May 20, 2010

Ray Stevens...Comedy Legend...

Don't mind that crazed, obsessed look...I was hamming it up for the camera. I do tend to go a bit overboard when it comes to Ray Stevens, though...but that picture is strictly for laughs. I wrote about this collection a couple of blog's ago and on Wednesday this CD arrived in the mail. The collection, titled 12 Hits, was released back in 2002 and it's on the Varese Sarabande label. I already have those songs and that's why I never purchased the collection when it was new. However...I began to wonder if someone may have written liner notes for the release and so I sent away for it. The price was super cheap in my opinion...after all the CD is 8 years old. After opening up the CD my suspicions were does feature an essay about Ray's career. The credits show that the liner notes were written by someone named Howard Evets. I know this may sound incredibly obnoxious, arrogant, or egotistical but whenever I read liner notes on Ray Stevens I always play like I'm the editor...looking for omissions, errors, or unfair comments. If I spot any of that in the liner notes I usually warn potential consumers whenever I write a review of a CD. I do that to allow the more dedicated fans of Ray to be alerted ahead of time because they, like myself, are easily annoyed if an essayist or author goes too far.

Usually you don't come across liner notes that make the singer look bad but there are rare instances where a writer's finished project looks forced and uninteresting and you can tell the writer didn't necessarily want to promote the singer or the album. This is why I favor the idea of liner notes being written by fans/admirers of the singer...this way the writer is approaching the project in such a way that his or her words will connect with the target audience: the fans. In some cases a record label releasing a project will employ their own person to write liner notes...whether that person really likes the artist or not. Thankfully on this CD there's liner notes written by someone who apparently did their homework on Ray's career but there was not much attention given to quite a few songs on this CD. As a result, this sort of patched together essay makes the liner notes come off as a mini-biography, where key points in an artist's career is highlighted. I prefer liner notes to include some sort of extensive positive commentary, from the note writer, about the featured songs...and perhaps some information about the songs. For example...there was no mention of Ray winning two Grammy awards for a couple of songs contained in this collection...the two songs being "Everything Is Beautiful" and "Misty". There was also no mention of "Gitarzan", "Everything Is Beautiful", and "The Streak" being multi-million selling singles.

Given the liner notes were written at some point in 2001 or even 2002 when the CD was issued there was no reference to Ray's phenomenal sales of home videos in the early to mid '90s and there was no reference to Ray's hit single and music video back in early 2002, "Osama Yo' Mama". The 12 Hits CD was released on September 10, 2002 which as you all know was a day before the 1st year anniversary of 9/11. So, it's a little odd to me that the liner notes didn't really bridge the gap between the classic hits on this CD and the contemporary goings-on of Ray Stevens at the time. However, the writer did give a nod to Ray's ability to remain in the public eye and come up with inventive ways of attracting legions of fans no matter how many times critics may want to write him off as nothing more than a novelty act.

What exactly are those 12 Hits on this CD??? Here's what you get...

1. Ahab the Arab: 1969 re-recording
2. Harry the Hairy Ape: 1969 re-recording
3. Unwind: 1968
4. Mr. Businessman: 1968
5. Isn't It Lonely Together: 1968
6. Gitarzan: 1969
7. Along Came Jones: 1969
8. Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down: 1969
9. Everything Is Beautiful: 1970
10. Turn Your Radio On: 1971
11. The Streak: 1974
12. Misty: 1975

Bridging the gap from discussion of classic Ray Stevens recordings to discussion of contemporary Ray Stevens recordings we find ourselves once again inserting the topic of illegal immigration into the mix. "Come to the USA" continues to rake in the hits. As of now it's sitting at 287,709 plays in a week's time. Even more impressive is the music video is the recipient of five 'honors'. Honors are given whenever a video performs at an exceptionally high level. Information on how to get We The People, which contains "Come to the USA", can be obtained at Ray's web-site.

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