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Buck Owens

Carnegie Hall Concert – 2000 (Sundazed)

Reviewed by Stuart Munro

When Buck Owens went to Carnegie Hall in March 1966, he was at the peak of his popularity and his powers. Yet he was ambivalent about the invitation he had received to play the great hall due to a fear that there weren't enough country fans in Manhattan to make the show a success. He was persuaded to do the show in part through a promise that the show would be recorded for release; this record, the first of a string of live releases by Owens, was the result.

This is the second digital reissue of the Carnegie Hall record. Like the previous reissue, this one includes the complete concert, but it parts ways with its predecessor in restoring the original stereo sound and artwork (worth having just for the photo of the fabulous canary yellow suit Buck is sporting on the cover). The record makes clear that Owens and his Buckaroos were pulling out all the stops that night and making sure that they lived up to the honor of the event. In response to a shouted request for "Tiger By The Tail," Buck assures the audience that "we're gonna do it, we're gonna do 'em all," and he delivers on the promise: the evening's repertoire is largely his biggest hits, starting with "Act Naturally" - his first number one - and he manages to include at least medley-references to all but 1 of his 10 number 1 hits to date. However, their serious purpose doesn't preclude a good deal of clowning by the band, including a Beatles impression (complete with wigs), with Don Rich handling the vocals on "Twist and Shout" (a cover that doesn't appear on any other Owens release).

The Buckaroos' playing is inspired, and Rich's harmonies are flawless and remarkable. The only drawback is its reliance on medleys; while they allow the band to do at least tidbits of a greater number of songs, those tidbits often serve only to tantalize. It'd be nice, for example, to have full-length versions, rather than excerpts, of "Above and Beyond," or "Excuse Me," or "Foolin' Around" with Rich singing harmony (since Owens did all the vocals on the studio versions).