a music career quickly declined. After a pair of albums and a handful of mid-charting singles for Warner Brothers he basically retired from releasing music for more than a decade.
But in the mid-to-late â€˜60s, Owens was still accelerating. As he and the Buckaroos had shown with their 1966 Carnegie Hall Concert album (and reaffirmed here with the 1969 live take of â€œJohnny B. Goodeâ€), the group was one of the hottest bands in the land. The singles featured here include the talents or Don Rich, Doyle Holly, Tom Brumley and Willie Cantu, as well as later members Jerry Wiggins and Doyle Curtsinger, and numerous sidemen. Perhaps most startling is the inclusion of smooth backing vocals from the Jordanaires and the Nashville-based Anita Kerr Singers on several tracks, and strings are heard on both A-sides and flips, including â€œBig in Vegas.â€
Owens authored a seemingly inexhaustible supply of great songs, and by the mid-60s heâ€™d begun expanding beyond the classic Bakersfield Sound. The acoustic guitars of â€œIt Takes People Like Youâ€ and â€œHow Long Will My Baby Be Goneâ€ werenâ€™t unprecedented, but the songsâ€™ moods, particularly in Owensâ€™ vocals, were new. Owens love of â€˜50s rock â€˜nâ€™ roll is heard on â€œChristmas Shopping,â€ thereâ€™s fuzz guitar on the waltz-time â€œWhoâ€™s Gonna Mow Your Grass,â€ and Earl Poole Ball adds organ to the intro of â€œThe Kansas City Song.â€ Rather than hoarding his best work for A-sides, Owens often complemented his hits with interesting flips, including the transfixed vocal of â€œThat’s All Right With Me (If It’s All Right With You)â€ and the funereal â€œWhite Satin Bed.â€
Owens found terrific chemistry with protege Susan Raye on several hits, including the Johnny & June-styled sass of â€œWeâ€™re Gonna Get Together,â€ the harpsichord-lined fairy tale â€œThe Great White Horse,â€ and the terrifically stalwart B-side remake of Owensâ€™ â€œYour Tender Loving Care.â€ Omnivoreâ€™s double-disc includes 18 singles (Aâ€™s and Bâ€™s), ten in mono and eight in stereo, mastered from original analog sources by Michael Graves at Osiris Studio. Scott B. Bomarâ€™s liner notes are accompanied by detailed session notes, photos, and picture sleeve and label reproductions. This is a stupendous second chapter, showing Owens and the Buckaroos in full artistic and commercial flight. Itâ€™s every bit as essential as the first volume, and will leave fans eagerly anticipating the third and final Capitol chapter. [Â©2018 Hyperbolium]