It's not accurate to say that Buck Owens' catalog has been mistreated on CD -- he was one of the first major country artists to be given an excellent, comprehensive multi-disc box set, and he's one of the few country artists to see most of his actual full-length LPs reissued on CD. Despite all this activity, there has been one glaring omission from his discography: a single-disc overview of his career containing all his big hits. Released a few months after his death, Rhino's 2006 release 21 #1 Hits: The Ultimate Collection comes close to filling that bill. Like most collections that narrow their focus to just Billboard chart-toppers, 21 #1 Hits contains the lion's share of the artist's best-known songs -- in this case, "Act Naturally," "Love's Gonna Live Here," "I've Got a Tiger by the Tail," "Together Again," "Buckaroo," and his duet with Dwight Yoakam on "Streets of Bakersfield" are all here -- yet misses some important and popular sides that came up shy of the pole position. Here, such early singles as "Second Fiddle," "Under Your Spell Again," "Above and Beyond," and "Mental Cruelty" are missing in action, and all deserve a spot on a definitive introduction to Buck, particularly since there's room for them on this 50-minute disc. Also, this comp suffers from odd sequencing: most of his best-known songs all arrive within the first six songs, including the 1988 re-recording of "Streets of Bakersfield," which sounds out of place sandwiched between the '60s classics "Love's Gonna Live Here" and "I've Got a Tiger by the Tail." After that introductory burst, it settles into a rough chronological order, which only highlights the fact that the 1988 "Streets" would have been a better closer than Buck's admittedly fine 1969 live version of "Johnny B. Goode." But this is nitpicking: there is no other single-disc Buck CD that comes as close to offering as much of his best in one disc as 21 #1 Hits: The Ultimate Collection, and it's nice to finally have such a collection in his catalog after such a long wait.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
feat: Dwight Yoakam