December 28, 2010

Ray Stevens...2010 Year in Review...

As I look back on 2010 in the career of Ray Stevens I should also say that this will perhaps be my last blog entry for the year. I had planned on taking a break and then start back up in 2011 but I decided to write one more before 2010 came to an end.

2010, for Ray Stevens, was all about incredible successes on the video hosting web-site, You Tube, among other things. The initial success began in December 2009 when a music video, "We The People", was uploaded onto You Tube. The song is all about being in opposition to ObamaCare, the nick-name of the health care overhaul that was being drafted and making it's way through Congress. In some circles the supporters of ObamaCare see it as "health care reform" whereas those who are in opposition see it as "health care transform". The video became a runaway success and in a month's time it had amassed over 2 million hits. In the world of on-line videos, a "hit" is equal to a play, or, a view...so, in other words, the video had been viewed/played over two million times in the span of 30 days. The success of the video led to a segment on The O'Reilly Factor, the highly rated cable program on the Fox News Channel. This single, one-time mention of Ray's video on O'Reilly's program caused Ray's web-site to crash that same evening as thousands of people attempted to access the site for more information about the song. The site was back up and running later on that night.

As the on-line popularity of "We The People" continued Ray eventually appeared on O'Reilly's program to give a much more in-depth account of the song's impact and it's political overtones. In the interview O'Reilly brought up political correctness and asked Ray what he felt about it and if it's caused him to stop performing some of his songs which have been labeled politically incorrect. As a Ray Stevens fan I felt as if I already knew his answer but for the national public at large they were treated to a response they perhaps weren't accustomed to hearing. Ray didn't necessarily take up for political correctness but he didn't come across as a fan, neither. He and O'Reilly reminisced about a pre-Politically correct era where people weren't so uptight and overly sensitive.

In the aftermath of "We The People" and his appearance on O'Reilly's program Ray found himself a focal point of the liberal-progressive left in their series of talking-point blogs. Throughout much of early to mid 2010 the liberal blogosphere seemed to have a new target for their venom: Ray Stevens. You couldn't do a Ray Stevens blog search during January through July 2010 and not see some sort of liberal leaning blog attacking Ray's songs and the Tea Party, for which "We The People" was closely identified.

In March of 2010 Ray uploaded two music videos on You Tube: "Caribou Barbie" and "Throw the Bums Out!". "Caribou Barbie" is a music video filled with visual gags about left-wing cable news broadcasters while at the same time being all about Sarah Palin. The video uses a Palin impersonator and several of her catch-phrases are inserted into the song. "Throw the Bums Out!", on the other hand, takes aim at Congress right on the heels of ObamaCare being signed into law along party lines.

In April, Ray released his 22-song collection, We The People, to those who frequent his web-site. The collection was only available at Ray's web-site store through June...after which it became available nationwide.

On April 15, 2010 Ray further involved himself in the Tea Party by appearing at their tax day event in Washington, D.C. and singing several songs for the crowd. On April 24th Ray was saluted as a Nashville Cat in a series that took place at the Country Music Hall of Fame. The special was video streamed on-line at the Hall of Fame's web-site. The special concentrated on Ray's behind-the-scenes work on recording sessions in the '50s, '60s, and the first half of the '70s. The special also highlighted his own recording success, too. It was a very thorough look into his career. Ray appeared in person to offer first hand knowledge about the clips and information being highlighted.

The "We The People" music video obtained over 3,000,000 hits by the late spring of 2010 and by December it would vault into the 4,000,000 category.

On May 13, 2010 Ray uploaded another music video onto You Tube...this particular video tackled illegal immigration and it coincided with Arizona's controversy with illegal immigration...and the bill that was drafted to help combat the problem. The video, "Come to the USA", takes a light-hearted, but pointed look at illegal immigration by sarcastically pointing out that America has the most gracious and hospitable attitude toward illegal immigrants. In the song Ray points out how severe foreign immigration laws are in comparison to America and how in any other country in the world an illegal immigrant would face all kinds of harsh treatment for entering illegally but yet in America the illegals are given a free pass, some are given sanctuary, and a lot of voter-hungry politicians cheer for Amnesty as an answer to the problem. At the core of the song is the hypocrisy that exists among foreign presidents and dictators who uphold their own far worse immigration policies while calling out Arizona as some sort of evil empire.

The "Come to the USA" music video, as you could imagine, created a whole different controversy than "We the People" did. The illegal immigration issue has always been a dicey one and those who've chosen to take it on have always been charged of being racist in some way. Even if racism isn't part of a person's make-up, the liberal's think that anyone whose against illegal immigration must really be against immigrants altogether. Liberals apparently have some sort of degree in psychology given that they always think that they know the inner workings of every single human being.

This video, as I mentioned, caused a lot of controversy and it got some attention from an unlikely source: The New York Times. A reporter/columnist decided to do a write-up on Ray's latest happenings...it was surprisingly a positive write-up but the readers of the publication didn't appreciate the glowing words and positive vibes. Later, Ray appeared on the Fox News Channel once again...this time during the daytime hours on a show hosted by Megyn Kelly. He was interviewed by Megyn about the video and the illegal immigration battle. The music video quickly amassed over 2,000,000 hits and in no time at all was knocking on the door of 3,000,000! The music video was so controversial and so popular that it obtained over 4,000,000 hits...it has the distinction of being the first Ray Stevens video to reach 4,000,000 hits...followed a few months later by "We the People".

Upon it's nationwide June release, the We The People CD quickly hit the Country albums chart as well as the Comedy albums chart. Later in June, Ray released a new music video on You Tube...this time around "The Global Warming Song" got it's exposure. The song, of course, deals with global warming and how a lot of people feel that it's nothing but a hoax by the EPA and other environment agencies. The song purposely takes place at a frozen wasteland as two brothers await the warming of the continent. The brothers have a plan to turn the frozen wasteland into a tropical resort once things start to heat up. In the video there's a news banner that crawl along the screen with hilarious news items.

During the months of July and August 2010 Ray was featured on a PBS series hosted by Marvin Hamlisch. The special, Marvin Hamlisch Presents the 1970's: The Way We Were, featured Ray performing "The Streak", "Misty", and "Everything Is Beautiful".

In early August 2010 Ray uploaded a new music video on You Tube...this particular video was not part of his We the People CD and it was not a comical recording. This song, "God Save Arizona", is a serious ballad detailing the war between the Federal Government and Arizona over illegal immigration. The song starts off with a tribute to the U.S.S. Arizona war ship but then the song glides into a critical assessment of the Attorney General for his politically correct positions on: illegal immigration, foreign and domestic affairs, and his infamous "nation of cowards" remark. All of it is wrapped up in a stirring ballad that asks God to save Arizona from the clutches of the Federal Government. The video's gotten over half a million hits so far. The updated hit count as of 12/28/2010 is 584,958.

In addition to all of the success on You Tube in 2010, Ray made a return to Branson, Missouri. Each time he returns to Branson it's always a time for fun and to look-back on the town that he helped put on the map in the early 1990's. Once upon a time Ray owned and operated a theater in Branson...this theater was up and running for three sold-out seasons: 1991, 1992, and 1993. It was during this era that Branson, Missouri had become nationally famous for it's stunning display of music theaters and other attractions. Obviously such a place for country music, primarily, tickled the funny bones of a lot of snobbish critics who dubbed the place "Las Vegas-lite" due to the visual resemblance of a Vegas strip of theaters, especially at night, but with a much more family-friendly appeal. Ray closed down his theater in 1994 but then re-opened it nearly a decade later for a 2 season run. After this he shut down the theater again and later sold it to RFD-TV.

