August 17, 2010

Ray Stevens: Video Single success...

Tuesday morning! There's not much happening at the moment as far as Ray Stevens activity is concerned. The current video single, "God Save Arizona", has reached 75,437 hits on You Tube and the CD and Mp3 are still available for sale at Ray's web-site store. As of this writing the song isn't available on Amazon or any other on-line music store. I assume the single will become more widely available if and when it shoots beyond a hundred thousand hits. This is just my guess, though. Who knows...the single may become more widely available next week!? I came across another back-handed commentary about Ray's latest string of video singles...I won't quote it but I'm curious why the writer felt the need to describe Ray as "an aging pop novelty singer". Why should someone's age even be put front and center? I could understand it if Ray were literally 100 years old or 90, in the tradition of the late George Burns, where his age was always being a conversation piece...but I don't feel writers/bloggers/critics need to single out a performer's age. Why do I feel that way? It's because of bias...some use age discrimination, directly or indirectly, to cheer or jeer someone in the performing arts. By using the phrase "aging" it makes the blogger appear to be disrespectful to the performer, in this case the performer is Ray Stevens. Why do I say that? It's because other words could have been used such as "legend", "veteran country comic", or "legendary novelty singer"...see, by using those particular descriptive words it shows some respect toward the performer. But instead what we got from the writer/blogger is a description of the performer as "aging". There were some so-called hip music critics who called Ray Stevens "aging" back in 1992 when Comedy Video Classics was released. As a fan I was offended then and I still get offended when he's not shown any respect.

I tend to get beside myself whenever I try to figure out angry critics. There's nothing angry about this album, though. It was released in 1989 on the MCA label and it showcased the two sides of Ray Stevens the public at large is familiar with: the comedian and the serious singer. In fact...this album marked the first time since 1983 that brand new non-comical material was featured. His previous albums for MCA starting in 1984 and running through 1988 contained nothing but comedy material...with the lone exception being a song called "Furthermore" on his 1984 album. The song was a bluesy performance telling the story of a man coming to grips with losing his girlfriend. Some may have found the song comical simply because it was performed by Ray Stevens. Did you all know that there are some people out there who laugh at almost everything Ray sings...disregarding whether or not a song is meant to be comical or if it's meant to be taken seriously. Beside Myself contains 10 songs...five comical and five non-comical. "Another Fine Mess" is one of my favorites. It has a saxophone as it's main instrument...a slow tempo saxophone at that...and most people who hear the saxophone being played that way will no doubt be drawn into the song. The song is about a couple falling in love...and going by the lyrics it's something of an awkward relationship but nevertheless the two grow closer.

I wrote about this double album recently. This particular collection was sold on television and in newspaper print ads throughout the late 1980's. I'd seen the TV commercial a couple of times so I can barely recall how it played out. It was one of those kind of commercials where the names of the songs scroll up the TV screen as snippets of the songs are played. In this commercial Ray dressed up in various costumes acting out the lyrics in several of the songs. This could have been a foreshadowing of his highly successful music video career in the 1990's. The official title is Get The Best of Ray Stevens...which sounds like something you'd hear at the start of a the album's name very likely was given it's title simply because the people buying the album were getting the best of Ray Stevens. Now, of course, this album came along in 1987...and he's recorded a lot more songs since then...and so it's the best Ray Stevens recordings up until that time period. A lot of the songs were featured on the Greatest Hits and Greatest Hits, Volume Two collections...both 1987 releases.

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