Tomorrow, October 29, Omnivore Recordings will release the final three titles in its current Buck Owens reissue campaign in which nine long out-of-print Capitol albums from the late Bakersfield troubadour are making their debut on standalone CD.
1973's In the Palm of Your Hand was a comeback of sorts for Owens. While his profile was arguably higher than ever thanks to television's Hee Haw, he had failed to make the top of the Billboard Country Singles Chart since late 1969 - this, after notching an impressive 19 chart-toppers between 1963 and earlier that year. The song that sent the prolific singer-songwriter back to the top spot was Bob and Faye Morris' "Made in Japan," a romantic quasi-novelty about an American man in love with a Japanese woman. The album was assembled from sessions held in March-October 1972, and featured Buck and his Buckaroos - Don Rich on guitar and fiddle, Doyle Curtsinger on bass and vocals, Jerry Brightman on steel guitar, Jerry Wiggins on drums, and Jim Shaw on keyboards and Farfisa organ -joined at various times by Ronnie Jackson and Buck's son Buddy Alan on guitars, and Ralph Mooney on pedal steel. Every track on In the Palm of Your Hand other than "Made in Japan" was written by Buck, including the humorous "You Ain't Gonna Have Old Buck to Kick Around No More." The album's title track was a re-recording of a 1966 single which Owens felt had untapped potential, but when it peaked at No. 23, it became his lowest-charting entry since the song's original recording years earlier. "There Goes My Love" was another revived oldie, this one dating back to Owens' 1950s pre-Capitol days.
The songwriting, musicianship, and production were uniformly strong on In the Palm of Your Hand, but the glut of Owens albums and singles churned out by Capitol certainly didn't help sales. The LP was released on January 8, 1973, and on May 14 came the next title in Omnivore's reissue program, Ain't It Amazing, Gracie. Titled after another re-recording of an Owens oldie, the album may be best-remembered for including Buck's first recording of "Streets of Bakersfield," the song which would give him a No. 1 smash with Dwight Yoakam in 1988 - his first chart-topper since the aforementioned "Made in Japan." The song's writer, Homer Joy, had been signed to Buck's publishing company and had, in fact, recorded it himself under Owens' auspices. When Joy's single failed to take off, Buck wisely snapped the would-be anthem up for himself. Ain't It Amazing, Gracie (which featured the same line-up of Buckaroos) also included another Homer Joy composition, the wistful "She's Had All the Dreamin' She Can Stand," as well as a couple of Owens co-writes with Bob Morris, "When You Get Back from Nashville" and "When You Get to Heaven (I'll Be There)." The latter may be better-known in Buck's duet rendition with Susan Raye.
Humor had always played a part in the Owens discography but he emphasized it for the title song of 1974's (It's A) Monster's Holiday, now reissued just in time for Halloween. As quoted by Randy Poe in the liner notes, Owens remembered, "If I couldn't make 'em cry with my sad songs, I'd make 'em laugh with my funny ones. After all, people were seeing me cracking corny jokes on Hee Haw every week, so why not be funny on my records, too?" The overt shift to comedy paid off with the 1973 single "Big Game Hunter," and that spirit extended to Monster's Holiday. The jolly, goofy title track, with maniacal laughter and bloodcurdling screams along with plenty of Bakersfield twang, was an offbeat country-rocker with references to Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, and Dracula. More down-to-earth but no less comical was "The Cover of the Music City News," an Owens/Jim Shaw rewrite of Shel Silverstein's 1973 top ten Pop hit for Dr. Hook and The Medicine Show. The satirical tune followed "Big Game Hunter" into the Country top ten. Not every song on the album (recorded between October 1973 and July 1974) was a send-up; Owens was at his sweetest on a cover of Ben Peters' "Kiss an Angel Good Mornin'," the song that Charley Pride took to No. 1 Country in 1971.
"It's a Monster's Holiday" and another cut on the album, the ballad "Great Expectations," also became top ten hits for Buck. The latter, his last Capitol hit, was also the final single to feature Don Rich. Owens' longtime musical partner had tragically died in a motorcycle accident on July 17, 1974, just a couple of months before the release of the Monster's Holiday LP. (Note that the Sundazed label has recently reissued the album on vinyl while Omnivore has the CD.)
All three Omnivore reissues have been superbly remastered by Michael Graves and feature color booklets with informative liner notes by Randy Poe alongside original front and back cover artwork, photos, memorabilia, and master tape scans. The conclusion of this nine-album series doesn't mean the end of the label's longtime relationship with Buck Owens, however: an anthology of his recordings with Susan Raye (featuring her solo material, too) follows in December. In the meantime, you'll find the track listings and order links for all three Owens reissues below.
Buck Owens and The Buckaroos, In the Palm of Your Hand (Capitol SMAS-11136, 1973 - reissued Omnivore OVCD-447, 2021) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. / Amazon Canada)
- In the Palm of Your Hand
- There Goes My Love
- Made in Japan
- Sweethearts in Heaven
- Arms Full of Empty
- You Ain't Gonna Have Ol' Buck to Kick Around No More
- A Whole Lot of Somethin'
- Get Out of Town Before Sundown
- Something's Wrong
- I Love You So Much It Hurts
Buck Owens and The Buckaroos, Ain't It Amazing, Gracie (Capitol SMAS-11180, 1973 - reissued Omnivore OVCD-448, 2021) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. / Amazon Canada)
- Ain't It Amazing, Gracie
- Long Hot Summer
- Streets of Bakersfield
- She's Had All the Dreamin' She Can Stand
- Your Monkey Won't Be Home Tonight
- I Know That You Know (That I Love You)
- The Good Old Days (Are Here Again)
- Old Faithful
- When You Get Back from Nashville
- When You Get to Heaven (I'll Be There)
Buck Owens and The Buckaroos, (It's A) Monster's Holiday (Capitol SMAS-11332, 1974 - reissued Omnivore OVCD-449, 2021) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. / Amazon Canada)
- (It's A) Monster's Holiday
- Amazing Love
- On the Cover of the Music City News
- I Love
- Stony Mountain West Virginia
- Meanwhile Back at the Ranch
- You're Gonna Love Yourself in the Morning
- Kiss an Angel Good Mornin'
- Great Expectations
- Pass Me By (If You're Only Passing Through)