August 23, 2010

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

A wonderful parody/spoof of the 1950's pop ballad, "Hey There", is served up in this 1980 single from Ray Stevens. As you can see Ray's image is on the face of an illustration of a radio...which goes right along with the plot of the song. It starts out with a twinkling piano, the tempo is slow, and then we're told by Ray that we're listening to a radio station that specializes in ballroom music. Ray plays the part of the soft-spoken radio broadcaster who sets the scene for the star of the show. The featured vocalist sings his way through "Hey There" in memorable fashion...surely making Rosemary Clooney and all others who've recorded the song very proud. The interpretation from Ray is made more memorable due to a minor case of lisping from the star vocalist. This lisping approach is heard throughout the performance and if you were to remove the lisps it would be a legitimate love ballad...given how serious the production comes across. Nevertheless, the lisps are what give the song it's comical feel. The song ends just as it started...a twinkling piano playing away among other instruments. This song was released as a single overseas...for whatever reason it wasn't released as a single in the United States. I think the song would've become a witty addition to Ray's list of comical hits had he issued it in the United States as well but it wasn't meant to be. The b-side, "You're Never Goin' To Tampa With Me", is a clever song using towns and scenery in Florida to tell the story of a man looking for love during Spring break...with the title of the song carrying a double meaning.

This is not really a comical love song but it's definitely a departure from the way in which "Lady of Spain" was typically performed. The song dates back to 1931 and Ray included it on his 1975 Misty album of pop standards. The image of Ray seen on this single's picture sleeve matches the image on the Misty album. In Ray's hands "Lady of Spain" is turned into something of a rollicking party song...with a definite Spanish feel. There's a moment where the saxophone player lets loose and Ray references the player, Norman Ray, as the horn is honking away. Ray is at his energetic best on this performance where he vocally sounds like an out of control Fats Domino. It's a performance that clearly departs from what the public at large would come to expect...but yet it's one of those performances that us Ray Stevens fans have long been familiar with because we actually buy the albums. Those who only buy singles are in my opinion doing themselves a disservice when it came to Ray Stevens. Although the single releases are great...the songs that were put on his albums that weren't pushed as singles are just as great. His take on Deep Purple and Cow-Cow Boogie, both from the Misty album, are great. The b-side of "Lady of Spain" is his version of "Mockingbird Hill".

The reason I'm posting the song book for "Young Love" is simply to give a much more detailed look at the suit that Ray was wearing during the photo shoot for the Misty album. "Young Love" was a commercial single for Ray in late 1975...his next-to-last for the Barnaby Records label. The release of the song in the winter of 1975 meant that if it became a hit it would have a chart run at the beginning of the following year. "Young Love" entered the charts in January 1976. "Lady of Spain", the single I wrote about above, was Ray's final commercial single for Barnaby...also from early 1976. This is only a theory but "Lady of Spain" must have been released at some point in early spring of 1976 simply to complete his Barnaby contract because Ray's next commercial single entered the charts in May 1976 for a different label, Warner Brothers. My guess is "Lady of Spain" was purposely passed by as Ray made his way to Warner Brothers. Fortunately people can buy the 1975 Misty album in CD format or digital download at the various on-line music stores. Misty was re-issued in CD and Mp3 format a few years ago packaged with his gospel album, Turn Your Radio On. The re-issues were not heavily hyped and so there's still plenty of people unaware of their availability. All of Ray's Barnaby albums, except one, were released in CD and Mp3 format several years ago: Everything Is Beautiful, Unreal, Nashville, Boogity-Boogity, Turn Your Radio On, and Misty. All of those CD's are still available for sale...if you don't have them you oughta be checking Amazon and other places because there's no telling if the material will become unavailable at some point. The only Barnaby album not re-issued is Losin' Streak. That album contained no commercial hit singles {but it's still a great album} and my guess is the record company that re-issued the other Barnaby albums passed this one by because seven is an odd number and the series was a 3-CD set with two albums on each CD. Maybe one day Losin' Streak will become available in CD or Mp3 format.

Ray's latest single, "God Save Arizona", has risen to 112,604 hits on You Tube. There still hasn't been any announcement if this song will become part of a much larger project or if it's going to be a single-only release. There have been over a thousand comments so far and the like/dislike ratio is 579 give the song a thumbs up and 109 people rate it a thumbs down. What in the world are those 109 people thinking?

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