December 6, 2008

Ray...30 years ago

Thirty years ago...1978...Ray Stevens releases the albums Be Your Own Best Friend and There Is Something On Your Mind. The album on top...the white album, you could say, is a very good album that simply got lost. The music is in step with the light pop sounds of the time period. There is no song on here that really screams out COUNTRY but yet the title track, "Be Your Own Best Friend", did hit the country charts. The song lyrics of all the songs are posted on the back of the album for fans to sing-a-long with. The album as I mentioned, is soft-rock/light pop...mellow. I'll go out on a limb and say that the only song on this collection that reaches a fever that has a bit of a rocking "Comeback". The album kicks off with a very nice sing-a-long, "L'amour", which carries an international feel in it's musical delivery. Ray co-wrote this song with a man named Gilbert Becaud. This may be the song Ray once referred to when he spoke about an instrumental he heard while in England and he wanted to write words to it...the music certainly has a British over-tone, to my ears at least. When you hear it you may understand what I'm trying to say.

"Comeback" carries a rush of urgency...pretty much the only up-tempo/rocker driven song on the album. Ray tells us about how a relationship has ended and fills us in about how much she meant to him in spite of her leaving him...and all she has to do is comeback...come, come, come, comeback. "Daydream Romance" is an ultra-mellow love tells the story of a musician on the road and thinking of the woman he's left at home. "With a Smile" carries a similar positive message that "Be Your Own Best Friend" "With a Smile" we hear Ray telling us how important it is to smile, no matter what you're saying, try a smile and when life makes you frown, "just take that frown, and turn it around". "Be Your Own Best Friend", meanwhile, tackles a similar message but in this song Ray tells us that it's okay to be your own judge and be your own person no matter what others may have to say and that only you are able to look after yourself because nobody else is going to. "You're Magic" is one of my favorites from the album. I love the arrangement, the melody, the lyrics...I wish it were released as a single or would have become something more well-known. "Two Wrong's Don't Make a Right" borrows the phrase passed down through the ages and transplants it into a love song setting about two people and how the woman likes to cheat but the man can't bring himself to go through with cheating on her...but as Ray says, "nothing's gained by revenge and spite", bringing us to the song's title.

"Hidin' Place" is a bluesy number to my ears. It's simply a song about getting away from it all with your lover/spouse and how just being together provides seclusion from the world. "You've Got the Music Inside" is a re-recording of a song he originally recorded in 1973 for his Nashville album. The 1973 version was performed slower and had a touch of drama whereas the 1978 re-recording is also recorded as a ballad but this time with a more smoother vocalization when compared to 1973. His voice had matured even more. "The Feeling's Not Right Again" is an unusual love song in that it tells about a couple who can't find the answers to whatever it is they are searching for...even though they seem to fit together, almost. "The Feeling's Not Right Again" is also unusal in that it became the name of his 1979 album...because it had a similar sounding title to a Barry Manilow song/album called "Trying To Get The Feeling" much so that Warner Brothers, the label Ray recorded for, parodied the Barry Manilow album in 1979. See my three Ray Stevens blog entries about the Barry Manilow parodies for more information.

The Be Your Own Best Friend album featured nine songs. It was very ballad heavy.

1. L'amour
2. Two Wrongs Don't Make a Right
3. You've Got the Music Inside
4. Hidin' Place
5. Be Your Own Best Friend
6. The Feeling's Not Right Again
7. Comeback
8. You're Magic
9. With a Smile

This album, There Is Something On Your Mind, was recorded in 1978 and it was Ray's labor of album spotlighting the beloved R&B music he grew up listening to. The album is one of those under the radar releases that when you blink, you'll miss it. The material is all top-notch and covers plenty of R&B...material known today as classic R&B. One of the things you'll notice is Ray's expertise in R&B...his liner notes appear at the top of the album above the picture. On the back of the album he gives his thoughts on each and every performance. There are only eight selections on this album but the selections are rather lengthy, and that will perhaps make it feel like a typical 10-11 song album by the time you're through listening to it. First off, Ray's sandwiches nine R&B songs into three separate medleys.

"Dance Trilogy" features abbreviated performances of "Do You Wanna Dance?", "When You Dance", and "Save The Last Dance For Me". "Old Faithful Trilogy" features portions of "Shake a Hand", "Since I Met You Baby", and "Always". Then there is the adventurous "Banned In Boston Trilogy" which spotlights three abbreviated R&B songs that were banned on Boston radio stations: "Sixty Minute Man", "Work With Me Annie", and "Annie Had a Baby". Ray tells us on the back of the album that these songs were banned because the subject matter was considered too racy.

Aside from the three medleys/trilogies, we hear full performances of five R&B classics: "Money Honey", "Your Cash Ain't Nothin' But Trash", "Talk to Me", "One Mint Julep", and the title track, "There Is Something On Your Mind", which includes an audience background. Several of these recordings resurfaced in 1995 when Warner Brothers issued three compilation CD's on Ray: Cornball, The Serious Side of Ray Stevens, and Do You Wanna Dance? The recordings from this 1978 album that have yet to make their way onto CD are the title track and the medley of songs that were Banned in Boston.

There's just so much Ray Stevens music the public at large just isn't aware of!!

The liner notes that appear above the picture go as follows:

"I'm not a nostalgia nut I guess, along with everyone else, I'm a little tired of hearing, with rare exception, nothing but parodies of the '50s music. True, a few of the hits deserve nothing but a tongue-in-cheek treatment, but then maybe every era is vulnerable to ridicule from somebody's point of view.

Be that as it may...I have had the desire to record some of the old '50s songs for sometime now minus the "grease" and "doo-wop"! A lot of the lyrics are still relevant and the idea's expressed poignant and communicative to any generation. I have tried to present this collection of "oldies" with as much sincere appreciation for merit as reality will allow.

I grew up with these songs and they played in the background of my formative years as a singer and musician. I like these songs. Some of the lyrics are not what you could call heavy but they translate into a feeling that reads between the me, anyway.

I recorded this album in my little studio in Nashville on 24 tracks using a few musicians that I have known and worked with for years."


The band accompaniment was more than 7 separate musicians played on this album. The musicians for the most part played on all the songs with a few exceptions. Here is the musician list for this album...

Ray Stevens {keyboards, synthesizer, percussion, background harmony}
Jerry Carrigan {drums}
Jerry Kroon {drums on "Money Honey" and "Old Faithful Trilogy"}
Jack Williams {bass}
Reggie Young {electric guitar}
Johnny Christopher {acoustic guitar}
Mark Casstevens {guitar on "Money Honey" and "Old Faithful Trilogy"}

Quite a few of those musicians would continue to appear on Ray's albums over the next 10-15 years.

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