In September 2010 he returned to Branson for a month long series of concerts at The Welk Resort. The concerts featured a lot of politics and this, strangely enough, shocked some people who must have been living under a rock for much of 2010 and were not aware of Ray's political music videos on You Tube. The concert series wrapped up on October 23, 2010. Earlier that day he participated in a Branson Tea Party rally titled The Pre-Election Pink Slip Rally and Concert.

On November 3, 2010 the day after the mid-term elections Ray uploaded a new music video on You Tube...the seasonal "Nightmare Before Christmas" takes aim at political correctness as an over-zealous lawyer takes Santa to court and charges him with political incorrectness. As of now the video's gotten 80,850 hits.

This concludes my Ray Stevens 2010 Year in Review...I'll be back next year...unless news about Ray Stevens should break between now and January 1st.

December 25, 2010

A Ray Stevens Christmas, Part Three...

Hello all! This is going to be a more critical blog entry. From time to time I give my opinions about things I see on-line and I criticize those opinions that come across as Anti-Ray Stevens, among other things. Some people out there apparently have no fondness for comical recordings...or novelty songs, silly songs, whatever adjective one wants to use to describe them. In a lot of my on-line travels on message boards and social network sites which incorporate a discussion forum of some kind I've come across contempt, annoyance, and outright anger over comedy/novelty songs. I think a lot of people are just innately "serious minded" and can't laugh at anything unless it's X rated and there's some sort of sexual innuendo punchline. Is this a description of the culture overall or is that segment of the population simply over-shadowing the culture who appreciates comedy songs and doesn't get annoyed hearing them? R and X rated comedy has long been available...so it isn't anything new...but it seems like the public in general only appreciates comedy if it's blended with sexual overtones whereas before adult-oriented comedy was geared toward specific audiences and not pushed onto the mainstream. Has the overly-liberal influence caused R and X rated comedy to be considered mainstream and as a result caused wholesome and clean comedy to be relegated as special interest material? These are rhetorical questions of which I already have my own answers.

The politically correct crowd, for example, has an ax to grind with the word "Christmas" and we all know that the crowd is a branch of the liberal tree. Their latest tirade is about how the word is spread around and mentioned freely which is "offensive to those who aren't Christians". Really? I don't consider myself a Christian or heavily religious at all and the word Christmas doesn't offend me.

The phrases "corny", "trite", "schmaltzy", or "old-fashioned" are used derogatorily to describe entertainment that's simply wholesome and clean. When did it become unpopular, or unattractive, to be wholesome and clean? I'm not saying that comedy has to be family-friendly or unoffensive or politically correct...but why are those derogatory phrases tacked onto the comedic styles of Ray Stevens, in particular, by several people on social network sites across the internet? The music video of "Santa Claus Is Watching You" has long been a favorite of mine...it's a favorite of hundreds of thousands of people, too, but yet there's always someone out there who'll have an ax to grind about this or that and insult the video, the song, Ray, and those who appreciate his music.

I was reading the comment section the other day of one of Ray's music videos and sure enough there's the antagonistic crowd who apparently get no enjoyment in their own lives unless they're making fun of other people's enjoyments...it's something I'll never understand.

A Ray Stevens Christmas, Part Two...

The non-comical Christmas CD from Ray Stevens that you've seen me write about for awhile, simply titled Ray Stevens Christmas, is getting another write-up in this blog entry...the collection was issued during Christmas 2009 and it contains 10 all-new recordings of mostly Christmas standards with the exception of one song in particular, "Deck the Halls with Teardrops". The longest recording of the collection is "White Christmas" which runs 4 minutes, 16 seconds. The CD kicks off with the big-band flavor of "Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow!" and is the shortest recording at 2 minutes, 15 seconds. This CD, in addition to 2008's Ray Stevens Sings Sinatra...Say What!?? are some of the rare moments where a lot of the songs are associated with ASCAP and not BMI. Ray is credited with the arrangement on "Jingle Bells" and therefore this recording is published by his own company, Ray Stevens Music, affiliated with BMI. The song he wrote, "Deck the Halls with Teardrops", is also published by his own company of course. Surprisingly he keeps a lot of the same arrangements on most of the songs...except the previously mentioned "Jingle Bells", the traditional "Silent Night" which gets a new arrangement, and on "White Christmas" he blends various styles together. Track #6, "Blue Christmas", is the traditional recording. Ray recorded a comical, stuttering version of this song during these recording sessions and that recording was released separately in an EP. I provided a link to the EP in my previous blog entry.

The CD track list:

1. Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow!
2. White Christmas
3. Winter Wonderland
4. Silent Night
5. The Christmas Song
6. Blue Christmas
7. I'll Be Home For Christmas
8. Deck the Halls with Teardrops
9. Jingle Bells
10. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

A Ray Stevens Christmas...

Merry Christmas to all the Ray Stevens fans and those who drop by here out of curiosity. I thought I'd re-visit the color lettering for today's blog entry since it's Christmas. Also there's a couple of Christmas music videos from Ray Stevens that I've decided to add. 1985's "Santa Claus Is Watching You" and 2010's "Nightmare Before Christmas"...





Ray's Christmas music can be found, as I mentioned in a previous blog, on two CD's: 1997's "Christmas Through a Different Window" and 2009's "Ray Stevens Christmas". These represent the only Christmas music video's that he's put together...time will tell if he makes more! I'll be keeping track of the "Nightmare Before Christmas" music video a little while longer...I often "report" the video's You Tube hit count over on Ray's web-site and I'll do so for a couple more days since Christmas season, for a lot of people, lasts through New Year's Eve.

December 24, 2010

My Modest Ray Stevens Mp3 collection...

When it comes to Mp3's I actually don't have too many. I uploaded almost all of my Ray Stevens CD's onto my computer's music program but I don't count those as Mp3's because I didn't officially purchase them as Mp3 digital downloads. I purchased that music on CD and then uploaded the songs onto my computer. However, there are a few digital downloads of Ray Stevens that I purchased exclusively as Mp3's and those are...

2007: Ruby Falls
2008: Hurricane
2008: Hey Bubba, Watch This!
2008: Bubba, the Wine Connoisseur
2008: The Cure
2008: Sucking Sound
2008: Rub It In
2008: Down Home Beach
2009: Concrete Sailor**

**- "Concrete Sailor" was available as a free digital download in early 2009 from Ray's web-site. It's the lead-off track on Ray's trucker-themed CD, One For the Road, so technically I didn't purchase that Mp3 since it was free. I've since purchased the physical copy of that CD, though.

Ray issued a comical version of "Blue Christmas" around the same time his "We The People" music video hit it big on You Tube. The comical version had been done previously by the fictional group, Seymour Swine and the Squealers, and Ray commented that he'd known of that version for awhile but on the spur of the moment decided he wanted to record the song the same way. The stuttering version of "Blue Christmas" was issued as part of a special EP collection available on-line. You can purchase the EP which consists of just three songs: "White Christmas", in which Ray demonstrates his love of R&B; the stuttering version of "Blue Christmas"; and the Ray Stevens original "Deck The Halls With Teardrops". The EP is available at Amazon and it shows November 25, 2009 as it's release date.

He recorded the traditional version of "Blue Christmas" on his non-comical CD, Ray Stevens Christmas. This CD was not heavily promoted because "We The People" and it's million hit You Tube success wiped out all interest and attention that normally would have been given to a seasonal project in December. I gave the CD a lot of attention but there's only so much one blogger can do. I assumed this season Ray would delve into the non-comical Christmas CD but instead of pushing/hyping that particular CD Ray decided to put together a comical music video of "Nightmare Before Christmas" which was included on his 1997 comical Christmas CD, Christmas Through a Different Window.

Later, a special offer at Ray's web-store was available which combined the 1997 and 2009 Christmas CD's and added a bonus DVD of "Nightmare Before Christmas".

