July 31, 2014

Ray Stevens: We The People...4 years Later...

Good late afternoon Ray Stevens fans! It happened to be during the summer of 2010 that Ray's We the People CD became available for purchase all over the internet. It's release date on Amazon was June 8, 2010. It had been available for purchase exclusively on Ray's website store since April of 2010 but it didn't get it's wider release until June.

At the time of the CD's June 2010 release Ray had been experiencing his initial successes on YouTube. He had also been a guest on many political and current events-oriented talk shows on radio and TV. All of it stemmed from the on-line popularity of several music videos. On December 11, 2009 Ray uploaded onto YouTube a music video called "We the People". The video/song dealt with Obamacare...the bill being drafted in Congress overhauling the United States healthcare system. Although the bill's official name is The Affordable Care Act, the nickname Obamacare became it's unofficial moniker. The nickname came from the bill's opponents. The bill became law in early 2010 on a party line vote and ever since then it's been the subject of numerous lawsuits and on-going debates. The actual law itself doesn't really take full effect for several more years but gradual implementation has been going on since 2010 and the more people see it's impact the more unpopular the law is becoming with Independent voters.

The video kicks off with Ray playing a plunger like a guitar (a visual reference to Joe the Plumber). The video's success and everything else that happened for Ray throughout 2010 set the stage for the next several years. He became a frequent performer at several political rallies for Tea Party groups and appeared on several high profile programs on the Fox News Channel multiple times throughout the year. The video, as of July 31st, has gotten 5,101,028 unique views. It obtained more than a million unique views during it's first month on-line.

In March of 2010, a couple of additional music videos surfaced: "Caribou Barbie", a salute to the political opinions of Sarah Palin, debuted on March 11 and a little more than a week later the rallying cry of "Throw the Bums Out!" hit YouTube on March 22. The latter music video has 1,070,046 unique views as of July 31, 2014. The Palin music video has half a million unique views as of July 31, 2014...the exact total is 580,809. You'd think it would've had many more views than that considering the video's subject matter but it never did get the coverage some of his other YouTube videos have gotten. There's millions upon millions of blogs, sites, and video clips of Sarah Palin and those that impersonate her all over the internet and so it's massive competition to say the least. Nevertheless, Ray's video is comical and cute, in places, and it includes impersonator Lori Stegner playing the part of Palin.

On May 13, 2010 Ray released the music video, "Come to the U.S.A." onto YouTube! This one, about illegal immigration and the problems of non-assimilation, has recently caught fire again. It originally hit during the height of the Arizona border security crisis and the controversies that erupted throughout the remainder of 2010-2011 surrounding illegal immigration, deportation, and a Federal Government unwilling to enforce it's immigration laws. In terms of unique views it's his biggest video hit...currently sitting at 8,544,298! A couple of days ago (July 28) the video had 8,499,676. The totals indicate a pick-up of 44,622 unique views in three days time.

A month after the release of "Come to the U.S.A.", the topical "Global Warming Song" hit YouTube on June 29, 2010. It was the fifth music video from a song found on the 2010 We the People CD. The music video's gotten 438,377 unique views. If the topic ever becomes a national issue once again the video should get more attention than it has.

A sixth music video from that 2010 CD surfaced on July 23, 2012 (to date the last music video to come from a song found on We the People). The music video titled "Obama Nation" became another million view hit...as of today it's got 1,095,849 unique views. Sandwiched between that 2012 video release and "The Global Warming Song" in June of 2010 was a Christmas music video in 2010 and other political videos of songs later to be found on the 2012 CD, Spirit of '76. Those particular videos started hitting YouTube in 2011.

Those interested can purchase the 2010 CD on Amazon. There's an Mp3 version also available for those that don't want the CD format. Once you click the link above you can click the Mp3 link on the Amazon page.

But, of course, 2010's "Come to the U.S.A." is the music video receiving a major resurgence at the moment and here it is...

July 28, 2014

Ray Stevens Gospel Collection, Part 2...

Hello once again...in less than a month the Ray Stevens Gospel Collection is to hit the market and I can't wait! The release date is August 19th. I just came over from Amazon and they've corrected their product page for the CD and it now shows 'Ray Stevens' as the artist rather than 'Ryan Stevens' and they've also added a track list, too. There had been a track list available on some of the other on-line stores but this is the first I'd seen one on Amazon.

You can pre-order the CD at Amazon or in other on-line stores. I have not read anything indicating that the CD is to be sold in traditional shopping stores...most of Ray's music of the last 10+ years has pretty much been exclusive to the internet and released on his own record label, Clyde Records. This one, however, is being released by the Gaither family on an independent record label. In an earlier interview Ray mentioned that the Gaither company would largely be responsible for the marketing and publicity. There are 12 performances on the CD. Five of the twelve performances are medleys of 2 songs each. I'm excited about it's upcoming release...I'm sure to be more excited as the calendar flips from July to August and later in the month as I order it. I'm thinking about putting in an Amazon pre-order for the CD next Friday. I initially was going to wait until it became available for purchase on it's official release day, August 19th, but I'm leaning toward placing an order early. Does Amazon ship items ahead of release for those that pre-order in an effort to get the product to the buyer on release day? I've often wondered about that but have never asked about it. If I choose to wait until August 19th and place an order the CD probably wouldn't arrive in the mail for several days. If I place a pre-order next Friday I'll more than likely make mention of it in a blog post. Here's the song list for those that are curious and hadn't taken a look yet...

