August 25, 2014

Ray Stevens Gospel Collection, Part 5...

Good early Monday morning...those that have the Ray Stevens Gospel Collection in their possession I assume love the CD!!! I came across an article posted on The Tennessean site about the CD and it includes some quotes from Ray. You can read the article HERE.

There's mention made of Volume 2...and according to the article there may not be a follow-up if Volume 1 isn't "a success". The songs that are to appear on a possible follow-up have all been recorded. Ray recorded 24 songs for the project (12 appear on Volume 1 and another 12 are set to appear on the next Volume). I'm sure the success of the CD isn't necessarily going to be determined by sales alone...I'm sure Ray and company measure a CD's success in other ways, too. In the early stages it's a critical success...and it's saw signs of commercial success as it's fluctuating sales ranking on Amazon can attest to...but there hasn't been any television and radio publicity (yet) but I'm sure once Ray starts to make the rounds of various talk programs on either radio or TV (should he do that), the general public is going to become aware of the CD's existence.

Ideally, I believe a commercial on YouTube promoting the CD could be suffice considering the potential of a video clip reaching thousands of people through social media would create instant awareness. Also, given that it'll be on-line, it'll have the opportunity to be shared across the internet and there wouldn't be the scenario of people missing the commercial due to everyone's habit of channel surfing. Will there be a YouTube commercial for the gospel CD?? If one comes along I'll blog about it!!

In the meantime, if you hadn't purchased a copy, I'd suggest you do so. In my previous blog post I shared my review of the CD and I hope it inspires those that read it to purchase the CD. You can read my thoughts about the CD by searching the blog archive off to the right or you can read the Amazon review HERE.

If you're reading this blog I assume you're a fan of Ray Stevens anyhow and so why wouldn't you order it?

I'm going to provide a list of the various on-line stores where you can purchase your copy of the Ray Stevens Gospel Collection. I'm only highlighting certain stores, though...this isn't a directory by any stretch of the imagination...

Ray Stevens Store (CD copy)

Amazon (CD copy)

Amazon (Digital Download)

Capitol Christian Distribution (CD copy)

Wal-Mart (CD copy)

Itunes (Mp3)

Given the cosmetic facelift of Amazon recently they don't promote the CD and digital download on the same product page anymore and so once you're at Amazon you'd have to either click 'Digital Music' or 'CDs and Vinyl' and search for Ray's gospel project. Previous to the facelift, if you happened to be viewing the CD product page there would be a link in the product details for the Mp3 counterpart and vice versa but it isn't like that anymore and so I provided a link to both the CD and Mp3 format.

If you're wanting instant access to the latest Ray Stevens project then, of course, click on the links for the Mp3/digital download copy and have the songs sent right to your device (computer, phone, etc.). If you're like I am and prefer having a physical copy of a CD then click the other on-line stores of your choice. I didn't provide a link to the Bill Gaither on-line store because the page for Ray's gospel CD still has it listed in pre-order and I didn't want to provide a possible inactive link.

Those 6 choices of where you can purchase your copy of Ray's gospel project should be enough. It's not too long of a list and it isn't limited to just a couple of on-line stores, either.

August 23, 2014

Ray Stevens Gospel Collection Review

Ray Stevens once recorded an album titled Turn Your Radio On...the recordings took place in the early 1970's. The LP became a hit in 1972 and it boasted three hit singles. Since that time those recordings and some others he did in that same time period that fit the inspirational/gospel feel have made their way onto various compilation albums over the last several decades. In 1982 a re-issue of the early '70s album hit the market. In 1992 Ray compiled a gospel collection of his previous recordings that he titled A Brighter Day. The title of the collection comes from a song he recorded in 1970 that appeared on his Everything Is Beautiful LP.

In 1996, Curb Records issued Great Gospel Songs. This one is more or less a re-issue of Turn Your Radio On with a couple of other songs added. The 1972 LP seen another re-issue via Collectible Records as part of a 2-LP-on-1 CD project paired with his 1975 LP, Misty.

A couple of years ago (in 2010) a compilation from Ray surfaced titled A Funny Thing Happened In Church Today (spotlighting mostly comedic recordings centering around religion and church service). As far back as 2010 Ray had been mentioning in his various interviews that he'd hoped to put out a gospel album of newer recordings at some point. In 2012 it appeared as if a gospel project was on the horizon...excitement amongst fans of Ray Stevens really started to set in during a radio interview with Mike Huckabee as we all heard "If Jesus Is a Stranger" for the very first time in 2013 (December 4th). At the time of that appearance the gospel album had a release date set for January 2014...with the title being 'Onward Christian Soldiers'. Along the way something must have come up because the scheduled January release was pushed back without a specific future release date being announced.

Afterward not much was mentioned of an upcoming gospel release until the summer of 2014 during the early stages of Ray's Nashville memoir release. During an autograph signing at Fan Fair images of Ray's gospel CD appeared as booth decoration and pictures of him from the CD's photo session were on display. I did not attend Fan Fair but I've seen pictures of him meeting fans and signing autographs at Fan Fair and you can easily see images of the gospel CD in the background.