As of this writing the music video has gotten 76,256 You Tube hits...it's been available now for almost 2 months. The actual upload date was November 3, 2010 and January 3, 2011 will make 2 months. The new Congress is sworn in during the month of January and given that Ray commented a few weeks ago that he's got a lot of new political songs he'll be recording I assume 2011 will involve a lot more topical/political material but that's anyone's guess.

Let's Discuss Ray Stevens, Part 21...

I had a feeling that the T-shirt that I ordered from Ray's web-store would arrive in the mail today and sure enough it was there!! I placed the order on December 18th because there was some kind of order deadline of December 21st...I assumed that after this date there wouldn't be any shipments sent out until the first of the year. As I commented on in a previous blog, the web-store at Ray's web-site was in the middle of a Christmas sale and the T-shirt I wanted was marked down to $8.00 and so I ordered one real quick. The marked down T-shirt, with Great Awakening Tour 2010 written across the front, is a companion piece with an earlier T-shirt which is also available.

While exploring the internet I came across some additional chart information for several Ray Stevens singles. These chart stats are from international music charts and there are quite a few singles that did better overseas than they did in America. Research shows that Ray's 1963 single, "Funny Man", was a Top-15 hit in Canada. "Harry the Hairy Ape" reached the Top-30 in Canada the same year. "Unwind" reached Canada's Top-20 in 1968 and "Mr. Businessman" reached the Top-10 in Canada and the Top-25 in Australia. "The Great Escape" is a single that Bubbled Under here in America but it charted in Australia's Top-30 in 1968. This particular single is from Ray's debut album for Monument Records, Even Stevens. The label issued a promo for the single and I've included the image below...



The song is great, in my opinion. It has a driving beat and it's one of the more rocking type songs on the album. The song's about a man who works in the city at a job he apparently doesn't like and the thing that keeps his motivation running is the reality that soon he'll be home, away from the hectic city life, and be with his wife. This theme of a hectic life verses the quiet life was also a big part of his "Unwind" single which is also on Even Stevens. Social commentary was abundant on the 1968 album...not only with "The Great Escape", "Unwind", and "Mr. Businessman" but also with "The Minority" and the seldom mentioned but amazing "Isn't It Lonely Together?" which depicts a couple dealing with an unexpected pregnancy and the marriage between the two that came as a result. The song has a clear social message as do the other songs I mentioned but somewhere along the line "Isn't It Lonely Together?" got lost in the shuffle. The more liberal of Americans who hear this song may wonder "big deal! raise the child on your own or get an abortion if it's a mistake!" or "don't get married...be a single parent.". Those who have opinions like those will obviously not enjoy the masterpiece that's "Isn't It Lonely Together?".

a different angle of the T-shirt...

December 23, 2010

My Modest Ray Stevens magazine collection...

Unfortunately my scanner couldn't get the entire image scanned...the magazine title, Cashbox, disappears at the letter, X. This is a chart publication, a competitor of Billboard, and this is the June 15, 1974 issue. The picture of Ray is the same one used on the commercial single of "The Moonlight Special". However, that particular single hadn't been issued when this magazine was released. In spite of the cover shot there's only a short column about Ray and it deals with "The Streak" which was sitting in the Pop Top-5, having already reached it's peak position. The column ends with a reference to Ray's follow-up, the aforementioned "The Moonlight Special". I had purchased this on eBay several years ago and was hoping for a much more in-depth write-up and so I was slightly disappointed that the write-up was basically the size of a newspaper column. I got lucky, though, because not long after this purchase I came across the July 4, 1970 issue of TV Guide...this is the issue which features a write-up about Ray.

This write-up came about thanks in large part to Ray being the host of Andy Williams' television show during the summer months. The name of the article is "Who Is Ray Stevens?". The article ties in with the inside joke about Ray's low-key demeanor and how in spite of having several million selling hits that the public at large still had no idea who Ray Stevens was. The cast of The Courtship of Eddie's Father was on the cover that week...the mailing label of who previously owned the issue is still on the magazine and so I blotted out the address and the name. I purchased this TV Guide, as I mentioned, on eBay. Ray's show aired Saturday night on NBC at 7:30. Looking at the program content it shows that Ray performed "Freddie Feelgood", "Games People Play", and a couple of songs I'd never heard of: "I Got a Woman" and "Hi-Heel Sneakers". The cast sing "Reach Out in the Darkness".

Country Song Roundup with Ray on the cover. The issue was released in 1977 and it ties in with his single at the time: "Get Crazy With Me". In the interview the author writes about Ray's past and present. This was during the era of his career where he concentrated on having success with non-comical recordings and in interviews he'd often downplay the comedic aspect of his career in favor of the serious, thought-provoking artist he wanted to be known as. Ironically, though, 1977 kicked off with his chicken clucking version of "In the Mood" which had been released late in 1976. If one examines Ray's career you'll realize just how many non-comical songs he recorded...during the entire decade of the '70s, for example, he released just one album devoted to all-comedy: 1974's Boogity-Boogity. This means that all of his other studio album releases were of a serious nature. Late in 1970 and into 1971 he had some success with the novelty song, "Bridget the Midget", which originally was available as a single-only.

This is a souvenir booklet that was issued in 1977. Included are pictures of Ray from the early '70s as well as the mid '70s. It also includes a promo section for pop singer, Del Shannon. One of the pictures shows Ray seated on a carousel...while another shows him decked out in the white jump suit that he wore on the Misty album. I'd written about this booklet before...I've written about pretty much all of these magazines already but never in one all-encompassing blog. I actually don't have that many magazines with Ray Stevens coverage but I'm showing images of some of the magazines that I've got in my collection. I've got some Country Weekly issues with write-up's about Ray...but would you believe that he's never appeared on the cover of any Country Weekly issue?



In this April 1979 issue of Country Music Magazine the article about Ray is the third promoted item on the cover. Johnny Cash, of course, is the cover subject. Charlie Rich is spotlighted in an article by Bob Allen. Ray's write-up is written by John Pugh...on the magazine's cover it refers to Ray as The Mad Genius of Music Row. The write-up doesn't necessarily spotlight any current recordings or promote any albums but instead spotlights a career over-view and goes into detail about his recording studio talents and he gives his philosophy on recording songs and how emotionally attached he is to life in the recording studio. The author compares and contrasts Ray's over-joyous attitude toward Nashville and the music industry with the attitudes expressed by other artists who don't come away with the same enthusiasm toward Nashville. Some writers/critics through the years have said that Ray is like a kid in a candy shop when he's inside his recording studio. Ray, of course, produces and arranges his own songs and at one time wrote a majority of his own material. When you have an artist that approaches things as a producer would then it's very easy to see the contrasts between Ray and other artists in country music...or music in general. I think if singers double as their own producer or have some sort of impact on the creative and technical side of their careers, instead of just showing up at a studio and singing, it enables the singer to develop this same sort of affection toward making music as Ray has always demonstrated in his interviews through the decades.

In this 1980 issue of Country Song Roundup the big news was centered around Ray's hit single, "Shriner's Convention". The cover story, More Than Meets the Ear, deals with Ray's often over-shadowed talents due to the enormous popularity of his comical recordings. An entire music audience laughing at Ray's comical songs are typically unaware of just how serious of an artist Ray is...even fewer know of his behind-the-scenes talents as a musician, producer, arranger, and writer. This write-up, much like the write-up's in 1979 and 1977, tried gallantly to give exposure to the many styles of music that show up on a typical Ray Stevens album. The most telling aspect of the write-up came mid-way through the article where Ray let it be known that while he's having success with the comical song that he has no intentions of abandoning serious material. He certainly kept his word because the albums he issued in 1981, 1982, and 1983 were all non-comical.

