April 30, 2010

Volume Two of Ray Stevens Greatest Hits

This popular Greatest Hits album from Ray Stevens hit stores in 1987. The concept of the baseball attire of course fits into the "hits" reference. I don't know who the other people are in the picture...my guess is they're people Ray knows or they're people hired for the photo shoot by the photographer. Officially titled Greatest Hits, Volume Two this 10 song collection has always been in the shadow of it's predecessor...also released in 1987, simply titled Greatest Hits. I've written extensively about both 1987 albums but with all of the resurgence of interest in Ray Stevens' career due to his immensely popular You Tube political music videos I decided to shine the spotlight on Volume Two once again. At the time of it's release Ray was amidst his 30th year in the music industry. His first recordings date back to 1957. Perhaps as a tie-in with the 30th Anniversary is why there were three compilation albums all released in 1987 on top of an all-new album, Crackin' Up. The focal point of this collection was it's lead-off track, "Would Jesus Wear a Rolex?". That particular single had become a controversial but popular recording in the months prior to this album's release...hitting at a time when televangelists were all over the national news.

One of the song's writers, Chet Atkins, often reminded journalists and critics that he and Margaret Archer wrote the song months before scandals had hit the evangelists and long before the word "televangelist" had left a bad taste in a lot of people's mouths. The song had debuted on Crackin' Up and it became such a surprise national hit that to my way of thinking the label pushed out a hits album to not only capitalize on the hit but to also re-introduce quite a few older songs to Ray's newer fans. Aside from the relatively new "Would Jesus Wear a Rolex?" being on the album there is another song that was actually brand new: "Mama's in the Sky With Elvis". That particular song would later find itself on Ray's 1988 album, I Never Made a Record I Didn't Like. This 1987 volume two hits collection features:

Would Jesus Wear a Rolex?; 1987
Can He Love You Half as Much as I?; 1986
The Blue Cyclone; 1985
I Need Your Help, Barry Manilow; 1979
Mama's in the Sky With Elvis; 1987
Mr. Businessman; 1968
The Haircut Song; 1985
Jeremiah Peabody's Green and Purple Pills; 1961
Freddie Feelgood; 1969
In The Mood; 1976

It's anyone's guess why 1986 is represented with a song that wasn't actually a chart hit. Although the song is very popular in concert the actual chart hits from 1986 were "The People's Court" and "Southern Air". The latter featuring Jerry Clower and Minnie Pearl as guest vocalists. My guess is that such a thing as time constraints may have been an issue. Each of those 1986 songs are well over 4 minutes in length meanwhile "The Haircut Song" is over 6 minutes in length and "The Blue Cyclone" clocks over 5 minutes. If we look at the time constraint scenario it makes sense as to why the label picked "Can He Love You Half as Much as I?"...it's much shorter in running time than the actual 1986 chart hits.

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