A new L.A.-based record label, Omnivore Recordings, is celebrating its launch with two limited-edition vinyl releases. The owners – industry vets from the likes of Rhino and Warner-Chappell – are no strangers to the diminishing market of music sales. But, nevertheless, for love or sheer madness, they’re going the whole-hog on their boutique vinyl label.
And Ominvore’s first two releases are a double-doozy, coinciding with Record Store Day, the rallying cry for the vinyl faithful that comes to your town this Saturday, April, 16. Omnivore has unearthed two early Buck Owens recordings for a 7″ 45 on yellow vinyl limited to 1,300 copies (half of which are going for sale in Europe). Even more stunning is a reissue of Big Star’s Third on 180-gram vinyl. (More on that one tomorrow.)
The Buck Owens’ A side, a never-released version of “Close Up The Honky Tonks,” comes from a January 28, 1964, session – which originally yielded the hit “My Heart Skips A Beat.” This version of the Buckaroo staple – adopted affectionately by Gram Parsons and Dwight Yoakam – was recorded five months prior to the known version of the song. As a companion to “Honky Tonks,” the B side is an early version of “My Heart Skips A Beat,” recorded during the 1963 sessions that produced Owens’ first hit, “Act Naturally.” Interestingly, both songs on the Omnivore 45 feature Owens’ musical sidekick and Buckaroos’ leader, Don Rich, on fiddle instead of lead guitar, which he’d begun adopting by these ‘63 sessions.
“Fifty-one thousand, three-hundred and thirty-eight. Take eight,” comes the voice of the engineer at the start of “Honky Tonks.” The song lacks the interplay of Rich’s Tele lines and Tom Brumley’s sweeping pedal steel part from the later version. In the key of B, a whole step lower than the later version, Owens dips a tad lower into his register for the descending melody. While it’d be hard to make a case for these early versions over the released versions that came to define the Bakersfield sound, the 45 is a treasure for record collectors and a delight for Buck Owens enthusiasts.