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Release Round-Up: Week of March 25

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Johnny Cash Out Among the StarsJohnny Cash, Out Among the Stars (Columbia/Legacy)

This new album of newly-discovered mid-’80s outtakes is perhaps better than what was released at the time. Gorgeous and, at times, haunting, the way Johnny Cash albums should be.

CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
LP: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Elton GBYR 40 Super DeluxeElton John, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road: 40th Anniversary Edition (Mercury/Rocket/UMe)

Elton’s classic double album comes back to glorious life with several lavish editions, featuring new covers of songs from the set, B-sides, live material and more.

1CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
2LP: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
2CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
4CD/1DVD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
1BD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Okie from MuskogeeMerle Haggard, Okie from Muskogee: 45th Anniversary Special Edition (Capitol Nashville)

Haggard and The Stranger’s classic 1969 live album is remastered and paired with the next year’s follow-up The Fightin’ Side of Me, in its first-ever CD release. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Miles at the FillmoreMiles Davis, Miles at the Fillmore – Miles Davis 1970: The Bootleg Series Vol. 3 (Columbia/Legacy)

Four discs of mostly-unheard jazz experimentation from one of Miles’ most challenging and enjoyable periods. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Rod Stewart - Live BoxRod Stewart, Live 1976-1998: Tonight’s the Night (Warner Bros./Rhino)

This long-rumored box, featuring 58 unheard recordings, now offers a fitting chronicle of Rod in concert. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

My Chem May Death Never  Stop YouMy Chemical Romance, May Death Never Stop You: The Greatest Hits 2001-2013 (Reprise)

New Jersey’s own late lamented My Chem, one of the best alt-rock bands of the past decade, release a career-spanning compilation with one unreleased song and several demos.

CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. 
CD/DVD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. 
2LP/DVD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Essential Eric CarmenEric Carmen, The Essential Eric Carmen (Arista/Legacy)

A lovingly-assembled two-disc compilation honoring the talents of the singer/songwriter, from The Raspberries to today. Includes the gorgeous new track “Brand New Year.” (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Blue Nile Peace At LastThe Blue Nile, Peace At Last: Deluxe Edition (Virgin/UMC)

A surprise expansion of the Glasgow pop group’s 1996 album. (Amazon U.K. / Amazon U.S.)

Far Beyond DrivenPantera, Far Beyond Driven: 20th Anniversary Edition (EastWest/Rhino)

The band’s hit 1994 album paired with a live bootleg disc of the band’s Monsters of Rock Festival 1994 performance. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

High Land Hard RainAztec Camera, High Land Hard Rain: Deluxe 30th Anniversary Edition (Domino)

The Scottish rock band’s first album is expanded to just about completion, with single sides and unreleased tracks on a bonus disc.

2CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
LP: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

TotoToto, TotoHydra / Turn Back (Rock Candy)

Toto’s perfectly crafted AOR-pop blend is represented by their first three albums, newly remastered for CD by Rock Candy.

Toto: Amazon U.K. / Amazon U.S.
HydraAmazon U.K. / Amazon U.S.
Turn BackAmazon U.K. / Amazon U.S.

Bruce BDVarious Artists, A MusiCares Tribute to Bruce Springsteen (Columbia)

Last year’s multi-artist live tribute concert in honor of The Boss, capped with a mini-set by Springsteen and The E Street Band.

DVD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
BD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Micky DolenzMicky Dolenz, Micky Dolenz Puts You to Sleep / Broadway Micky (Friday Music)

Two of Micky’s children’s albums for Kid Rhino from 1991 and 1994 reappear in print on one disc. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Message from the MagicBlue Magic, Message from the Magic (FunkyTownGrooves)

The Philadelphia soul band’s fifth album from 1977 is remastered and released for the first time on CD. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Island HarvestRonnie Lane and Slim Chance, Ooh La La: An Island Harvest (Mercury)

A hits-and-rarities compilation from the late Small Faces/Faces bassist’s mid-’70s group. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Lou Reed BDJoni Mitchell, Woman of Heart and Mind + Painting with Words and Music / Lou Reed, Classic Albums: Transformer + Live at Montreux 2000 (Eagle Rock)

Eagle Rock brings four vintage programs back to video with these two Blu-ray releases, both part of the label’s new “SD Blu-ray” line.  As indicated, these programs are in upscaled standard definition video but have been upgraded to “uncompressed stereo and DTS-HD high resolution surround sound.”

