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Buck Owens

Buck Owens 1997 reissues – 1997 (Sundazed)

Reviewed by Stuart Munro

This review includes:

  • Buck Owens Sings Harlan Howard
  • Buck Owens Sings Tommy Collins
  • In Japan!
  • Your Tender Loving Care
  • It Takes People Like You To Make People Like Me

With the re-issue of 5 more Buck Owens albums to add to the 10 already re-issued, the folks at Sundazed continue to do the Lord's work. And don't think that Sundazed is anywhere close to scraping the bottom of the barrel with these five; all of them are, for various reasons, essential Buck Owens.

The reissues provide a nice cross-section of Owens' career in the 1960's: two early releases, a live album, and two albums from the peak of his popularity.

"Sings Harlan Howard," Owens' second Capitol release, and "Sings Tommy Collins" (issued in November 1963) are pre-Buckaroos both in name (both were issued as "Buck Owens" records) and, for the most part, personnel. Don Rich plays on both, but his electric leads are relatively rare (and on "Sings Harlan Howard," completely absent), and all of the harmony vocals are provided by Owens. On both, the sound is closer in some ways to that of West Coast predecessors such as Collins and Wynn Stewart than to the charged, Telecaster-driven sound that would become a signature of Owens, although that characteristic sound is beginning to emerge on "Sings Tommy Collins."

"Sings Harlan Howard" marks Owens' friendship and collaboration with one of the greatest (if not the greatest) of country songwriters. Although only one of the songs included on the album cracked the top 10 ("Foolin' Around, which reached #2), the track list reads like a roster of country standards: "Heartaches By the Number," "Pick Me Up On Your Way Down," "The One You Slip Around With" and "Keeper of the Key," to name a few

On "Sings Tommy Collins," Owens pays tribute to the still-neglected Capitol artist who provided early employment for Buck's guitar-playing. Included are such Collins gems as "If You Ain't Lovin', You Ain't Leavin'," "But I Do," and "You Gotta Have A License," and is notable for including the only appearance on an Owens record by Buck's ex-wife Bonnie, who duets with him on "It Tickles."

"In Japan!," released in May 1967, was the second live album released by Owens, following on the heels of "Carnegie Hall Concert" by only nine months. Both are valuable for the glimpse they give of Owens and His Buckaroos in action. But whereas the earlier album is largely a performance of Owens hits, "In Japan!" is more eclectic, featuring several Buckaroo instrumentals, (including "Tokyo Polka," which Owens wrote specifically for this performance), and a number of songs - for example, "I Was Born to Be In Love With You," and the absolutely killer "Adios, Farewell, Goodbye, Good Luck, So Long" - that are not available on any other Buck Owens release.

Both "Your Tender Loving Care," released in August 1967, and "It Takes People Like You...," (early 1968) are vintage Owens, and recommended purchases for that reason alone. Aside from the versions of several of Owens' mid-60s hits they include (the #1 singles "Sam's Place" and "Your Tender Loving Care" on the earlier album, and the title track as well as the grammatically-challenged "Where Does the Good Times Go" on "It Takes People Like You..."), it's hard to find a track that couldn't have been a hit on either.

All five releases come with original liner notes and artwork, as well as other photos of Buck and various Buckaroos; three include bonus tracks; on all, the sonic quality is excellent. All five belong in the collection of any country music aficionado.