An announced release date of August 19 soon surfaced as did news of it's affiliation with the Gaither gospel music company. The CD carries a Gaither Gospel Series banner on the top left side of the CD.

In a word, this gospel collection is outstanding!! There are 12 tracks on here...5 of the 12 are medleys that combine 2 songs into one performance. This project is a music arranger's delight, too, due to the various tempo shifts and instrumentation accompanying the performances. As most fans are aware, Ray has long been the producer and arranger of the songs he records and this one is no exception...but considering the amount of production on display here I hope listeners appreciate the effort and energy Ray put into these recordings. Not only are you going to hear vocal prowess but musical expertise, too. It's in the medley performances that Ray's arranging skills are front and center. The opening medley "Swing Down Chariot/Swing Low Sweet Chariot" carries the usual display of gospel sing-a-long but it's in the production that Ray paints a clear picture of the a movie...and it comes complete with thunder claps. In the second medley "Shall We Gather at the River/Down By the Riverside", it starts out as a ballad and then turns into a hand clapping sing-a-long. In a possible nod to his 1972 gospel album Ray has also overdubbed his own harmony vocals multiple times...creating a choir effect heard on this song and in others throughout the collection. Track three, "Dry Bones", comes from his 2012 box set The Encyclopedia of Recorded Comedy Music. Ray had performed the song on a telethon hosted by Gary Chapman in 2011...a studio recording surfaced in 2012 for the Encyclopedia project and it's making an encore appearance on this gospel CD.

I first heard and seen Ray perform track 4, "Farther Along", in a YouTube video. The performance comes from a special called God Bless America Again. In the studio recording heard on the gospel CD it clearly fits the country gospel has that 'sound' (to my ears at least). Given it's a studio recording it features a lot more production, obviously, than you'll hear on the YouTube video.

Once you get the CD chances are, if you're a long time fan of Ray's, that you'll get chills and maybe goosebumps as you listen to the familiar intro of "Have a Little Talk with Myself". The song, originally recorded by Ray in 1969, makes a brief appearance as part of a medley. It's paired with "Just a Little Talk with Jesus". Some more examples of Ray's production skills appear in "Onward Christian Soldiers" (in the planning stages of the CD that was to be the CD's title!). The recording blends the gospel sounds with military might and as far as the production goes it clearly holds the title for the most production value (aside from the opening medley). As you listen to "The Old Rugged Cross/Rock of Ages" and especially "Old Time Religion/When the Roll is Called Up Yonder" you'll find yourself caught up in the moment and there's some phrases in his rendition of the "When the Roll is Called Up Yonder" that are great to the ears. I hadn't heard Ray sing like this in awhile!! He hits notes in the Duane Allen range (of The Oak Ridge Boys).

"Turn Your Radio On" makes an appearance on this collection...but it doesn't feature the lyrics that Ray Stevens fans are familiar with. This particular recording uses the 1938 lyrics rather than the other set of lyrics Ray used on his 1971 recording. The chorus of the song remains the same, though. "The Preacher and the Bear" is the only comical song on the collection...and some may wonder the reason it's here considering the dramatic and inspirational tone of the collection as a whole. Ray recorded this for his 2012 Encyclopedia box set and did a great job on it. It's more of a religious tale of comedic encounters rather than a 'ha ha ha' funny song. The CD closes with "If Jesus is a Stranger". This is the song that Ray's been performing and promoting on most of his interview appearances. As I mentioned earlier I first heard this song in December 2013 during an appearance Ray made on Mike Huckabee's radio program. I believe this is destined to be a commercially released 'single' and I say that because it jumps right out at you from the speakers as if it's tailor-made to be extracted from the collection at some later date.

After listening to the CD the Ray Stevens Gospel Collection, Volume One was definitely worth the wait!! You'd have to be one of the most bitter, mean, grouchiest people in America to not like this CD once you hear it.

Yes, this my sheet of paper containing my notes. As I listened to the CD I made notes of some of the things I wanted to say in my review.

Ray Stevens: Rayality TV webisode 20...

Hello all!! In case you missed it this is the 20th installment of Rayality TV that hit the internet yesterday (Friday). It's a sequel to webisode 19 as it carries a Christmas theme throughout. Ray begins the festive activities by singing a brief Christmas carol...but it doesn't make much sense to him...and then he does a Victor Borge-inspired reaction...

The two music videos spotlighted in this installment are "White Christmas" and the classic, "Santa Claus is Watching You"...

I had a long night at work and am sleepy at the moment but I did want to let you all know that I received Ray's brand new project in the mail. The Ray Stevens Gospel Collection, Volume One arrived in the mail late yesterday evening according to the tracking data on Amazon. I couldn't make it to the post office yesterday because of other things I was doing and so I checked my mail box this morning on my way home from work and the shipment was waiting for me. I'll post my commentary/review/thoughts on the CD at a later time (I've listened to the CD and jotted down notes that I'll be using when I put together my review). 

I'll close this blog post with a visual tease of things to come in my next blog entry...