Joni: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Lou: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Return of the Okie from Muskogee: Live Merle Haggard Records Paired for Reissue

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Okie from MuskogeeIf you like livin’ right and free, you’re going to love the recent revelation that Merle Haggard’s famed live album Okie from Muskogee will be reissued next week, paired with a follow-up live record making its CD debut.

Named for the 1969 country chart-topper that’s easily Haggard’s signature song – a tongue-in-cheek lampooning of the liberal values that were taking youth culture by storm at the time – Okie from Muskogee is a perfect distillation of Haggard’s unique voice and sound, a uniquely harmonic, twangy country indicative of the Bakersfield sound fans have come to adore thanks to the likes of Haggard and Buck Owens. It was a significant smash within the genre, winning Haggard three awards from the Academy of Country Music that year: Album of the Year, Single of the Year and Top Male Vocalist.

The success of Haggard’s next big single, a patriotic number called “The Fightin’ Side of Me,” Capitol quickly released another live album with the same name. This set saw Haggard in Philadelphia with a loose, mostly covers-heavy set (including takes on Tommy Collins’ “When Did Right Become Wrong” and Woody Guthrie’s “Philadelphia Lawyer.” A high point of the set finds Haggard, in a medley of popular country tunes by stars including Marty Robbins, Johnny Cash and Buck Owens, performing in passable impersonations of each.

Capitol Nashville’s two-disc set of Okie from Muskogee, released in honor of the album’s 45th anniversary, marks the first time since its original release that The Fightin’ Side of Me will be released anywhere. It hits stores on March 25 and can be pre-ordered after the jump. (A live cut from Fightin’ Side can be streamed at Rolling Stone.)

Okie from Muskogee: 45th Anniversary Special Edition (Capitol Nashville, 2014)

Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Disc 1: Merle Haggard & The Strangers, Okie from Muskogee (Recorded “Live” in Muskogee, Oklahoma) (originally released as Capitol ST-431, 1969)

  1. Introduction by Carlton Haney
  2. Mama Tried
  3. No Hard Times
  4. Silver Wings
  5. Merle Receives Key to Muskogee
  6. Merle’s Introduction to Medley
  7. Swinging Doors
  8. I’m a Lonesome Fugitive
  9. Sing Me Back Home
  10. Branded Man
  11. In the Arms of Love
  12. Workin’ Man Blues
  13. Merle’s Introduction to “Hobo Bill”
  14. Hobo Bill’s Last Ride
  15. Billy Overcame His Size
  16. If I Had Left It Up to You
  17. White Line Fever
  18. Blue Rock
  19. Introduction to Okie from Muskogee
  20. Okie from Muskogee

Disc 2: Merle Haggard & The Strangers with Bonnie Owen, The Fightin’ Side of Me (originally released as Capitol ST-0384, 1970)

  1. Introduction by Carlton Haney
  2. I Take a lot of Pride in What I Am
  3. Corrine, Corrina
  4. Every Fool Has a Rainbow
  5. T.B. Blues
  6. When Did Right Become Wrong
  7. Philadelphia Lawyer
  8. Stealin’ Corn
  9. Harold’s Super Service
  10. Medley of Impersonations: Devil Woman
  11. Medley of Impersonations: I’m Movin’ On
  12. Medley of Impersonations: Folsom Prison Blues
  13. Medley of Impersonations: Jackson
  14. Medley of Impersonations: Orange Blossom Special
  15. Medley of Impersonations: Love’s Gonna Live Here
  16. Today I Started Loving You Again
  17. Okie from Muskogee
  18. The Fightin’ Side of Me

Written by Mike Duquette

March 21, 2014 at 13:00

Along Came Jones (And Robbins, Too): Morello Revives Classic Country from George and Marty

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George Jones - Too Wild Too LongCherry Red’s busy Morello Records imprint has continued its classic country revival with three recent releases – all available now – from some very legendary names: George Jones, Merle Haggard, Johnny Paycheck and Marty Robbins.

