October 17, 2010

Ray Stevens and the Media: A further Examination...

Welcome to the Ray Stevens Music Journey!! It's an early Sunday morning here and this week mark's Ray's finale in Branson, Missouri...for now. I wouldn't be too surprised to see Ray return to Branson at some point again in 2011 given how successful his run at The Welk Theatre played out. Typically any artist wants to play to their strengths and once again it looks as if one of his strengths is the concert stage. The last group of concerts begins on October 20th and it'll be one of the two show days on both the 20th and 21st...a 2pm and an 8pm concert. In other words, fans and concert goers will be able to catch Ray four times in two days. On October 22nd and 23rd Ray will do just one concert each night at 8pm and that'll wrap up his month long series of concerts at The Welk Theatre which had started in mid September.

One of the trends, I guess, when it comes to Ray Stevens and the general public of today is that there's not a lot of research that goes into Ray's latest happenings or if he's appearing at a venue somewhere. I'll guess and say there's probably some out there that didn't know that Ray was appearing in Branson, Missouri and for those who come across this blog entry weeks or months from now and are stunned to learn that Ray was in Branson, Missouri for a month of concerts and you missed your chance of seeing him...well, I hope it becomes a learning experience to pay attention to Ray's career and his music releases.

If a person pays attention then there wouldn't be a situation where you didn't know of a concert appearance or a CD or DVD release.

I speak about the general public, of course. The die-hard fans obviously are on top of what Ray Stevens is currently up to and are aware of music videos, CD releases, or concert appearances, etc. etc. The more passive audience, on the other hand, often find themselves out of the loop and learn about concert appearances and music from Ray Stevens months down the road...long after a concert has happened or a song/music video was released. Mind you, I'm not complaining about this kind of thing, but it is something I'd noticed over the last several years. The reason I bring it up is because those who stay out of the loop often end up complaining about not being informed on what's happening. I know that sounds ironic but for the most part it's true.

I've read posts from people on various message boards through the years who might be curious about Ray Stevens' latest activities; some wonder if he's going to appear in concert anywhere. When I see message board posts such as that I always wonder why they never think to check Ray's own web-site. Of course, some may not think an artist of Ray's longevity would actually have an active web-site...but he does!! His web-site offers a lot of information about tours, available CD's, a store section where people can purchase Ray's merchandise, and the news section. There's even a message board there where fans can read the comments from other fans of Ray Stevens and post comments of their own. It isn't a premium site, either, it's free to join...

Ray Stevens Web-Page

There's a link on the Main page to join Ray Stevens Backstage. This particular area is a premium based offer and once a month a person who subscribes will receive an on-line "newsletter" not available to the public at large. The newsletter typically features several segments that aren't included in the free web-site and sometimes they highlight pictures from Ray's past or show exclusive video or free download content.

As a fan of Ray Stevens I feel that we should be active in our fandom. I think a lot of us are active in it and remain in the loop...but my advice for those who are out of the loop is to become pro-active. Let's face it: we're not going to see stories about Ray's music or his concerts plastered all over the newspaper entertainment sections and we're not going to see write-up's and reviews from music critics in any great abundance anymore, either.

A lot of people only act upon things they see or hear about on TV or in a magazine/newspaper...and because coverage of Ray's career by those outlets isn't what it used to be it creates this false belief that Ray hasn't been active in years. The early '90s, for a lot of people, was the last time they heard about Ray Stevens...back when TV commercials for his home videos were showing all over television. We all know Ray continued to record and do concerts on into the late '90s and into the next decade but because it wasn't publicized all over the news the general public had no clue.

So that leaves the Ray Stevens fandom to be pro-active given the reality that the newspapers or television outlets aren't going to cover Ray's career. The media, it seems, decided on their own that Ray didn't deserve much ink anymore what with the emerging pollution known as political correctness hanging over the country like a thick layer of smog. Even though we all feel the politically correct crowd unfairly take jabs at Ray's comedy the reality is the politically correct attitudes that were taking shape on a small scale in the late '70s and raging on throughout the '80s and early '90s to the point of out of control wildness by the mid '90s, in my opinion, created this split in coverage of Ray Stevens music and I explain how...

For awhile there were favorable reviews of Ray's latest projects in the early '90s but as time went by and political correctness took over more and more of the country's intelligence and independence it seemed as if critics were afraid to giggle and laugh along with Ray's exaggerated humor for a fear of backlash from the political correct advocates. Newspaper publishers, advertising executives, as well as the top people in television broadcasting also became victims of political correct advocates. These advocates would threaten boycotts, protests, and all kinds of other mayhem and disruption if their social views weren't met. As I've written about elsewhere, the politically correct people deemed "Ahab the Arab", a song Ray wrote in 1962, as politically incorrect, offensive, and they collectively made the grandiose and sweeping statement that the song was hostile to "all Arab-Americans" and "Arabs all over the world".

In a lot of ways it was like Ray had become something of a dirty little secret that well-known music critics wanted to distance themselves from. That's the way I took it when noticing the change in media coverage of Ray's career. Perhaps a lot of that was out of their control. Critics and writers are often at the mercy of the publisher, whose often at the mercy of a special interest group of some kind. For example, if a publisher is being manipulated by a special interest group, in this case political correct advocates, then it'll be highly unlikely that anything that shows the special interest in a negative light will be published. In 1995 Ray released his direct-to-home video movie, Get Serious!. The video was promoted through TV commercials as two of his previous home videos had been...but the newspaper coverage was relatively slim. I wonder if the movie's overall plot of skewering political correctness had anything to do with the less than enthusiastic coverage? The home video nonetheless sold hundreds of thousands of copies over the course of the next two and a half years.

Since December 2009 Ray has almost exclusively utilized the unique service of You Tube to promote his music. The media, in general, had stopped covering him long ago and it would really be a tall order to get the media behind a song that questions Obama Care which is what "We The People" does. There's this little thing called media bias but that's an entirely different subject for an entirely different blog. Anyway...ever since the release of the "We The People" music video Ray has since returned to the spotlight and there's been some mainstream coverage as well...something that had been lacking since the mid '90s. Although there's been a steady stream of blogs both from the right and the left of the political spectrum focusing on Ray Stevens, the traditional newspaper columnists and music critics have yet to really offer an opinion...except two instances. There was actually a write-up by The New York Times of Ray's political/patriotic career shift. I don't necessarily recall it being negative or unfair. However, at the same time, there was a scathing review by some other writer for another publication, whose name will remain anonymous, and whose negative review I feel was over-the-top in it's unfairness and quite frankly the 'review' was uncalled for. I've yet to come across another unfair review of that magnitude and I hope I never will. There have been unfair criticisms since then, of course, but none quite like that particular review.

In the meantime, the latest You Tube hit count for "God Save Arizona" is 466,864. It's officially been available on You Tube for two months. The single, available as an Mp3, is also 2 months old. There is also a physical CD single available at Ray's web-site store. To get there you click the URL that I posted several paragraphs ago and once at his web-site click Buy and "official store". Once there everyone will be able to purchase CD's, t-shirts, hats, and DVD's.

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