My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

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Album Review: Buck Owens Live In San Francisco 1989

Probably no one was more disappointed than I was when Buck Owens recordings disappeared from the marketplace during the period from 1978-1988. Not only were no new recordings to be found, but even the older recordings disappeared completely. The fault for this, of course, rests with Alvis Edgar “Buck” Owens, whose final contract with Capitol reverted ownership of the master recordings back to Buck. During this period Owens rarely licensed out his recordings in the US.

The story is well known how in September 1987, Dwight Yoakam rousted Buck out of his comfortable retirement to perform with him on stage. This led to Buck reactivating his career with Capitol Records, releasing three albums of new recordings over the next four years.

None of these albums were huge hits although five minor chart hits were generated from the first two albums Hot Dog and Act Naturally. Still, it was nice to have new Buck Owens recordings. Moreover, James Austin at Rhino Records convinced Buck to allow Rhino to put out a boxed set of his past recordings, the fabulous Buck Owens Collection 1959-1990. Eventually more collections were released and Sundazed Records reissued many of the individual albums on CD.

Although Buck Owens released many live albums during his life, Buck Owens Live In San Francisco 1989 was not released until 2015 when Rock Beat issued the two CD set, a ninety minute set of Buck performing thirty-three songs with his Buckaroos, comprised at this time of Jim Shaw (bandleader & keyboards), Terry Christofferson (lead guitar & pedal steel), Doyle Curtsinger (bass) and Jim McCarty (drums). Buck plays rhythm guitar and sings the lead.

Recorded January 15, 1989 at the Victoria Theatre in San Francisco, this is a very tight and cohesive group of Buckaroos that compares favorably with the classic Buckaroo lineups. I must admit that no one could ever quite duplicate the vocal harmony blend that Buck had with Don Rich, but Jim Shaw acquits himself well.

During his peak years Buck took some criticism for the amount of vocal banter in his live shows and his tendency to perform many of his hits in medley form. This album keeps the chatter to a minimum and finds Buck singing the songs in their entirety. Included are songs from all phases of his career – twenty classic singles, some songs from his then-comeback (“Hot Dog”, “The Key’s In The Mailbox” and “Somebody Put A Quarter In The Jukebox”), songs that were part of his stage repertoire although never singles for Buck (“A-11”, “Truck Drivin’ Man”, Hello Trouble’), one instrumental (“Buckaroo”), a solo version of his recent #1 duet with Dwight Yoakam (“Streets of Bakersfield”) and some other fine songs.

Great sound, great songs, great musicians , an appreciative audience – what more could you want ? My only criticism of the album is that it should have been released twenty years ago so that I could have been enjoying it during all those years

A most definite A+

Track list
Disc One
01 Introduction
02 Act Naturally
03 Together Again
04 My Heart Skips A Beat
05 Under Your Spell Again
06 Truck Drivin’ Man
07 Cryin’ Time Again
08 Hot Dog
09 Don’t Let Her Know
10 The Key’s In The Mailbox
11 Memphis
12 Close Up The Honky Tonks
13 Foolin’ Around
14 Somebody Put A Quarter In The Jukebox
15 Love’s Gonna Live Here
16 A-11
17 Tall Dark Stranger
18 Excuse Me (I Think I’ve Got A Heartache)

Disc 2
01 Sam’s Place
02 Above & Beyond
03 Hello Trouble
04 I Don’t Care (Just As Long As You Love Me)
05 Swinging Doors
06 Arms Full Of Empty
07 Sawmill
08 Buckaroo
09 Out There Chasing Rainbows
10 Nobody’s Fool But Yours
11 I’ve Got A Tiger By The Tail
12 Streets Of Bakersfield
13 Johnny B. Goode
14 Big In Vegas
15 Gonna Have Love
16 Johnny B. Goode (reprise)

A look back at 1989: Part 2 – Buck Owens

Buck Owens with Dwight YoakamThe year 1989 saw the debuts and/or emergence of a fine crop of new artists that would continue the neo-traditionalist movement that flickered in the early 1980s with the arrival of Ricky Skaggs and started building up steam in 1986 when Randy Travis and Dwight Yoakam arrived. Garth Brooks, Clint Black, Alan Jackson and Travis Tritt were the biggest names to emerge in 1989, but there were others as well.

This is not to say that the old guard didn’t produce some excellent records that year, even if they were having difficulty getting playing time. Among these was the Baron of Bakersfield, Buck Owens .
Unlike George Jones, whose 1989 album was but one of a dozen or more albums to follow, Buck Owens 1989 effort ACT NATURALLY, was the penultimate effort by the #1 country artist of the 1960s. Although Buck’s recording career essentially ended at the end of the 1970, there was a three album coda to his career.

Late in the decade, Dwight Yoakam dredged Buck out of retirement to perform a duet on “Streets of Bakerfield”. Following the success of that recording, Capitol inked Buck to a new deal which was to see three albums released. The three albums were 1988’s HOT DOG, this album, and 1991’s KICKIN’ IN. None of the albums sold especially well, but this album featured a return to the top thirty singles chart in “Act Naturally”.

In 1963, “Act Naturally” was the first number one record of Buck’s career spending four weeks atop the country charts. Not only did the song jumpstart Buck’s career, but Buck’s recording caught the attention of the Beatles, who had Ringo Starr record the song. In the USA, Capitol released the song as the B side of “Yesterday”.

Apparently Buck and the various members of the Beatles (especially Ringo) had established rapport over the years, so the two of them got together to record the song as a duet and shoot a video.

The rest of the album was comprised of remakes of some of Buck’s older classics, some songs Buck had written since retiring at the end of the 1970s and one cover. One of the highlights on the album was a duet with Emmylou Harris on “Crying Time”. Although Buck had not released the song as a single, Ray Charles more than made up for the omission with his recording.

In addition to the aforementioned “Crying Time ” and “Act Naturally” Buck reprised his older classics “Gonna Have Love” (#76 in 1989) , and “Take Me Back Again” . Newer Owens tunes were “Tijuana Lady”, “Out Chasing Rainbows”, “Rock Hard Love”, “I Was There” and “Brooklyn Bridge”. Since none of these newer songs were released as singles, not many had the opportunity to hear them. I think “Tijuana Lady”, “Brooklyn Bridge” or “Rock Hard Love” would have made decent singles. My favorite of the newer songs is “Out There Chasing Rainbows” which other than the rhythm section, comes closest to the 1960s sound (meaning it would never have made it as a single)

I’m always out there chasing rainbows always going for the gold
Searching for you in far off places yes I’m always out there chasing rainbows

` Your memory makes me think of rainbows of summer days and daffodils
Of tender times and sweet surrender I loved you then and always will
I’m always out there…

The one cover song was of the old Wynn Stewart classic “Playboy”, it was a great song in Wynn’s hands and Buck does the song justice.

Other than latter day Buckaroos Jim Shaw (keyboards) and Doyle Curtsinger (bass), the musicians on this album are Nashville session men. This means that the album does not sound like one of the classic Buck Owens & The Buckaroos albums of the 1960s, but it doesn’t really sound like the typical late 1980s production either as no strings or synthesizers appear plus some real old school musicians such as Ralph Mooney (steel) and Rob Hajacos (fiddle) appear on some of the tracks.