George Jones was the first artist to be reissued on the Morello label, and just a few months ago, the two-fer of Jones Country (1983) and You’ve Still Got a Place in My Heart (1984) arrived.

Morello’s exploration of Jones’ latter-day work has now brought the reissue on one CD of two Epic Records albums: he autobiographically-titled Too Wild Too Long (1987) and You Oughta Be Here with Me (1990).  Too Wild built on the success of 1986’s gold album Wine Colored Roses, which was previously paired on CD by Cherry Red’s T-Bird imprint with 1985’s Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes.   Too Wild Too Long continued Jones’ long-standing partnership with renowned producer Billy Sherrill, and it yielded three hit Country singles: “I’m a Survivor” (No. 26), “The Bird” (No. 52) and “The Old Man No One Loves” (No. 63).  The album itself placed at a respectable No. 14 on the Billboard Country chart. Jones didn’t pen any material for the album, but he did film a music video for Wyman Asbill’s “The Old Man No One Loves.”

You Oughta Be Here with Me three years later followed the same template.  (One Woman Man, another prime candidate for reissue, came in between.)  The songs were written by a number of familiar names, including Roger Miller (the title song) and Derek and the Dominos’ Bobby Whitlock with Jack “Peaceful Easy Feeling” Tempchin (“Someone That You Used to Know”).  The LP was Jones’ final collaboration with Sherrill, and though it didn’t score any hit singles for Jones, two of its songs actually charted for other artists when “Somebody Paints the Wall” went Top 10 Country for Tracy Lawrence in 1992 and Blake Shelton took “Ol’ Red” to the Top 20 in 2001.

Alan Wilson has remastered both albums, and Michael Heatley has supplied a brief essay.  After the jump, we’ll check out two of Jones’ duets albums, plus a two-for-one CD from Marty Robbins! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

September 13, 2013 at 10:04

Review: The Buckaroos, “Play Buck and Merle” and Don Rich, “That Fiddlin’ Man”

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Buckaroos Play Buck and Merle“Who’s going to want to listen to the band with Don [Rich] playing the melody line to the song, when you could hear Buck [Owens] doing the real deal?” queried drummer Willie Cantu of The Buckaroos when called upon to record 1965’s all-instrumental The Buck Owens Song Book.  Capitol Records surely thought there would be an audience for the LP, proclaiming on its back cover that “you too can sing Buck’s country-western songs to the rousing, rhythmic playing of his buddy Don Rich and The Buckaroos!”  The original album has been out of print for many years now, but Omnivore Recordings is now giving you the chance to immerse yourself in the Bakersfield Sound.  The Buck Owens Song Book has been paired with The Buckaroos’ The Songs of Merle Haggard (1971) as The Buckaroos Play Buck & Merle (OVCD-65).  Both Play Buck & Merle and the new expanded reissue of Buckaroo Don Rich’s That Fiddlin’ Man (OVCD-66) continue the Omnivore label’s celebration of Bakersfield, California’s favorite sons (and favorite songs).

Even sans lyrics, one gets the gist of Buck Owens’ spirited music thanks to the Buckaroos’ fine and faithful playing on The Buck Owens Song Book.  Don Rich (fiddle/guitar) was joined by Doyle Holly (guitar), Tom Brumley (steel guitar), Bob Morris (bass) and Willie Cantu (drums) for the set of twelve Owens classics.  Many of Owens’ most beloved favorites were reprised by the band, including the breezy “Act Naturally” and rollicking “I’ve Got a Tiger by the Tail.”  The performances are alternately rousing and reflective, with the group’s distinctively rootsy, down-home sound.  These songs weren’t recorded in a jazz style, so there’s little improvisation and few individual showcases.  But there’s plenty of delightful interplay from a tight and twangy group whose members were clearly attuned to one another.  Rich, of course, stands out, as does Tom Brumley, whose distinctive “Brumley Touch” on the steel guitar adds dimension to tracks including the wistful “Together Again.”  The quintessential country weepers like “Second Fiddle” (“Will there never come a day/When I won’t have to play the part/Of second fiddle in your heart?”) and “Don’t Let Her Know” (“Laugh, dance and sing, so she won’t notice/The hurt that’s still burning deep inside/And don’t let her see the way I tremble/Don’t let her know how much I cried”) still resonate in the Buckaroos’ sympathetic hands.