In this particular October 1979 issue, as you can see, Dolly Parton is on the cover. There's a write-up about Ray in here called Help Me, Ray Stevens. This promo/write-up was based on Ray's single on Warner Brothers, "I Need Your Help, Barry Manilow", which hit earlier in 1979 but was still being promoted as his current single when this issue was released. The write-up is lengthy, as far as write-up's go, and it offers a lot of quotes from Ray where he gives his opinions on the music industry and how anyone can be successful if they have the right promotion team. He remarks that a lot of songs become 'hits' simply by being promoted a lot and psychologically it causes a consumer to purchase the song through repetitious promotion. He also remarks that there are other kinds of 'hits' that don't sell an incredible amount immediately but strike a chord with consumers and eventually become big sellers over the course of time. Ray comes across neutral in his opinions over the different types of hit songs leaving it up to the reader to come to their own conclusions...in a sense the Ray Stevens belief system of 1979 when it comes to having hit songs is very much similar to modern-day 2010 Ray Stevens. There's also mention of his hectic TV show appearances which included taping episodes of Merv Griffin, Mike Douglas, and The Tonight Show. The author of the write-up hints of an upcoming all-comedy album from Ray...referring, perhaps, to the Shriner's Convention album of 1980. If you remember, "Shriner's Convention" was released as a single very early in 1980 and there's always been the possibility that the song was already written and recorded well before the public at large heard it. Obviously there was a change in record labels, though, from Warner Brothers to RCA by the time the Shriner song was released. A performance on a 1979 episode of Pop! Goes the Country showcases "Shriner's Convention" but, ironically, Ray opened the show singing his 1976 hit, "You Are So Beautiful".

In this 1986 issue of Music City News we're a couple of years into Ray's exclusive country comedy approach. Ray, in late 1984, decided to shift gears and go all-comedy upon signing with MCA. His debut album for the label, He Thinks He's Ray Stevens, would eventually reach the Country Top-5 and sell over a million copies [Platinum] in the process. This was followed up late in 1985 with I Have Returned which hit #1 on the Country album chart and would eventually be certified Gold for sales of over 500,000. He was in between comedy albums when this 1986 issue of Music City News was released and the write-up went into detail about his career decisions and the choice of going all-comedy after years of attempting to gain mainstream acceptance as a serious, non-comical performer. In a lot of ways Ray did have his share of success with non-comedy songs but when you compare the overall sales and popularity of the non-comical verses the comical it clearly shows that the comedy has always reigned supreme. The story, There's Something Funny About Ray Stevens, examines that relationship between the non-comical and comical sides of Ray and how the most commercially successful won out. 1986 would be the first year that Ray won the Comedian of the Year award from the Music City News readers. He won this particular fan-voted award in 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, and 1994. Also on this cover are two of my other favorite singers: George Jones and Conway Twitty.

This January 1990 issue of Music City News was the magazine's annual New Year's issue. Inside a lot of artists gave their predictions for 1990 and a lot of New Year's resolutions were addressed. This issue also focused on the country comedy acts...with Ray leading the pack. In the write-up it examines the various performers in the country comedy field and each comic gives their opinions of what's funny and what style of humor best suits them and their audience. Ray, by far, was the most commercially successful of the acts and he was also the most legitimately skilled as a singer whereas the other comics spotlighted were traditional stand-up comedians who used country and southern culture as part of their act. By the time this issue was released Ray had been the recipient of the Comedian of the Year award four consecutive times: 1986, 1987, 1988, and 1989. The Music City News awards were held each June.

December 22, 2010

My Modest Ray Stevens CD and Video collection...

I can't speak for everyone but I'm sure there were some people out there that resisted buying CD's for the longest time. I know that at one time CD's were costly...each time an artist put out something new it would be issued on cassette and CD format. The most expensive of the two was the CD version. As a consequence I typically stuck with cassette tape. In my previous blog I listed the vinyl and cassette Ray Stevens products that I own...this time around I'm highlighting the CD's and music videos. Given how CD's became quite abundant in the '90s and beyond I ended up purchasing a lot of compilation CD's on Ray Stevens because most of my collection is on vinyl and cassette...but I needed CD versions of those songs so I could play the music on the CD player in my car. Slowly but surely I built up a CD collection of Ray Stevens material. Later on I began uploading the music onto my computer's music program.

Here now is a list of the CD's by Ray Stevens that I own...

1990: Lend Me Your Ears (re-issued on CD in 2005)
1991: #1 With a Bullet (re-issued on CD in 2005)
1992: At His Best (re-issue of 1989's Beside Myself)
1992: Collector's Series (RCA re-issue of 1987 compilation)
1992: Mississippi Squirrel Revival (re-issue of 1984's He Thinks He's Ray Stevens)
1993: Classic Ray Stevens
1995: Cornball
1995: The Incredible World of Ray Stevens (3-CD's; features 1987 album, Crackin' Up)
1995: 20 Comedy Hits (Curb Records compilation)
1996: All-Time Hits (Mercury release; features 3 additional tracks not found on cassette)
1996: Even Stevens (re-issue of 1968 album with 4 bonus tracks)
1996: Gitarzan (re-issue of 1969 album with 3 bonus tracks from 1970 and 1974)
1997: The Best of Ray Stevens (Rhino compilation)
1998: The Country Hits Collection (Varese Sarabande compilation)
1999: The Last Laugh (RCA/BMG compilation release)
2001: All-Time Greatest Hits (Varese Sarabande compilation)
2002: 12 Hits (Varese Sarabande compilation)
2002: Osama Yo' Mama
2004: Thank You
2004: The Ones You Want (Clyde Records compilation)
2004: The Millennium Collection (MCA release)
2005: The New Battle of New Orleans (Curb CD single)
2005: Nashville / Boogity-Boogity (2-LP on 1 CD; Collectables Records)
2005: Everything Is Beautiful / Unreal (2-LP on 1 CD; Collectables Records)
2005: Misty / Turn Your Radio On (2-LP on 1 CD; Collectables Records)
2005: Box Set (Ray re-recorded his classic hits for this collection)
2008: Laughter Is the Best Medicine (Clyde Records compilation)
2008: Greatest Hits: 50th Anniversary (Curb release)
2008: Ray Stevens Sings Sinatra...Say What!??! (Curb distributed this in 2009)
2009: One For the Road
2009: Ray Stevens Christmas (Non-comical Christmas songs)
2010: We The People

Here now is a list of the home videos and DVD's by Ray Stevens in my collection...

1992: Amazing Rolling Revue (a home video of comedy sketches and songs)
1992: Comedy Video Classics (home video and DVD)
1993: Ray Stevens Live! (home video)
1993: More Ray Stevens Live! (home video)
1995: Get Serious! (home video)
1995: Ray Stevens Made a Movie?? Get Serious!! (behind-the-scenes home video documentary)
2000: Funniest Video Characters (home video)
2003: Cartoon Video Collection (home video)
2004: Complete Comedy Video Collection** (2-DVD collection)
2006: Gourmet Restaurant (5 limited animation music videos; DVD)
2006: Teenage Mutant Kung Fu Chickens (5 limited animation music videos; DVD)

**- The Complete Comedy Video Collection is a 2-DVD set of music videos. The product was originally released in 2003 but my copy is from 2004. The only differences in the 2004 re-release and it's original release in 2003 is the inclusion of "Osama Yo' Mama" as an "extra bonus" music video and the addition of "Power Tools" in place of "Santa Claus Is Watching You" on DVD #1.

My Modest Ray Stevens LP and Cassette Collection...

