December 17, 2009

Ray Stevens: The 45 Singles...chapter...I've forgot...

I posted a picture of the a-side of this single in my previous blog entry called "The Clown Prince of Country Music". The a-side is a song called "Speed Ball". The song was inspired more or less by a comedy routine from Brother Dave Gardner. In fact, if you hear any comedy routines from Brother Dave and you hear early Ray Stevens on Mercury Records you'll hear how much of an influence Gardner had on Ray. However, on the b-side, a song called "It's Party Time", we hear a story about the well-visited topic of lost love and putting on a happy face. There are many love songs about this topic and in my opinion what makes the topic feel refreshing in every different recording I hear happens to be connected with lyrics and delivery. A lot of critics of pop music or love songs tend to be a tad bit cynical and say things like "you've heard one love song you've heard them all". In my way of thinking, it's true, we all have heard the same sentiments...but what makes each song different is how the topic is dealt with. To date this song has not been featured on any Ray Stevens album or compilation that I am aware of. As far as I know, this 45 is the only place the song was commercially available. The a-side was available originally on the 1963 album, This Is Ray Stevens and has appeared on several other compilation releases from Mercury through the years.

This same exclusive nature can be applied to this song, "Laughing Over My Grave". I got the camera too close to the single and the flash lit up some of the title. This is the b-side to "Bubble Gum the Bubble Dancer" and like "It's Party Time", the "Laughing Over My Grave" song is only available on the b-side of a 45. There have been You Tube video montage's made of both b-side songs. Thanks to technology there's a way to transfer vinyl onto CD and then it can be uploaded onto a computer. As far as commercial albums are concerned, though, "Laughing Over My Grave" has yet to make an appearance. The song is about a man who's been abusive to a woman and he's afraid of what she may do to him as a result. A hook of the song is the almost witch-like cackling of the female voice...a voice I assume is Ray in falsetto. As you can tell from my mini-description it's a light-weight song but yet it has a twist toward the end.

The Best of Ray Stevens, issued in 1970 by Mercury Records, continues to be the best collection of Ray's material on Mercury Records. Unless you are able to come across an even more obscure collection on CD that features his first two albums in one collection, the best chances to have a good number of early '60s Ray Stevens is The Best of Ray Stevens that you see here. I have the collection in cassette format and I have the more obscure two album on one CD collection but I realize not everyone does. So, The Best of Ray Stevens is the best review of his 1961-1963 output. This collection kicks off with the version of "Ahab the Arab" that features Ralph Emery introducing Ray to a small crowd of people. When you hear him perform the song he adds in additional lyrics that aren't in the studio recording. Ralph makes a return appearance at the end when everyone's applauding...asking for even more applause. You'll know what I mean when you hear the song.

The illustrations on the album cover are caricatures of the characters in Ray's songs. Off to his left is "Speed Ball", the motorcyclist. The corner pictures are: up in the top-left "Bubble Gum the Bubble Dancer", the top-right is "Butch Babarian". In the lower corners we have "Ahab the Arab" and "Harry the Hairy Ape". Off to Ray's right we have "Jeremiah Peabody" and below Ray's picture there's "Santa Claus is Watching You" and "It's Been So Long". The two panels immediately above Ray's picture is "The Rock and Roll Show" and the other panel, through elimination, must be "Loved and Lost" or "Funny Man". The ironic thing is the collection has 11 songs but there's only 10 cartoon panels on the album cover. The cassette copy that I have contains six cartoon panels.

I've had this cassette for a number of years. Once upon a time it was the only collection of songs I had of Ray Stevens from the early '60s. As I mentioned above, there's 11 songs on here. The recordings were all produced by Shelby Singleton and all the songs were written by Ray. There are liner notes that accompany the collection. The author comments on the recent serious material of Ray's, including name-dropping "Mr. Businessman", but the author reminds consumers that Ray had always sang non-comical songs long before he gained national success with serious works. Naturally there is no reference to Monument Records, the label Ray was signed to throughout the mid to late '60s...and the label in which Ray experienced his first major successes with serious works like "Unwind", "Mr. Businessman", and "Have a Little Talk With Myself".

These are not sunglasses that I'm wearing. My glasses tint in the sunlight and I brought my vinyl album of Ray's, Losin' Streak, to a house my sister lived in at one time. I had my picture taken with the album using my digital camera as you can tell. It must have been as an experiment as I hadn't had the camera that long. I now take my own pictures using that same camera or I use my web-camera if I want to take a picture quickly without dragging out the USB cord and digital camera. I've used this picture as an avatar on message boards and I think I had the picture here on the blogger site as my profile image before changing it to the one I currently use.

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