Roughly six years later, a new group of Buckaroos – still under the direction of Don Rich – recorded The Songs of Merle Haggard, recognizing the former Buckaroo who actually is said to have given the group its name.  For this LP, Rich was joined by his bandmates Jim Shaw (piano/organ/harmonica/Jew’s harp), Doyle Curtsinger (bass/mandolin), Ronnie Jackson (banjo/rhythm guitar) and Jerry Wiggins (drums/percussion) on a selection from Hag’s great songbook.  There are notable differences between the two tribute albums, and not just because of the new personnel or Haggard’s rather more edgy material.  The Buckaroos employ vocals on The Songs of Merle Haggard, usually only on the choruses, and in a tasteful harmony style far-removed from the outlaw great’s own style.

Jim Shaw’s organ adds a new color to the Haggard album, but the Buckaroos’ sound is still filled with traditional Bakersfield twang led by Rich’s varied guitar tones.  Rich can be aggressive or romantic, leading sadly romantic songs like “Silver Wings” (“Silver wings shining in the sunlight/Roaring engines headed somewhere in flight/They’re taking you away and leaving me lonely/Silver wings slowly fading out of sight”) as well as politically incendiary ones like “The Fightin’ Side of Me” (with its famous “If you don’t love it, leave it” riposte) and the oft-misunderstood “Okie from Muskogee.”  Ronnie Jackson gets to flex his banjo muscles on the rip-roaring, purely instrumental “Legend of Bonnie and Clyde,” and the sound from the band and pianist Shaw is altogether lovely on the evocative memory play “Hungry Eyes.”  One of Haggard’s favorite themes, drinking, is represented with “Swinging Doors,” and The Buckaroos vividly bring its barroom setting to life with their rendition.

The original liner notes for both albums are reprinted in Omnivore’s new release, along with full lyrics for both albums.  (The original Haggard LP didn’t contain printed lyrics, so these are a very welcome extra.)  The package, nicely designed by Greg Allen with a tip of the hat to the original Buck Owens Song Book style, also includes an illuminating Q&A session with Buckaroos Cantu, Curtsinger and Shaw.  (The latter two Buckaroos still perform every Friday and Saturday evening at Owens’ Crystal Palace in Bakersfield!)

After the jump, we’re taking a look at That Fiddlin’ Man from the late, great Don Rich! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

July 23, 2013 at 08:07

They’ve Got a Tiger by the Tail: Don Rich and The Buckaroos Return From Omnivore

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Don Rich - That Fiddlin' ManOmnivore Recordings is going back to Bakersfield. Building on the success of such projects as Honky Tonk Man: Buck Sings Country Classics, Don Rich Sings George Jones, Buck Owens Live at the White House, Buck Sings Eagles, and (this author’s personal favorite!) the Buck Owens Coloring Book and Flexi Disc, Omnivore is mining the rich, rough-and-tumble country-and-western legacy of that California town for two new releases due on July 23.

Buck Owens’ iconic band The Buckaroos are celebrated with The Buckaroos Play Buck and Merle, in which they pay tribute to the two Bakersfield heroes they knew so well, Messrs. Owens and Haggard. This disc brings together the band’s The Buck Owens Songbook (1965) and The Songs of Merle Haggard (1971) on one CD. It will be joined by Don Rich and the Buckaroos’ 1971 album That Fiddlin’ Man in its very first ever appearance on compact disc.

Buck Owens’ guitarist and all-around right-hand man Don Rich often made room in the set for one of his many specialties: the fiddle. On tunes like “Orange Blossom Special,” Rich proved his virtuosity on the instrument, and in 1971, Capitol Records collected ten fiddlin’ tracks from the Buckaroos’ catalogue as That Fiddlin’ Man. Though a few tracks have appeared on CD before, Omnivore is reissuing the album in its original sequence for the very first time, complete with the groovy psychedelic cover artwork! In the spirit of the original release, the label has added another ten tracks of The Buckaroos, Don Rich, and his fiddle, making for a definitive survey of his style. In total, the new compact disc presents 20 tracks drawn from 13 different albums recorded between 1963 and 1970. The expanded edition of That Fiddlin’ Man includes a full-color booklet with new liner notes, photos and information on the source of each track. It should prove a fine companion to Don Rich Sings George Jones, the recently-excavated solo album that spotlights his underrated work as a vocalist. Rich’s life ended too soon when he perished in a motorcycle accident in 1974 at 32 years of age, but his music has proven in the timeless tradition of truly classic country.