Swing Down Chariot/Swing Low Sweet Chariot

Shall We Gather at the River/Down By the Riverside

Dry Bones

Farther Along

Have a Little Talk with Myself/Have a Little Talk with Jesus

Old Rugged Cross/Rock of Ages

Old Time Religion/When the Roll is Called Up Yonder

Onward Christian Soldiers

Amazing Grace

Turn Your Radio On

The Preacher and the Bear

If Jesus is a Stranger

Here's the updated Amazon product page for the Gospel Collection CD. As you can see from the song list I provided he's included a comedy recording in the form of "The Preacher and the Bear". This particular song dates back to the early 1900s and it's been recorded by many artists. Ray recorded it for his Encyclopedia of Recorded Comedy Music box set in 2012 and it makes an encore appearance on this gospel CD. I first heard the song as performed by Phil Harris and I've also heard the Jerry Reed recording, too. Ray's recording is just as good.

What are the numbers for the "Come to the U.S.A." YouTube video? I'm glad you asked! In a span of 6 days (July 22 to July 28) the video's gotten 105,879 unique views to bring it's overall total to 8,499,676! It's knocking on the door of 8.5 million.

Ray Stevens: Rayality TV webisode 16...

Hello all...I didn't have much time to be on the computer the last couple of days but in keeping with my tradition I've decided to embed the latest installment of Rayality TV from Ray Stevens...

This particular installment features the Reverend Ray character of fictional P.R.A.Y TV spreading the word about animals running wild in a couple of churches. The music videos spotlighted are "Mississippi Squirrel Revival" and "Smoky Mountain Rattlesnake Retreat".

In other happenings...yes, Ray's 2010 music video about illegal immigration, "Come to the U.S.A.", continues to rack up new unique views. It's approaching 8.5 million at the moment. The detailed total is 8,499,273!

For those that missed it or didn't make it there in person, the Country Music Hall of Fame's website has Ray's July 19th appearance at the Ford Theater embedded on their site. You can see the video and interview by clicking HERE. I don't know how long the video will be on-line, though...so watch it while you can. It runs about an hour.

One of the LP's from Ray Stevens that has never, to date, been issued on CD or become available as an Mp3 is 1969's Have a Little Talk with Myself. It's anyone's guess as to the reasons but it's probably due to the fact that most of the songs on it are Ray's versions of then-current pop songs and maybe some sort of music rights/publishing conflict is keeping that particular LP from making it's conversion to the digital age. The songs, with the exception of the title track that Ray penned, haven't become readily available on compilation projects either and so chances are the only place you're going to hear Ray's versions of "Hey Jude", "Aquarius", "Help", and others is to seek out the LP on eBay. Yes, in case you're asking yourselves, there are songs that have been lifted from the LP that have appeared elsewhere: "Hair", "Games People Play", and "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down" have appeared on compilation projects released on Ray Stevens...with "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down" (Ray's first single to reach the country music charts) being the most readily available of the three. A lot has been made of Ray's version of that particular song. Ray recorded it first and released it in 1969. In spite of the great performance and production it's a case of public image vs. lyrics. Ray had never cultivated the image of being a hell-raiser or one routinely coping with a hangover. The song became enormous a year later in 1970 by Johnny Cash.

This is one of my favorite LP covers. It's an image that I've had in my favorites for years. I've never came across the LP in any flea market...it's often for sale on eBay and other on-line auction sites at a less than reasonable selling price. As you can tell, it's a 2-LP set...20 songs altogether. It became available in 1979 on a label called Imperial House and it's filled with songs from Ray spanning the years of 1968 through 1975...and the one exception being his current hit single at the time, 1979's "I Need Your Help, Barry Manilow". The LP collection closes with that recording...the only recording representing his four year stay at Warner Brothers (1976-1979) to make the collection. Apparently the collection's purpose was to spotlight early recordings from Ray and deliberately finish it off with his current hit at the time. If I had been putting the project together I would've closed with his 1968 recording of "Isn't it Lonely Together" and had "I Need Your Help, Barry Manilow" as track 18 but I understand the reason for closing the collection with the 1979 hit...and it has a big finish and is perfect to close out a collection, too...but the aching and despair heard in Ray's vocals on the 1968 recording could also work as an LP closer, too.

This television performance, from 1979, is great. It lacks some of the instrumentation used in the studio recording, most notably the horn section, but nonetheless it's still fabulous. You might have to raise your volume...the audio isn't as crisp and sharp as it once was. To mirror this 2-LP collection, I'm closing this blog post with "I Need Your Help, Barry Manilow"...