September 20, 2010

Ray Stevens...There's Something On Your Mind...

A few blogs ago I spotlighted an obscure Ray Stevens album titled There Is Something On Your Mind from 1978. The album contains eight tracks and it features Ray's versions of R&B songs of the '50s. I had a request to transcribe the commentary that appears on the album given how obscure the project happens to be. On eBay there's an 8-track copy of this album...I purchased my copy on-line several years ago. It's a vinyl copy as you can see...I don't believe it's ever been issued on cassette and it definitely hasn't been issued on CD...

Ray provides commentary about each and every track. This commentary appears on the back of the album which I'll post an image of later. Above the picture on the front of the album there's more commentary...but this is more or less a greeting than an actual commentary about the material contained within the album. Some may wonder who the woman standing behind Ray is...I have no idea. Perhaps it's a model that Warner Brothers found? The image appears as if they're looking through a window. The album's title may be a bit misleading for those who've never heard the song before. Some may think it's a romantic song going by the title...but it's not exactly a romantic song...oh, there's romance within the context of the story but as far as it being a lush, softly sung performance it's nowhere near that!

The following is a copy of what appears on the front of the album...

"I'm not a nostalgia nut but I guess, along with everyone else, I'm a little tired of hearing, with rare exception, nothing but parodies of the '50s music. True, a few of the hits deserve nothing but a tongue in cheek treatment, but then maybe every era is vulnerable to ridicule from somebody's point of view. Be that as it may, I have had the desire to record some of the old '50s songs for some time now minus the "grease" and "doo-wop"! A lot of the lyrics are still relevant and the ideas expressed poignant and communicative to any generation. I have tried to present this collection of 'oldies' with as much sincere appreciation for merit as reality will allow. I grew up with these songs and they played in the background of my formative years as a singer and musician. I like these songs. Some of the lyrics are not what you could call 'heavy' but they translate into a feeling that reads between the me, anyway. I recorded this album in my little studio in Nashville on 24 tracks, using a few musicians that I have known and worked with for years."

-Ray Stevens

Ray mentioned in the greeting that he used a few musicians and this isn't an exaggeration! He really did use just a few musicians on this album. Excluding himself, he used just six musicians...and not all of them played on every song. Jerry Carrigan played the drums on six of the eight tracks. Jerry Kroon played drums on "Money Honey" and "Old Faithful Trilogy". Jack Williams played the bass on every song while Reggie Young played the electric guitar on all the songs. Johnny Christopher played the acoustic guitar on six of the eight tracks...while Mark Casstevens played acoustic guitar on "Money Honey" and "Old Faithful Trilogy". Ray played the keyboards, synthesizer, percussion, and did all of the background vocals. By percussion I assume they mean a vibraphone or other related instruments given that Jerry Carrigan and Jerry Kroon were already credited as the drummers. On the back of the album, as you can see, Ray's picture appears on the top left side while his commentary on all the songs fills up the back of the album.

The following is Ray's commentary for all the songs he recorded for the album...this is what appears on the back of the 1978 album...

Dance Trilogy is a medley of three songs beginning with Do You Wanna Dance which was first recorded by Bobby Freeman. The dominant sounds on his record were bongos and a pounding piano lick. My concept is a little softer while using conga, tumba and quinto instead of bongos and Wurlitzer electric piano (heavy on the vibrato). This segues into one of my favorites, When You Dance, recorded originally by a little known R&B group called The Turbans. This was one of the first records I ever heard where the lead singer broke into falsetto (long before Frankie Valli). When I first heard this record, I remember I ran out and bought it immediately. The last song of this threesome is the old Drifters classic, Save the Last Dance For Me, which came along a little later than the other two but is, I think, a fitting finale.

Talk To Me is, in my opinion, a classic! It was originally recorded by Little Willie John. The lyric is timeless in it's simple direct language and expresses a sincere desire for the ultimate communication of feeling and insights between two people.

One Mint Julep is a song a lot of people not into '50s R&B don't realize was a vocal hit by The Clovers before Ray Charles' organ instrumental version popularized it to a larger pop audience. This song was one of the first songs to 'cross-over' to a teenage audience in 1952.

Old Faithful Trilogy is three songs that pledge devotion and give off good vibes. You may not remember Shake a Hand by Faye Adams until it gets to the chorus but then something in the back of your mind will say... "oh yeah! I've always known that...". Ivory Joe Hunter's Since I Met You Baby with the down-home church piano lick has always been one of my favorites and everybody knows Always.

Money Honey was first recorded by my friend, the late Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters. Clyde, as most people know, was a pioneer in bringing R&B vocal styling to a larger audience. Most of the singers of today who use melismata at all in their vocal delivery owe a debt of thanks to people like Clyde McPhatter. I had the privilege of working with Clyde in a small way in Nashville when I was working for Mercury Records and he came down to record for Mercury in 1963. I saw Clyde again in London years later.

Banned in Boston Trilogy - I believe that these songs were the first to cross-over to the white audience in the early '50s. Sixy Minute Man by The Dominoes was the first R&B song I ever heard. It was banned on several radio stations as being too suggestive to program at that time. This only increased the demand from the teens. Work With Me Annie is the second song of the trilogy. The classic hit by The Midnighters was also banned on most radio stations across the country, and the follow-up, Annie Had a Baby (which is the closing song of the trilogy) was so taboo that I don't believe I ever heard it on the air. This, I'm sure, promoted sales to a certain element of avid record buyers. I decided that Annie Had a Baby should be done more as a lullaby with a straight 8th's feel, breaking into a harder rockier sound from the sheer energy created by the melody and lyric, and coming back down abruptly at the end with the celeste and background vocals creating a sweet sound.

Your Cash Ain't Nothin' But Trash by The Clovers in 1954 is one of the first songs I heard where the lyric was cleverly worded to sound like a comedy play set to music.

There Is Something On Your Mind- Bobby Marchan created such an atmosphere with the recitation sections of this song that I almost didn't do it. However, I decided that if an audience reacted to the delivery, it might bring a new dimension to the material and be welcomed as a fresh recording. I couldn't pass it up!

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