Hit the jump to sing along with The Buckaroos!

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

May 17, 2013 at 09:37

Release Round-Up: Week of February 12

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Merle - SinglesMerle Haggard, The Complete ’60s Capitol Singles / Wanda Jackson, The Best of the Classic Capitol Singles / George Jones, The Complete United Artists Solo Singles (Omnivore)

Joe’s review of all three of these new country/rock singles anthologies from Omnivore speaks for each of them pretty well!

Merle: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Wanda: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
George: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Billy Joe Shaver - Complete ColumbiaBorderline, Sweet Dreams and Quiet Desires/The Second Album / Sam Dees, The Show Must Go On / Kenny O’Dell, Beautiful People / Pozo Seco, Shades of Time / Sam Samudio, Hard and Heavy / Billy Joe Shaver, The Complete Columbia Recordings /Rick Wakeman, No Earthly Connection (Real Gone Music)

The latest from Real Gone (some of which is on tap in the preceding link), including a solo LP from Sam The Sham, all of Billy Joe Shaver’s Columbia work and a solo disc from Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman.

REM Original Album SeriesR.E.M., Original Album Series / Yes, Original Album Series (Rhino U.K.)

Two new entries in Rhino’s “Original Album Series” sets, budget boxes packaging five albums by the same artist together, with a minimum of frills. R.E.M.’s set includes their final five albums, all recorded as a trio after drummer Bill Berry retired (Up (1998), Reveal (2001), Around the Sun (2004), Accelerate (2008) and Collapse Into Now (2011)), while Yes’ box includes their final works for Atlantic/Atco (Going for the One (1977), Tormato (1978), Drama (1980), 90125 (1983) and Big Generator (1987)).

R.E.M. Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Yes: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Joni boxJoni Mitchell, The Studio Albums 1968-1979 (Rhino)

Already available in the U.K., this domestic new release features the iconic singer-songwriter’s first ten albums in one box. Nothing new in the way of packaging or remastering, just a quick way to snag ’em all at once. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Shabooh ShoobahINXS, Shabooh Shoobah/The Swing (Friday Music)

From Friday Music comes the Australian band’s third and fourth albums on one compact disc. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Aretha - In the BeginningAretha Franklin, In the Beginning: The World of Aretha Franklin 1960-1967 (Wounded Bird)

A 1972 compilation of Aretha’s oft-overlooked early days on Columbia gets reissued by Wounded Bird. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

sepia1216Pat Boone, I’ll See You in My Dreams/This and That / Jane Morgan, What Now My Love/At the Cocoanut Grove / Tony Mottola, Roman Guitar 2/Spanish Guitar / Original Soundtrack Recordings, The Road to Hong Kong/Say One for Me (Sepia)

Some special two-for-one albums, many with bonus tracks, making their CD debuts from this British reissue label.

Review: “Classic Singles” of Merle Haggard, George Jones and Wanda Jackson

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Merle - SinglesWhat makes a (living) legend most?  Based on the label’s three most recent releases, Omnivore Recordings certainly has some ideas.  Omnivore has just issued singles anthologies from three tried-and-true country titans: Merle Haggard’s The Complete 60s Capitol Singles, George Jones’ The Complete United Artists Solo Singles, and Wanda Jackson’s The Best of the Classic Capitol Singles.  All three titles reiterate the eclectic label’s commitment to reissuing some of the most significant C&W music of all time.

Like another Omnivore favorite, Buck Owens, Merle Haggard epitomized the “Bakersfield sound” of country music, a style rooted in pure honky-tonk.  Unlike the Texas-born and Arizona-raised Owens, Haggard was actually born in Bakersfield, California and raised just across the river from that country capital.  Owens played a major role in his career, though, when he hired Haggard as his bass player; Haggard also would make Buck’s ex-wife, Bonnie Owens, his second of five wives.  The penultimate track on The Complete 60s Capitol Singles (OVCD-57) is “Okie from Muskogee,” the controversial song that catapulted the singer-songwriter to superstardom.  But the 26 tracks before “Okie” (and one after!) show why he’s one of the most revered names in country music, and are much more straightforward than that oft-misunderstood classic.  These songs are built around themes familiar to any country fan: the twin temptations of women and drink, the outlaw life, solitude, the love of a mother, all rendered with the piercing honesty on which Haggard built a still-formidable reputation.

