May 29, 2009

Ray Stevens: Don't Laugh Now

Released in 1982, this was Ray's third and final studio album for RCA Records. The album's title was very appropriate during this phase of Ray's career as he was continuing to speak up for his more serious songs. Although in concert Ray sang both the serious and comical songs, on records for the most part as you read in my last blog entry he continued to remind music buyers that there was more to him than a chuckle or belly laugh. That serious expression on Ray's face on the album cover...if one were a newcomer to Ray's career at that time you wouldn't expect such comical songs as "Bridget the Midget", "Ahab the Arab", "The Moonlight Special", or a chicken-clucking rendition of "In The Mood" coming from this man because of how serious he carried himself on this RCA album. I will admit that the picture on the back of the album breaks the "serious" mood that Ray's suggesting...and I'll post the picture of Ray from the back of that album later in this blog.

This is what the music industry refers to as a promo single. A promo single as I've touched upon in blog's past is a single that's only available to radio stations or jukebox operators and not sold to the general public. The fact that once the vinyl era ended as a form of commercial resources in the music industry a lot of DJ's and radio stations started selling their "promo only" singles at flea markets and a lot of the promo singles are in the public domain. They're all over eBay and other on-line auction sites. A lot of the promo singles had a white label to distinguish it from the commercial single out in stores. This is a unique promo single in that the vinyl is gold colored. Vinyl colorization wasn't anything new but because of it's uniqueness and the fact that commercial singles rarely were colorized it brings a certain amount of demand from vinyl album collector's...given that it's a promo single almost for certain will increase it's value. I don't own this single, though. The image was sent to me in an e-mail from those who know I "collect" images of Ray or items about Ray. The single is "Written Down In My Heart", the lone Top-40 country hit from the DON'T LAUGH NOW album. It was a slow love ballad and it fit in well with the style of country music that was still flying up the charts in the aftermath of the Urban Cowboy era.

The entire album featured a variety of love ballads of various tempo's and genre's. As you can see in this image of the cassette version it includes Ray's cover of an R&B hit called "Such a Night". I have seen Ray in concert twice within the last year and both times he opened up his concert's with that song. "Oh Leo Lady", the other song spotlighted on the front of the cassette, is a song Ray wrote which is a clever tale about a couple that find love in spite of their conflicting horoscope signs. The woman is a Leo and Ray is an Aquarius {Ray really is...he was born in late January}.

A second single from the album, "Where The Sun Don't Shine", was also released in gold vinyl like "Written Down In My Heart". However, shades of "Where The Sun Don't Shine" were is a break-up story. The man is fed up and goes through the song telling the woman where she can take her love, along with everything else that's associated with her. It's a bouncy sing-a-long song...more off-beat than 100% comical or 100% serious, in my opinion.

Note that on the back of the album, smiling Ray is holding a frown mask while on the front of the album serious Ray is holding a smile mask. I wish I could've gotten rid of that glare when I took the picture with my digital camera...but it turned out good, I think, and there's never been a picture of the back of the album on-line anywhere and so I went ahead and took a picture of it. The title track, "Don't Laugh Now", is another song written by Ray. It tells the story of a man confronting a woman he's always had feelings for but she's only seen him as a clown and a funnyman and during their confrontation he tells her to not to laugh at him because of his feelings. Deep songs from Ray Stevens...of course...those who follow his career know how serious a lot of his songs can be.

In addition to the songs I've touched on, we also have "Take That Girl Away" which is actually an up-tempo song about Ray warning another man that he's going to take the woman away from him if there continues to be mistreatment. "Always There" is a feelgood song about a man expressing how much he appreciates a woman always being there for him. "This Old Piano" is the big ballad of the it Ray sings of a man who's love life has been destroyed due to the success of life in the music business and on the road. A lot of Ray's fans who hear this song feel that Ray recorded it because of the divorce he went through in 1980.

"Country Boy, Country Club Girl" is a song about two social classes coming together while "Why Don't We Go Somewhere and Make Love" pretty much in it's title explains what the song is about. It's a Kenny Rogers kind of song and it's a good love ballad to close out the album.

1. Such a Night
2. Written Down In My Heart
3. Take That Girl Away
4. Always There
5. Where The Sun Don't Shine
6. Oh Leo Lady
7. Don't Laugh Now
8. This Old Piano
9. Country Boy, Country Club Girl
10. Why Don't We Go Somewhere and Make Love

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