November 26, 2016

Ray Stevens: Mary and Joseph CD...My Review...

The current Christmas CD from Ray Stevens is wonderful!!! Ray offers us his third Christmas project (following the 1997 release of the all-comical Christmas Through a Different Window and 2009's all-serious Ray Stevens Christmas) and it contains a combination of uptempo, ballad, and comical performances. The title track, his current music video release on YouTube, tells the story of Mary and Joseph making their travels with their baby, Jesus, but from the point of view of the donkey. Not being too familiar with modern-day country music happenings I didn't realize the song had already been recorded by one of it's writers, Jeff Bates, and had been nick-named The Donkey Song. I hadn't heard the Jeff Bates recording but at some point I'll probably listen to it just to see if Ray gave it a different arrangement or whatever. The video's been getting a lot of reaction, so far, on YouTube. It's gotten 12,270 unique views since it's November 16th debut. I'll embed the video at the bottom of this review. There are a couple of Christmas standards on this project as there have been on the previous Christmas projects. This time around Ray provides his recordings of "Frosty the Snowman" and "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer". A couple of recordings previously only found on Ray's 9-CD box set from 2011, The Encyclopedia of Recorded Comedy Music, make appearances: "All I Want For Christmas is My Two Front Teeth" and his take on Elmo and Patsy's "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer".

In addition to the title track, "Mary and Joseph and the Baby and Me", and some of the uptempo songs he also delivers ballads in the form of "Christmas Bells in the Steeple", "Christmas Will Be Just Another Lonely Day", and "Merry Christmas". The latter a song that's been only available as a music video on YouTube for a couple of years; it marks it's debut on CD with this project. If you're not familiar with the song it calls out political correctness and attacks the belief held by some that saying "Merry Christmas" is somehow offensive and therefore people should only say the generic "happy holidays" or "season's greetings".

One of the songs that I hope doesn't go overlooked is his take on "All I Want for Christmas Is You" because not only is his performance of it so good it provides further evidence (if anybody needed any) that Ray can more or less take any song and make it sound as if he originated it. Yes, the song should be familiar to pop music listeners as it's the same song once recorded by Mariah Carey (she co-wrote it, too). Upon seeing the title of the song listed on the CD I at first thought it to be Ray's version of a Christmas staple by Vince Vance and the Valiants by the same name so I was completely surprised to hear him cover the Mariah Carey song.

Given Ray's reputation among the general audience as being a comical/novelty artist I suspect that the song that'll receive the most attention aside from the title track is "Claws (A Cat's Letter to Santa Claus)". In this performance Ray delivers the story of a cat that's been declawed by his owners, much to the cat's dismay, and the cat offers reasons for his need for claws.

It's a 10 song collection of Christmas songs and it's excellent!!! As you can see from the review I refer to it as a CD but yet it's an Mp3. It's a habit. I still refer to any kind of collection of songs as "albums", for example, even though I may actually be referring to a cassette, CD, or Mp3. The physical copy of the CD hasn't arrived in the mail yet. I purchased it digitally on Amazon, first, because I wanted to hear the songs on release day (back on November 14th) and I've since purchased the physical copy of the CD from the Ray Stevens on-line store at his official website located HERE. You will have to register, for free, and create a username and password and all of that prior to ordering on-line. Obviously I don't think you'll need to do all of that if you prefer to order over the phone.

November 16, 2016

Ray Stevens: Mary and Joseph and the Baby and Me...

Hello once more!! For the last several hours the website, Taste of Country, had been the exclusive home to a brand new Ray Stevens video. I'd been busy most of the morning (away from the computer) and only found out about the video half an hour ago during a social media search. Apparently the exclusive window has elapsed and Ray has since uploaded it onto his YouTube channel. The video, which I seen on Taste of Country around noon today, is for "Mary and Joseph and the Baby and Me". It's the title track of his brand new Christmas CD of which I made mention of in my previous blog entry. The video is cute and I'm sure it'll become an instant classic. Ray has as much fun with the puppets as you'll be having as you watch the clip. There are moments in the video which look like, to me, he's trying not to bust out laughing. The puppetry is pretty good...I'm sure puppet aficionados and fans of Jim Henson may cringe but, hey, it's a cute video clip. I'm pretty sure Ray isn't trying out for any vacant position on Sesame Street or enjoy the video clip in the spirit of which it's meant to be seen...

Buy your copy of the CD by clicking HERE.

November 13, 2016

Ray Stevens: Upcoming Christmas CD...

Hello one and all...this is going to be super short notice but an upcoming Christmas CD from Ray Stevens is expected to be released tomorrow (November 14th). It's a 10 song collection...7 of the recordings are exclusive to the CD while 3 of the recordings have previously been released. The previously released recordings are "All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth" and "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" (both recordings from the 2012 Encyclopedia of Recorded Comedy Music) and "Merry Christmas" (originally released as a music video in 2012...first appearance on a CD collection).

The upcoming release is titled Mary and Joseph and the Baby and Me. Ray's on-line store has it for sale already and it'll go on sale all over the internet on November 14th. Several days ago I did a music search for Ray Stevens and discovered this upcoming release but I never made mention of it on this blog because I knew very little about it. Ray hadn't even publicized it's upcoming release, either, and so I decided I'd better keep my discovery to myself just in case the release appeared on-line prematurely (such things are known to happen). Amazon's Mp3 store is the place I discovered the project, by the way. The CD's title track comes from the pen of country music artist Jeff Bates. I didn't know this until another Ray Stevens fan pointed it out. There is audio/video of Jeff performing the song but I've deliberately kept myself from viewing it. I want to discover the song through the Ray Stevens recording and then later I'll take a listen to the recording by it's writer.

So, then, just what exactly are the 10 songs on this CD? I've already listed 4 of them (the 3 from 2012 and the previously unreleased title track). The remaining 6 recordings are: "Frosty the Snowman", "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer", "All I Want for Christmas Is You", "Christmas Bells (In the Steeple)", "Claws (A Cat's Letter to Santa)", and "Christmas Will Be Just Another Lonely Day". Isn't that cover photo lovely? It's a scene perfect for a Christmas card, and speaking of which, if you order the CD from Ray's on-line music store you'll receive a Christmas card as a free gift. The card spotlights the cover of the CD. I did some research on some of the recordings and I found out that track 9 had been published by Ray's company and previously recorded in the early '60s by Brenda Lee. Much in the way you can seek out the Jeff Bates recording of "Mary and Joseph and the Baby and Me", also known as The Donkey Song, you can also find the Brenda Lee recording of "Christmas Will Be Just Another Lonely Day". The awesome thing about this is the fact that Ray published the song but had never recorded it until now. If you happen to have the Brenda Lee recording then you've already been aware for years that Ray's Ahab Music Company published it. It's something I happened to just find out during my research several days ago. For clarification: Ray's main publishing company (he has several) hasn't been called Ahab Music Company since the late '70s. He changed it to Ray Stevens Music, the name it continues to operate under, but songs that originated prior to the change in name have to remain under their original publishing credits. If you see any song credited to Ahab Music Company then those publishing credits occurred prior to 1978. In addition Ray has several record labels. Clyde Records is the main one but lately he's been using the CabaRay Entertainment imprint.

The songs, in order, are: "Mary and Joseph and the Baby and Me", "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer", "Frosty the Snowman", "All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth", "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer", "Claws (A Cat's Letter to Santa)", "All I Want for Christmas is You", "Merry Christmas", "Christmas Will Be Just Another Lonely Day", and "Christmas Bells (In the Steeple)".

You can purchase your copy of Ray's latest CD by clicking HERE.