And though misery and sadness do frequently prevail, Merle evinced a keen sense of humor as far back as his first Capitol single “I’m Gonna Break Every Heart I Can” (“I’m gonna travel all around the worl’/I’ll be a threat to the sweetest girl/I’m gonna break every heart I can/Or my name ain’t Merle!”).  2010 Kennedy Center Honoree Haggard called Capitol home from 1965 to 1977, where he notched an impressive string of hits including many country No. 1s.  Many of the best are here.

Haggard wrote most of the As and Bs here, but also paid tribute to Hank Cochran and Jimmie Rodgers with covers, and his first Country No. 1, “The Fugitive,” was the work of Liz and Casey Anderson.  December 1966’s release of “The Fugitive” began Haggard’s impressive run of chart-topping hits, all of which dealt with the themes of the outlaw life, drawing on the singer’s own time spent in prison.  “Branded Man” (No. 1, June 1967: “No matter where I’m livin’, a black mark follows me…”) was followed by death-row anthem “Sing Me Back Home” (No. 1, October 1967) and then by the bluegrass-flavored “The Legend of Bonnie and Clyde” (No. 1, February 1968).  Unbelievably, “Mama Tried” followed on the same theme (No. 1, June 1968).  Music may have saved Haggard from a life of crime; as an inmate at San Quentin, he was inspired by seeing Johnny Cash perform there.  Clearly, he grasped the humanity of the characters he wrote in song and much like Cash, had a great deal of empathy for those who didn’t always “walk the line.”

Some of the all-time great drinking songs are here, including Merle’s first Capitol hit “Swinging Doors” (No. 5 Country) (“I’ve got swinging doors, a jukebox and a bar stool/And my new home has a flashing neon sign/Stop by and see me any time you want to/’Cause I’m always here at home ‘til closing time”), as well as “The Bottle Let Me Down” (No. 3) and “I Threw Away the Rose” (No. 2).  These 1966 hits could be maudlin or cliché as rendered by other voices.  But the emotional directness of Haggard’s resonant baritone keeps them rooted in reality, with those deep, low notes that seem to have come from the earth itself.

Many might be unaware of the role of Glen Campbell in Haggard’s recordings.  While serving as a session stalwart in the L.A. “Wrecking Crew,” Haggard’s Capitol labelmate Campbell was frequently called upon to provide both guitar and background vocals to Merle’s recordings as produced by Ken Nelson and Charles “Fuzzy” Owen.  When Campbell’s soaring tenor blended with Haggard’s lead and Bonnie Owens’ harmony vocal, the result was pure magic.  Drummer Jim Gordon and guitar legend James Burton also made their mark on these singles.  Their elegant musicianship and the singer’s own agreeable twang often masked the lyrical anguish.  Even the stellar recording of Hank Cochran’s “Loneliness Is Eating Me Alive” conjures a jazzy mood; the Haggard/Bonnie Owens co-write “[Today] I Started Loving You Again” is gorgeously understated.

If the balance of the material on Complete ‘60s Singles wasn’t presented so compellingly, it would be easy for “Okie from Muskogee” to cast its long shadow over every other song here.  The topical, politically incendiary song’s power might have even taken its author by surprise.  The song is seemingly a condemnation of “long [haired] and shaggy” hippies who smoke marijuana, practice free love and burn their draft cards, but in recent years, Haggard has taken to interpreting it ironically.  Regardless of his intentions writing the song, many took its “patriotic” message to heart, and it thrust Haggard to the next stage of fame and success.  The B-side of “Okie,” “If I Had Left It Up to You,” is the concluding track on the compilation, and a much more traditional tune.  How appropriate that Haggard closed out the 1960s with the “Okie” single; how appropriate that Omnivore has left us wanting more from Merle Haggard, posed for greater crossover success on the heels of a rather atypical song.