A few blog posts ago I listed my "modest 45 RPM collection" of Ray Stevens singles. In this blog I'll accompany that entry with one that lists my vinyl and cassette collection of Ray Stevens material. I feel that breaking things down into vinyl and cassette format will be a bit more easily digested by the various visitors who stop by here. I also have Ray Stevens on CD, video, DVD, and Mp3, too, and I might make a list of those items as well at some point. The reason I do this is because it dawned on me that after 2 and a half years of writing this fan-created blog page that I've never really spoke much about my own personal collection of Ray Stevens items. I've mostly spent time talking/writing about Ray's career, his music, and the critics, etc etc. and not much time on my collections.

The following is a list of vinyl LP's by Ray Stevens that I own...

1963: This Is Ray Stevens
1968: Even Stevens
1969: Gitarzan
1969: Have a Little Talk With Myself
1970: Everything Is Beautiful
1970: Unreal
1971: Greatest Hits
1971: The Rock and Roll Show (Mercury Records compilation)
1972: Turn Your Radio On
1973: Nashville
1973: Losin' Streak
1974: Boogity-Boogity
1975: Misty
1975: The Very Best of Ray Stevens
1976: Just For the Record
1977: Feel the Music
1978: There Is Something On Your Mind
1978: Be Your Own Best Friend
1979: The Feeling's Not Right Again
1980: Shriner's Convention
1981: One More Last Chance
1982: Don't Laugh Now
1983: Me
1985: I Have Returned
1986: Surely You Joust
1987: Crackin' Up
1987: Greatest Hits, Volume Two
1987: Get The Best of Ray Stevens
1988: I Never Made a Record I Didn't Like

I have a military program called "Here's To Vets" which featured Ray as a special guest on one of their episodes. The episode, dating back to 1973, was transferred onto vinyl as a lot of radio programs were. In the episode the host discusses the military and the war plus it includes comments from Ray about the military as well. Several of his songs are played throughout the program.

The following is a list of cassette tapes by Ray Stevens that I own...

1970: The Best of Ray Stevens (Mercury Records; 1987 re-issue)
1974: Boogity-Boogity
1980: Shriner's Convention
1983: Greatest Hits (RCA release)
1984: He Thinks He's Ray Stevens
1985: I Have Returned
1985: Collector's Series (RCA release)
1986: Surely You Joust
1987: Greatest Hits (MCA release)
1987: Crackin' Up
1987: Greatest Hits, Volume Two (MCA release)
1988: I Never Made a Record I Didn't Like
1989: Beside Myself
1989: Funny Man (Mercury compilation)
1990: His All-Time Greatest Comic Hits (Curb release)
1990: Lend Me Your Ears
1991: #1 With a Bullet
1991: Greatest Hits (Curb release)
1993: Classic Ray Stevens (new recordings in spite of it's title)
1993: Ray Stevens Live! (soundtrack of the home video of the same name)
1995: Get Serious! (soundtrack of the home video movie)
1995: Cornball** (1976, 1977, 1978, and 1979)
1995: The Serious Side of Ray Stevens** (1976, 1977, and 1978)
1995: Do You Wanna Dance?** (1976, 1977, and 1978)
1996: Great Gospel Songs (Curb release of early '70s gospel material)
1996: All-Time Hits (Mercury compilation)
1997: Hum It
1997: Christmas Through a Different Window
2000: Ear Candy
2002: Osama Yo' Mama

**- These releases in 1995 were by Warner Brothers. Never before and never since has there been an overview of his Warner Brothers material quite like those three 1995 collections.

December 19, 2010

Let's Discuss Ray Stevens, Part 20...

One of the things that has puzzled me for awhile are why a lot of the compilations that have been issued on Ray Stevens...why a lot of them don't credit each and every year that a song selection was taken from. This is just one example. This is the flip-side of the Collection CD that MCA released back in 1993. There are 14 tracks and they're listed at the end of this blog entry. The credits show that the music on the CD comes from the years of 1984 through 1989. However, why doesn't it give credit to the years of 1980, 1974, 1970, and 1969? Also, it credits the year, 1986, even though there isn't any song on this collection from that year. It's inclusion in the credit list is baffling to me. This isn't something that just happens on Ray Stevens compilations, though. I've noticed that it happens on other artists as well. It's not a question that I must have an immediate answer to but it's something I've always been curious about. There are also compilations that don't even offer copyright years except for the current year of release.

A compilation from the past entitled Collector's Series was issued on Ray in 1985. RCA is the label that issued the collection and nowhere in the credits does it indicate when the material was recorded...it only shows that the collection was released in 1985. Fortunately being a big Ray Stevens fan I know the years of each of the eight songs on that collection...but if I weren't as knowledgeable about his music I wouldn't have a clue when the material was recorded. I know this isn't something that's a big deal for a lot of people but I'm just quirky enough to have those kinds of curiosities about the music I buy. On the Collection CD they include a couple of later MCA recordings that seldom get spotlighted: "Surfin' U.S.S.R." and "I Saw Elvis in a UFO". Each recording is from 1988 and 1989 respectively. "Gitarzan" is from 1969 as is the version of "Ahab the Arab". "Everything Is Beautiful" is from 1970 and "The Streak" is from 1974.

1. The Streak; 1974
2. Shriner's Convention; 1980
3. Mississippi Squirrel Revival; 1984
4. Gitarzan; 1969
5. Ahab the Arab; 1969 (re-recording of his 1962 hit)
6. It's Me Again, Margaret; 1984
7. Santa Claus Is Watching You; 1985
8. The Ballad of the Blue Cyclone; 1985 (radio edit version)
9. Would Jesus Wear a Rolex?; 1987
10. Freddie Feelgood; 1966
11. Surfin' U.S.S.R.; 1988
12. I Saw Elvis In a UFO; 1989
13. The Haircut Song; 1985
14. Everything Is Beautiful; 1970

December 18, 2010

Ray Stevens... "We the People" hits 4 million...

Congratulations! For the second time, Ray Stevens has enjoyed a You Tube music video surpassing the 4 million mark. "Come to the USA" pushed past 4 million hits several months ago and it's still going strong with 4.6 million hits to date. The latest video upload to surpass 4 million hits is "We The People", the video about Obamacare that started it all. The play count for the video is 4,002,094. A few days ago the video was sitting at 3,991,212 hits and now it's moved beyond the four million mark. "We The People" set in motion the You Tube era in Ray's career...prior to this music video Ray had uploaded a few music videos from his various home video/DVD collections onto You Tube. "We The People" marked the point in time where Ray began to release new music, in the form of on-line music videos, and reach hundreds of thousands of people in a rather short amount of time...often in a matter of hours...which is something radio airplay can also do but on a much more stricter scale.

The You Tube method of getting music exposed to the masses isn't anything new but it's especially useful to those artists who have a difficult time getting their products exposed to the masses in a more conventional way: radio airplay. As Ray remarked in recent interviews he feels that his politically themed music videos of late, which have gotten hundreds of thousands and in some cases millions of You Tube hits, is a big reason why his recent concert appearances have attracted an even more diverse audience than usual. A typical Ray Stevens concert has an audience make-up of parents and their kids plus in some markets you'll find teenagers and younger adults as well as the older audience that probably have followed Ray's career for decades...an audience who vividly recalls 1970 and his summer TV show and the massive #1 success of "Everything Is Beautiful".

Those who want to join Ray's Facebook page need to look no further than this Facebook link. He's got over 7,000 followers so far.

The souvenir book I included in this blog entry is from 1970...it's a booklet filled with song lyrics in addition to the actual sheet music of those songs. There is also a mini-biography of sorts and quite a few pictures. I've scanned a lot of pictures from that booklet and they're on my computer. I haven't added too many of those picture scans to my blogs because I've always felt that the contents inside the booklet should remain exclusive to those who actually own a copy of the booklet. But...I also realize that it's a 40 year old publication and the chances of a modern-day consumer lucking out and getting a copy on eBay or any other on-line music shop is 1 in a billion. I happened to be one of those who did in fact luck out and I purchased my copy on-line several years ago.

