December 3, 2009

Ray Stevens: A low-budget Collection

All-Time Hits is the title of a low-budget cassette/CD release from 1996. The sound is excellent. A lot of times people see "low-budget" and think the sound is terrible but to my ears it's great!! Low-budget in this scenario, I feel, means that the price wasn't as high as other products. It was issued on the Polygram label, which at the time was associated with Mercury Records. Polygram still may be a subsidiary of Mercury...with record labels morphing and attaching onto each other on an almost monthly to semi-monthly basis it's never easy to tell if a subsidiary is still affiliated with a label or if it's been taken over by another label, etc etc. Anyway, at the time of the release, Polygram was associated with Mercury Records and because of this a bulk of the recordings on here come from Ray's tenure with that label. I'm sure I've written about this collection at some point...I've written so many blog entries even I tend to forget what I've written about.

I own both the cassette and CD version. Some may ask why? Well...once upon a time whenever you'd go to a Wal*Mart or a K-Mart music section there would be a section for CD's and a section for cassettes. The CD at the time was way more expensive than the cassette counterpart. This was true for the vinyl became cheaper than the cassette because labels marked up the price on whatever was selling. Each successive technology would be more expensive than the previous product and so when CD's became the dominate music form, cassette's became cheaper. Following me so far? Well, back in 1996 when this collection was released, I didn't want to spend the money for a instead I bought the cassette. Fast-forward quite a few say 2003...

I came across a CD version of All-Time Hits which featured 3 additional songs that weren't on the cassette copy I have. Cassettes were still being manufactured and in stores but CD's were becoming less expensive. MP3's were eclipsing the physical CD in buyer popularity. So...with the CD becoming less expensive compared to 3 or 4 years earlier, I started buying CD versions of my cassette collections. I also learned during this time that some of my cassettes didn't have a CD I couldn't upgrade to CD with everything...

Anyway...this collection of Ray Stevens material features chart hits chosen at random, pretty much. The cassette, as I mentioned, features 8 songs and the CD adds 3 more to the line-up.

1. Ahab the Arab; 1962
2. Butch Babarian; 1964 {CD only}
3. Funny Man; 1963
4. Harry the Hairy Ape; 1963
5. Jeremiah Peabody's Green and Purple Pills; 1961
6. My Dad; 1983
7. Santa Claus Is Watching You; 1962 {CD only}
8. Speed Ball; 1963
9. One More Last Chance; 1981 {CD only}
10. Furthermore; 1962
11. Shriner's Convention; 1980

The eight songs that appeared only on the cassette are featured in different sequential order than they appear on the CD. For example, on the cassette version "Shriner's Convention" is song #5 but here on the CD it's song #11. A bulk of the recordings are for Mercury Records with the exception of songs #9 and #11. Those songs were recorded for RCA Records.

Some purists may take exception to the title of this collection because the phrase "All-Time Hits" would indicate that the songs will in fact be an artist's "all-time hits". In that respect the title would be mis-leading because it doesn't include anything he recorded in the late '60s on into the mid '70s, which are considered his biggest years on the pop charts and when he had his biggest hit songs. However, the material that's spotlighted is still top-notch and all but one song made the popularity charts. The only song here that didn't achieve a chart position is "Butch Babarian" but it was issued as a commercial single, even though it didn't chart. Including non-hit singles isn't a pet peeve of mine as it might be to purists out there. In my way of thinking the inclusion of non-hit songs on a "hits" collection gives the song exposure that it otherwise may not receive and I'm all for that. The more exposure Ray's songs get, both the past and present material, the always want to expose your material to each new audience that comes along.

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