Deke Dickerson has written the copious liner notes, and every track has been remastered from the original single masters (most in mono) save one which could not be located, 1969’s “California Blues.”

After the jump: we check out companion volumes from George Jones and Wanda Jackson! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

February 12, 2013 at 13:12

The Race Is On! Singles Collections Coming From George Jones, Merle Haggard, Wanda Jackson

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Wanda Jackson - SinglesOne thing the folks at Omnivore Recordings are, well, omnivorous about is country music.  For Record Store Day’s Black Friday event, the label previewed four upcoming releases with special vinyl EPs from Buck Owens, Wanda Jackson, Merle Haggard and George Jones.  Following the January 23, 2013 release of Owens’ Honky Tonk Man and Don Rich Sings George Jones, Omnivore will issue three new compilations on February 12:  Haggard’s The Complete 60s Capitol Singles, Jones’ The Complete United Artists Solo Singles, and Jackson’s The Best of the Classic Capitol Singles. The vinyl EPs will remain as companion discs to these new CDs, containing unique rarities not available elsewhere.

2009 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Wanda Jackson released her 31st studio album, Unfinished Business, just a couple of months ago, just the latest success in a long recording career dating back to 1954.  The Queen of Rockabilly signed with Capitol Records in 1956, and remained with the label until 1973.  The Best of the Classic Capitol Singles contains 29 songs from her Capitol tenure, all derived from the original analog mono masters.  Expect rockabilly, country and gospel in a distinct Jackson stew which Omnivore promises will include rockers like “Fujiyama Mama” (1957) and “Mean Mean Man” (1958) as well as three-hanky tearjerkers like “No Wedding Bells for Joe” (1957) and “(Every Time They Play) Our Song” (1958). Daniel Cooper puts Jackson’s groundbreaking country-and-western stylings into perspective via his new liner notes.

Merle - SinglesWhile Jackson hailed from Oklahoma, her Capitol labelmate Merle Haggard hailed from California, where he remained to become a central proponent of the back-to-basics Bakersfield Sound alongside Buck Owens.  2010 Kennedy Center Honoree Haggard called Capitol home from 1965 to 1977, where he notched an impressive string of hits including many country No. 1s.  “The Fugitive” kicked off Haggard’s run of chart-toppers in 1966, his sixth single to have reached the country charts.  He ended the decade with another No. 1, the politically incendiary (and oft-misunderstood) “Okie from Muskogee.”  Like Jackson, Haggard is still going strong today, and his pivotal first decade in music is definitively chronicled on The Complete 60s Capitol Singles.  The new anthology features 28 A & B sides taken from the original analog mono masters, and musician Deke Dickerson has written the liner notes.

After the jump, we look at what’s coming from George Jones!  Plus: pre-order links and more! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

December 18, 2012 at 14:28

Black Friday 2012: Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Rolling Stones, Frank Zappa Lead Off Packed Slate of RSD Exclusives

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Here in the U. S. of A., Black Friday is almost upon us: that unusual date following the prior day of giving thanks, in which consumers make a mad dash to the local big-box store, mall or shopping center to procure bargains for the holiday season ahead.  Retailers are controversially beginning Black Friday “festivities” even earlier than usual this year, with many sales starting on Thanksgiving Day itself and not even at midnight but in the early part of the evening.  For a number of recent years, music buyers have had our own Black Friday, that day in April known as Record Store Day in which the aisles of our independent retailers are filled with hunters of collectible vinyl and CD releases.  Record Store Day has in the past sponsored a mini-RSD event on Black Friday, but this year, the titles on offer are as enticing and nearly as plentiful as those on the main RSD itself.  For some, this will be a source of frustration, for others, excitement.

This year’s line-up for Record Store Day – Black Friday brings titles from some of the biggest names in rock including The Beach Boys, David Bowie, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones and Nirvana, plus cult favorites like Leonard Cohen, Lee Hazlewood and Frank Zappa, and country-and-western legends such as Wanda Jackson and Buck Owens.

After the jump and without further ado, we’ll fill you in on the crème of the reissued crop come this Black Friday!  Just click for your full list of the catalogue releases to watch! Read the rest of this entry »


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Written by Joe Marchese

November 19, 2012 at 10:07