The asking price for the booklet in 1970 was $2.50! If this booklet were released with 2010 prices the selling price would no doubt be close to $10.00 or more. I'm sure $2.50 was a hefty price in 1970...I think TV Guide was less than sixty cents in 1970? Of course, today, most people wouldn't complain at paying just $2.50 for a booklet of this size and depth.

December 14, 2010

Let's Discuss Ray Stevens, Part 19...

In my previous blog I left a URL link to Bob Edwards' web-site and told everyone about a slide-show to look at. Ray's web-page uploaded a 2-part interview that took place yesterday. In the pictures from the slide-show we saw images of the two, in addition to those in the technical staff, standing at microphones in Ray's recording studio. The 2-part interview is available in the News section of Ray's web-site. When you click the link the first item, as of December 14th, will be a promo for Ray's magazine interview with the publication The Direct Buzz. Below this you'll see the audio link to Ray's interview with Bob Edwards. You'll need to click "Interview Part 1" in order for the audio to start playing. The first part is a little over 15 minutes and the second part is a little over 11 minutes. Ray talks about his career and snippets of his songs are played throughout the commercial free interview.

In the Direct Buzz interview it's in the form of an actual magazine. It's a brief Q&A centered around Christmas but it includes a career write-up, images of his two Christmas CD's, and a video link to "Nightmare Before Christmas". Attempting to describe how to navigate through the web-page would be too confusing but I assume everyone who clicks the link will be able to figure out how to navigate the site and have no issues. The article begins on page 9 and continues briefly on page 10. To enlarge the article simply left click...it may need reduced in size afterward and you can do this by clicking the minus sign up at the top of the page.

December 13, 2010

Ray Stevens and the Government, Part 3...

"I'm tired of ObamaCare being called health-care reform. It's nothing like reform at all. It's more like TRANSform. The ObamaCare law transformed an entire health care system that simply needed tinkered with into a massive big Government, socialistic-style system that the people didn't want or need. Slowly but surely people are waking up to the harsh realities that will be mandated onto them by 2014 all in the name of 'social justice' and wealth re-distribution."
~ACcountryFan~

I thought of that a few minutes ago and left a much shorter, rough-draft of it on Yahoo in some comment section of a news article I was reading. The article was about the latest Judicial decision to strike down ObamaCare.

Ray's Anti-ObamaCare song/video, "We The People", is closely reaching the 4,000,000 hits mark. When this happens this will give Ray two music videos on You Tube with at least four million hits. As of this writing the music video is sitting at 3,984,442 hits. The other music video, "Come to the USA", has gotten 4,597,742 hits. "Come to the USA" holds the distinction of reaching the four million mark first, obviously, and it also created quite a bit of controversy...as did his other politically-themed music videos.

As I touched upon in other blogs, a lot of the complaints and controversial aspects were ginned up by antagonistic liberal bloggers who deliberately planted inflammatory comments on message boards, on conservative blogs, and on social network sites like Twitter. Those who oppose Ray's political material were trying to make it look like he was singing to a small group of listeners...marginalizing the impact that his music videos were having all over the internet. I assume a lot of those hate blogs are still around if one searches archives for specific entries...but a lot of those johnny-come-lately blogs may have been deleted once their goal to agitate people was either met or not.

"Throw the Bums Out!", a sentiment that rang true during the November 2010 mid-term elections, is sitting at 629,368 hits on You Tube. A much more serious video, "God Save Arizona", is sitting at 571,031 hits. This particular video, for those who've still not watched it, deals with the Federal Government's lawsuit against the State of Arizona over the illegal immigration law.

Meanwhile, there's a blow-out sale going on this month at the Ray Stevens web-site shopping store with regards to the fabulous T-shirts that have been available during the last several months. The T-shirts that usually sell for $20.00 are now on sale for just $8.00! The shirts are top quality...I personally own one of the various T-shirts and so I suspect the other T-shirts are made with top quality material, too. The information about the T-shirt blow-out sale is located at Ray's web-site store here. There's two versions of the T-shirt...one features his image standing in front of the flag, which is what I prefer, and then there's one that just shows the American flag minus his image. There are other items currently available at their regular price including an alternative version of the T-shirt that shows a different image of Ray in front the flag with the phrase "We The People Have Awakened!" on front. That T-shirt, incidentally, is the one that I own. It was the first T-shirt made available...I will soon purchase the "Great Awakening Tour" T-shirt as well...you can't beat the $8.00 on sale price! The image of Ray on the $8.00 T-shirt, of course, is the same one that appears on the We The People CD.

I came across a web-page today that offers commentary about Ray and his daughter, Suzi, and it includes a slide-show as well. It's located at Bob Edwards web-site and you get there by clicking his name. There's a particular picture that shows Ray standing in front of a wall lined with booklets of sheet music that had been issued on his various recordings through the years. I'm familiar with most of them but a couple were new to my eyes.

Ray's current music video on You Tube, "Nightmare Before Christmas", has enjoyed 56,128 hits so far. The video typically has gotten anywhere between 3,000 to 4,000 or so hits every few days. Will it crack 100,000 hits by Christmas? It's hard to tell...what needs to happen are a lot of blogs across the country need to embed it or give links to the official video through social network sites in an effort to spread it around even more than it's been. 56,128 is good but it could be even more higher. The song skewers political correctness and for those who, like a lot of us, feel that political correctness is nothing more than flat-out censorship you'll love this song/video. The Christmas CD that the song comes from, Christmas Through a Different Window, features other songs aimed at political correctness as well and this is the one that emerged as a music video...

December 12, 2010

My Modest Ray Stevens 45's Collection...

(This is one of my favorite pictures of Ray Stevens!!)

1963: Speed Ball/It's Party Time
1964: Bubble Gum the Bubble Dancer/Laughing Over My Grave
1968: Mr. Businessman/Face the Music
1970: America, Communicate With Me/Monkey See, Monkey Do
1973: Love Me Longer/Float
1974: The Streak/You've Got the Music Inside
1974: Everybody Needs a Rainbow/Inside
1975: Young Love/Deep Purple
1976: You Are So Beautiful/One Man Band
1978: Be Your Own Best Friend/With a Smile
1979: I Need Your Help, Barry Manilow/Daydream Romance
1980: Night Games/Let's Do It Right This Time
1981: Everything Is Beautiful/Gitarzan (Gold Standard RCA series)
1982: Where the Sun Don't Shine/Why Don't We Go Somewhere and Love
1983: Piece of Paradise Called Tennessee/Mary Lou Nights
1983: My Dad/Game Show Love
1983: Love Will Beat Your Brains Out/Game Show Love
1984: My Dad/Me
1985: The Haircut Song/Punk Country Love
1987: Would Jesus Wear a Rolex/Cool Down, Willard
1989: I Saw Elvis in a UFO/I Used To Be Crazy

As you can tell the collection is very small. I hadn't bought anything off eBay in a period of years and that's where I bought several of the singles that I own. Much of the singles were for sale through Ray's fan club which is no longer in existence. The fan club shut down in 2002 after a run of 15 years in operation. I was a member of the fan club during the last 7 years. Meanwhile, there are still 45's for sale on eBay all the time. I have a lot more vinyl albums, cassette tapes, and CD's of Ray Stevens than I do 45 singles...but they're too numerous to mention.

December 11, 2010

Under-Rated Ray Stevens Albums...

Given the title of this blog it's easy to lump in a lot of Ray Stevens albums and classify them as under-rated...simply because I feel he's under-rated, period! Having said that it's nice to shine the light on a couple of mid '80s albums that were issued which have become under-rated in comparison to other projects released around the same time.

