Buck Owen and the Buckaroos The Complete Capitol Singles: 1971-1975 Omnivore Records
Buck Owens scored somewhere around forty Top 10 Country Singles up to 1971; nineteen of those went to Number One. He was arguably the most successful country music artist during the 1960s, creating an industry built around his Bakersfield Sound.
Most of the songs had been recorded in Los Angeles, but that was going to change: Buck was wrestling control away from the label and his long-time producer Ken Nelson, solidifying things at his Chester Avenue address.
Following two previous Omnivore volumes, this two-disc set collects the latter-day A- & B-sides from his Capitol singles to the end of his relationship with the label in 1975. For the most part, despite containing only a solitary #1 (1972’s “Made in Japan,”) this compilation is entertaining.
When discussing Owens’ most significant recordings, few of these songs are mentioned, and—in many cases—for good reason. Too many novelty numbers certainly, and several pro forma performances abound.
No one is going to pretend Owen’s “Ruby (Are You Mad)” (#3, 1972) holds up to the version by the Osbornes, but it is mighty fine and there is no shortage of good-listening compiled herein. “I’ll Still Be Waiting For You” (#8, 1972), “You Ain’t Gonna Have Ol’ Buck to Kick Around No More” (#13, 1972), “Arms Full of Empty” (#27, 1973), and “Big Game Hunter” (#8, 1973) are among the stronger songs released as singles during this period. True, we’re not talking “Love’s Gonna Live Here” and “Sam’s Place,” but still eminently listenable.
The magic lies with the B-sides, several of which are stronger songs and better performances than the featured cuts. “Heartbreak Mountain” “Black Texas Dirt,” “Songwriter’s Lament,” “That Loving Feeling,” and “Stony Mountain West Virginia”—all Owens’ compositions—are damned good.
Also appealing are a number of cuts with Susan Raye, an Owens’ protégé who had several hits during this era. Their “Looking Back to See” (#13, 1972), “The Good Old Days (Are Here Again)” (#35, 1973), and “Love is Strange” (#20, 1975) remain enjoyable, as does the B-side “Cryin’ Time.”
Essential? For completists certainly, but The Complete Capitol Singles: 1971-1975 also provides a concise summary of the diminishing returns Owens provided as he consolidated his empire in Bakersfield. While Hee-Haw and such brought him to ever-higher levels of recognition, his ‘bread and butter’—hits—started to elude him.
In retrospect and although eighteen of the songs included here hit country’s Top 40, nine of them Top Ten, consistent quality material was lacking. Only moderately enjoyable, no one is going to mistake “On the Cover of the Music City News” (#9, 1974), “(It’s A) Monster’s Holiday” (#6, 1974), and “The Battle of New Orleans” (#51, 1975) as the best music the Country Music Hall of Fame Member produced.
Still, gems out-weigh dross, making The Complete Capitol Singles: 1971-1975 (mostly) pleasing listening when considering Owens’ impact on country music history. Scott B. Bomar’s notes are insightful, providing context to the recordings and especially Owens’ mindset during the time.
(Review based on provided download.)