Some may wonder how can a greatest hits collection possibly be under-rated. Afterall, it contains hit songs and commercial singles. Well, this particular collection is under-rated because of a bigger seller hits collection released the same year, 1987. Greatest Hits featured pretty much all the signature hit songs from Ray Stevens while Greatest Hits, Volume Two featured other hits and more contemporary releases. During the mid '80s when newer audiences were discovering Ray Stevens...he was being marketed strictly as a country comedian by MCA...a lot of his earlier recordings were being re-issued on album and throughout much of the '80s and into the '90s there was a flood of Ray Stevens compilation albums and CD's all over the market. His earlier recordings were finding a new audience and the reason why Greatest Hits, Volume Two became under-rated is due to the high sales of it's predecessor, Greatest Hits. The Greatest Hits release became a huge hit album...and would eventually become a million seller. The reason it became a million seller is because it includes all the important releases in his career: "The Streak", "Everything Is Beautiful", "Gitarzan", "Shriner's Convention", "It's Me Again, Margaret", "Mississippi Squirrel Revival", etc. etc.

Some may wonder: "If those recordings is all it took for the album to go Platinum why didn't other compilation albums from the late '70s and early '80s go Gold or Platinum, too, since they basically all featured the same songs?".

The answer to that question, in my opinion, has to do with awareness, popularity, publicity, and timing. In 1983 the RCA label issued a Greatest Hits collection on Ray which featured just about all the songs on the 1987 compilation from MCA. The reason why the 1987 album went Platinum while the 1983 album didn't even reach Gold status is because of the lack of publicity and awareness. This is why in a lot of my blogs I shine the spotlight on albums that I feel didn't generate a lot of publicity from record companies.

Greatest Hits, Volume Two as I mentioned features several earlier recordings from Ray but unlike it's predecessor the collection includes a bit more modern-day recordings. The Platinum selling Greatest Hits that MCA issued in 1987 included only two recent recordings from Ray and those were 1984's "Mississippi Squirrel Revival" and "It's Me Again, Margaret". By comparison, Volume Two featured recordings from 1985, 1986, and 1987 in addition to material from the '60s and '70s.

Each of the greatest hits albums MCA issued on Ray in 1987 were combined for a television-only collection titled Get The Best of Ray Stevens. This may be considered one of Ray's earliest ventures in direct-mail as it was only available by mail-order...and there was a commercial produced for the collection as well. I've got this particular collection and it's a 2 album in 1 release. The album opens up like a book as most double LP collections did. Each vinyl LP is housed in it's own separate sleeve. As you can see, the album cover is full of sight-gags. The microphone Ray is holding is stuck inside a stick of dynamite. He's got a black eye, he's lunging upward due to a "kick-me" sign attached to him, smoking a cigar that exploded, and is being squirted with water from a trick flower by one of the two clowns...who's also ready to throw a pie in his face. Not only this but a second clown has a trick gun and the chair has a whoopee cushion sitting on it. Ray's nickname is The Clown Prince of Country Music but the clowns on the album cover can also be a reference to a line in "Shriner's Convention" where some Shriner's were dressed up as clowns during the parade.

The Volume Two release boasted his current hit single at the time, "Would Jesus Wear a Rolex?". The album also featured the brand new recording, "Mama's in the Sky With Elvis", plus 1985's "The Haircut Song", 1986's "Can He Love You Half as Much as I?", the radio edited version of 1985's "The Blue Cyclone", 1961's "Jeremiah Peabody's Green and Purple Pills", and others. The unique inclusion of "Can He Love You Half as Much as I?" instead of an actual chart hit from 1986, combined with the fact that Ray continues to this day to perform the song in concert, has enabled the song to be thought of as an actual hit recording. The actual chart hits from Ray in 1986 were "Southern Air" and "The People's Court" while "Can He Love You Half as Much as I?" didn't reach the charts. It nonetheless is a great song.

I received a message from someone who found their way to this blog page asking if I'd make mention of an upcoming appearance from Ronnie Dove. Typically, this being a Ray Stevens blog, I rarely mention other artist's appearances but since Ray played a part in Ronnie's career in the mid '60s I decided to go ahead and make mention of the appearance. The appearance of Ronnie Dove will be on New Year's Eve, December 31st, and you can find out about it at the venue's web-site right here. Once there you can click "Contact Us" for the venue's street address and phone number, etc. etc.

Speaking of under-rated albums...now let's look at 1988's I Never Made a Record I Didn't Like. I've written a few times about this album in the past. This particular album is the one that shows Ray on the cover dressed up as Will Rogers. The album's colors are black and orange and it features the following recordings...

1. Surfin' U.S.S.R.
2. The Booger Man
3. Mama's in the Sky With Elvis
4. Language, Nudity, Violence, and Sex
5. Bad
6. The Day I Tried To Teach Charlene MacKenzie How To Drive
7. Blood and Suede
8. Ethelene The Truckstop Queen
9. I Don't Need None of That
10. Old Hippie Class Reunion

There was a music video made of the opening track, the topical "Surfin' U.S.S.R.", which incorporates the stylings of The Beach Boys to tell the story of a Soviet submarine that crashes in Malibu, California. The music video includes additional footage not heard on the audio recording: An off-camera news reporter reads a fictional headline from a newspaper which leads to a comical interchange by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev. Ray, of course, vocally impersonates both political figures. As you can see from the track list it included the 1987 recording of "Mama's In the Sky With Elvis" as well as his version of Michael Jackson's hit song, "Bad". The arrangement starts out sounding like something you'd hear on an R&B album of that time period but mid-way through the song it turns into a much more countrified arrangement.

December 9, 2010

Ray Stevens and the Shriners Convention...



The Shriner's Convention, as performed by Ray Stevens in 1979. (Don't tell me the blogger is writing about this song again!!). Yes, I'm writing about this song once again! 2010 continues to be the 30th anniversary of this song's commercial release and so as we draw closer to the end of this year I decided to once again spotlight this recording. The commercial single was issued in January of 1980. The above performance of Ray is from 1979 and it may very well be the first time he'd performed the song on television. Sharp eared listeners/fans are well aware of the full-length version and the radio version of this song. As I touched upon in previous blogs there's the slower, ballad-paced recording which runs 5 minutes, 33 seconds. There is also another version issued which has a much more urgent, quicker vocal delivery and it leaves out some of the lyrics, specifically the reference to The Knights of Columbus. This performance, even though it's the longer version, also leaves out the Knights of Columbus reference. RCA issued both versions as promo singles...distinguishing between the two simply as Long Version and Short Version. The "short version" runs 4 minutes, 10 seconds...which was still relatively long for a country single at the time. Each version was issued as A-side and B-side on red vinyl and sometimes come up for sale on-line. The general public commercial single featured the long version as the A-side and "You're Never Goin' To Tampa With Me" as the B-side. The song takes place inside a fictional hotel in Hahira, Georgia where two members of a local Shrine are having a phone conversation during a convention. The humor of the song stems from the outrageous behavior of a renegade Shriner named Coy and the stern, straight-laced Shriner named Bubba. Their lodge names are Noble Lumpkin and the Illustrious Potentate, respectively, though they're only referenced as such at the beginning of the performance.

December 2, 2010

Chewing the Fat with Ray Stevens...

At some point last night two mid 1980's performances from Ray Stevens were uploaded onto You Tube. The songs come from his 1986 album, Surely You Joust. The first song is "Fat", a very funny song that has fun with obesity, over-eating, and supplies an assortment of fat jokes toward the end of the song.

Unfortunately we're not able to embed Ray's performances of "Fat" or "Can He Love You Half as Much as I?" but here's the You Tube link to "Can He Love You Half as Much as I?" and here's the link to "Fat".

He performed "Can He Love You Half as Much as I?" a bit more up-tempo than the recorded version and that mainly had to do with possible time constraints or as a favor to the show's host, Ralph Emery, who once remarked that he prefers the guests to perform mid-tempo or up-tempo songs instead of ballads. This isn't to say that ballads were never performed on his television programs but, by and large, mid-tempo and up-tempo songs were perhaps the preferred choice. The 1986 album features the following...

1. Southern Air (with Jerry Clower and Minnie Pearl)
2. The People's Court
3. Bionie and the Robotics
4. Makin' The Best of a Bad Situation
5. Fat
6. Can He Love You Half as Much as I?
7. Smokey Mountain, Rattlesnake Retreat
8. The Camping Trip
9. Camp Werthahekahwee
10. Dudley Dorite of the Highway Patrol

December 1, 2010

Ray Stevens: Nostalgia Valley, Part 17...

In this edition of the Nostalgia Valley we visit the next to last week in November 1974. This was the week that Ray Stevens entered the Adult-Contemporary charts with his elegant single, "Everybody Needs a Rainbow". The song was one of the several cross-over hits in the career of Ray Stevens as it hit both on the Adult-Contemporary and the Country music charts. It debuted on the country music charts this very week back in 1974. The pace of a hit country single is somewhat slower than the pace of a pop single. In pop music, then and now, singles consistently leap-frog up the charts. One week a single could be at #34 and the next it could be up to #22 and then up near the Top-10 the following week, etc etc. In country music, singles don't usually have that kind of rapid chart action. One week a single could be at #34 and the next it could rise up to #30 or only move up one place, to #33, and then during it's 4th or 5th week it continually moves up the charts that by week 10 or 11 it's nearing the Top-10 (if it gets that far, that is!)

I bring this up because "Everybody Needs a Rainbow" debuted on the Adult-Contemporary charts a week before it's Country music debut...but it reached it's Adult-Contemporary Top-20 peak before the end of the year. During the same chart span over on country radio the single didn't reach it's peak position until January 1975. The single was charted for the same number of weeks on both music formats but yet it took awhile longer for it to reach it's peak position on country radio. This particular inspirational single was written by Layng Martine, Jr. and it was only available as a single-only. Layng wrote several songs that Ray recorded through the years: "Piece by Piece", "Put It In Your Ear", "The Flies of Texas Are Upon You", and more recently, "Rub It In". Yes, the same song that Billy "Crash" Craddock had a hit with. Ray did his version of the song in 2008 and it's on the Hurricane CD. Ray has a history with "Rub It In"...he produced a version of the song which was recorded by the writer, Layng Martine, Jr., in 1971. According to Ray, the record label rush-released the song but the timing wasn't correct and it didn't become a real big hit. Later on, Craddock recorded the song and it became a huge hit for him in 1974. Craddock's version was produced by Ron Chancey.

The B-side of "Everybody Needs a Rainbow" is "Inside", which is another song in the same inspirational vein, but "Inside" was written by Ray.

As today is December 1st I thought I'd post a side-by-side picture of myself and a 1985 picture sleeve of Ray Stevens...as you can see it's "Santa Claus Is Watching You". The B-side of the single is "Armchair Quarterback". Each of these songs were taken from I Have Returned, the comedy album Ray issued in 1985. The album would eventually reach #1 in the spring of 1986. Those of you seeking out Ray Stevens holiday material look no further than his web-site store. You can purchase his 1997 all-comedy Christmas CD...which is titled Christmas Through a Different Window...and you can get his 2009 all-serious Christmas CD titled Ray Stevens Christmas. You can get both of those CD's plus a single DVD of his music video, "Nightmare Before Christmas", here. The music video, by the way, has gotten 39,520 You Tube hits in a little under a month. Ray hasn't pushed the music video as heavily as he does the political releases and so that's why it's nearing 40,000 hits in a month's time whereas many of his other You Tube releases have gotten well over 100,000 hits within a month's time. A couple of days ago Ray left a message on the social network site, Twitter, that he'll be returning to the studio to work on 10 new political comedy songs. I assume these new songs will start to trickle out at some point next year. This month marks the 1 year anniversary of "We The People" being uploaded on You Tube...maybe later this month a new political comedy song/video will emerge?

November 30, 2010

The Best of Ray Stevens...

Welcome one and all to the Ray Stevens Music Journey blog site. In a couple of days it'll be my birthday...I'll be reaching 34. I've been a fan of Ray Stevens for more than 20 of those 34 years as anyone can tell once you explore this fan-created blog page. The Best of Ray Stevens, a 1970 release from Mercury Records, introduced me to the early recordings of Ray. I have a copy of the cassette version which was issued in 1987. I don't have a vinyl version...but nevertheless these recordings were seemingly picked at random for the collection. "Ahab the Arab" kicks off the album...it's a live performance featuring an introduction by Ralph Emery but I don't have a definitive year that it was captured on tape. Ralph once hosted a music program called 16th Avenue South and I assume this recording took place on that program. The back of the album features some liner notes and a list of the songs. Ray wrote each and every selection.

click on the thumbnail for a larger image
1970

November 29, 2010

Let's Discuss Ray Stevens, Part 18...

I rarely make mention of the follower link but in case there are those who over-look this feature, due to all of the wonderful distraction of information and images contained on this blog page, let me introduce you to the "follow" link. It's located off to the right side of the page. Once anyone becomes a follower they will be updated whenever I post a new blog entry. It's a good thing to be a follower simply because I've been known to write 2 or 3 blog entries per day but then sometimes I take a break. As is the case now, I've been in the process of taking a break. Actually, this is my first entry on this specific blog in a span of 10 days. My last blog post was on November 19th. I've often found that when I do take a hiatus that whenever I return and publish a new blog entry it doesn't show up in the Google blog search right away...but if you're a follower you'll be alerted to the new entry automatically...and this would eliminate the potential problem that some may experience of not being aware that there's a new Ray Stevens blog entry that I've written.


As 2010 comes to a close...we're nearing December...but as 2010 comes to a close I thought I'd close this blog entry with an image of the comic strip that appears on the back of the 1980 Shriner's Convention album. Ray Stevens released the album in 1980 and it reached the Top-10 on the Country album chart. Depending on the running time of a concert or a TV appearance Ray often performs this song as a medley with other recordings or he omits parts of the song in favor of the first and last verse. "Shriner's Convention" runs well over five minutes and you can find various blogs of mine which give lengthy description of the song, album, and it's impact on his career. Media coverage of the song was healthy...and Ray found himself on the cover of Country Song Round-Up.

The magazine did a write-up of his career, to date, and like most write-up's of Ray during this time period it focused a lot on his over-shadowed and under-rated serious work amidst the success of a hit comedy single and album. The eye-grabbing sub-heading "More Than Meets the Ear" is a reference to the many different styles of music that Ray's recorded. Inside the magazine revealed the complexity of an artist known for having success with comical projects but longed to have the same commercial notoriety for serious work...not that he didn't take comedy seriously...it's just that during much of Ray's career the comical image and reputation is what the public at large was mostly aware of and what most television programs wanted to highlight. In spite of the comical successes Ray enjoyed late in 1979 and into 1980 with his final Warner Brothers single, "I Need Your Help, Barry Manilow" and his RCA debut single, "Shriner's Convention", Ray would go on to record three consecutive non-comical albums: One More Last Chance and Don't Laugh Now in 1981 and 1982 for RCA and then Me in 1983 for the Mercury/Polygram label. After the release of the 1983 album...which went virtually unnoticed throughout the latter half of 1983 and into 1984...Ray went to MCA Records and became a country comedy performer and from that point forward the comedy direction was there to stay.