January 27, 2011

Ray Stevens: Nostalgia Valley, Part 19...

By the looks of it a great time was had by all who attended the private birthday party for Ray Stevens this past Monday January 24, 2011. There have only been three pictures made available of the party which took place inside his office in Nashville. A link to the pictures is located here. In those three pictures we see the cake and we see Ray reading birthday cards and a close-up of Ray looking at the cake.

Hurricane is a CD that Ray released in 2008 and for whatever reason there was no publicity, promotion, or much support given to it. The title track borrows a lot of inspiration from "The Streak" with a CNN-style on location reporter detailing the events of a hurricane. The somewhat silliness of giving hurricane's a name is poked fun at in the recording. A Jamaican reporter is also on hand as is a witness, curiously sounding like the same unfortunate soul who warned Ethel not to look when the streaker ran by. It's perhaps no coincidence that the image of Ray on the CD comes from "The Streak" music video...an image also used on the cover of Ray's 1992's million selling home video, Comedy Video Classics. The catchphrase in the song, which flies across the CD cover, deals with the absurdity of pigs literally flying all over the place...apparently making extensive use of the expression "when pigs fly!". There are 15 songs on the CD...some are brand new and some are re-recordings. Tracks 1 through 6 and track 11 are original recordings brand new to Ray's catalog of songs while tracks 5 through 10 and track 12 were re-recordings, mostly of material from the mid '80s. "Hurricane" dabbled in spoofing cable news reporters but another song from this CD, "Sucking Sound", is a direct parody of Ross Perot on Larry King's program. The song depicts the viewpoints Perot held during the 1992 Presidential race and compares Perot's predictions about the U.S. economy back then to the current state of the economy and the workforce. The result? Perot's predictions were pretty much on target. Throughout the song Ray does impressions of Perot talking to Larry King.

There's a distinct rural/backwoods theme that runs through the CD...which is something that had been missing on a lot of previous comedy CD's from Ray during this time period. In a lot of the songs on Hurricane the focal point is the rural culture and the independent lifestyle they enjoy with the protagonists in each song being good ol' boy characters.

Track List:

1. Hurricane
2. Sucking Sound
3. The Cure
4. Bubba the Wine Connoisseur
5. Hey Bubba, Watch This!
6. Rub It In
7. Smoky Mountain Rattlesnake Retreat
8. The Camping Trip
9. Makin' The Best of a Bad Situation
10. Stuck On You
11. Down Home Beach
12. Hugo the Human Cannonball

In the above track list I use the bold lettering to indicate the brand new songs so that readers can have a quick reference. The CD is also available as an Mp3 and the great thing about that is a consumer can purchase individual songs...which is what I did. I bought the 7 new songs since I already have the originals of the 5 re-recordings on this collection.

One day, just for completest purposes, I'll purchase the physical copy of the CD.

Unlike Hurricane, I happen to own the LP, cassette, and CD versions of Crackin' Up. I don't necessarily own what I call an individual CD version of Crackin' Up...instead I have a copy of it on CD form that was part of a collection called The Incredible World of Ray Stevens. It's a 3-CD collection...with the third CD being 1987's Crackin' Up. I came across a write-up of this particular comedy album back in 1987 when it was brand new...and the critic complained that the humor on the CD was, and I'm paraphrasing: "too R-rated" and "mired in adult themes and not family friendly". As laughable as those criticisms are the reviewer came across very serious. I've listened to this album for years and know the songs inside and out...there's absolutely nothing "adult oriented" or "r-rated" about the collection. The thing that the critic must have taken objection to is how marital strife and romance was spoofed in several of the songs. "Three Legged Man", for instance, is a story about a man who falls for a married woman (nothing new for country songs) and the hilarious chase that ensues when the man and woman go running through the wilderness with the angry husband hot on their trail.

"Cool Down Willard" is a story about how a man's wife and grandmother have flipped for weatherman, Willard Scott. Ray does his popular grandmother vocal impression in this recording. "I'm My Own Grandpaw" dates back to the 1940's if I'm not mistaken...originally a hit for Lonzo and Oscar. I bet the song that really set that particular critic off on a sour note is the song-title, "Sex Symbols"...apparently the word, sex, is something that in his opinion shouldn't grace a Ray Stevens album? Whatever the case, "Sex Symbols" is a very funny song inspired by the unlikely duet pairing of Willie Nelson and Julio Iglesias. Ray doesn't do an impression of Willie but he does do an impression of Julio. In concert Ray often performed the song playing the part of a ventriloquist...with dummy Julio sitting on his lap. Julio hasn't appeared much lately...he made a cameo appearance in "The Blue Cyclone" music video in 2000...since then I hadn't seen him show up in anything else.

There were two separate releases of The Incredible World of Ray Stevens. One collection features Crackin' Up as the third CD which is what I own. Another release with the same title shows a different picture of Ray and it contains both his 1987 and 1984 MCA comedy albums and a third CD is a compilation which features a good number of songs from his 1985 and 1986 MCA comedy albums, a couple of songs from the '70s, plus 1988's "Surfin' U.S.S.R". The collection that I own contains 34 songs while the other collection with the same title features 30 songs...10 per CD. The collection I own covers a lot of his '60s and '70s material on the first two CD's with the third one being 1987's Crackin' Up. The collection that I don't own looks like this...

Meanwhile...a few days ago I remarked that Ray's music video, "We The People", was nearing 4.1 million hits on You Tube. It surpassed the 4.1 million mark a couple of days after that particular blog entry. The video has since increased 10,000 additional hits and is sitting at 4,110,304. The other million hitter, "Come to the USA", continues to gain huge numbers each and every day. It's now sitting at 4,781,631 hits! Although the You Tube hit counts will always rise and never remain the same the Top-10 music video uploads from Ray Stevens, as of January 27, 2011, are as follows. The current hit totals are shown in parentheses.

#10: "Everything Is Beautiful" (212,178)
#9: "Thank You" (330,469)
#8: "Caribou Barbie" (352,387)
#7: "God Save Arizona" (619,151)
#6: "Throw the Bums Out!" (655,385)
#5: "The Streak" (660,520)
#4: "Mississippi Squirrel Revival" (800,789)
#3: "Osama Yo' Mama" (854,679)
#2: "We The People" (4,110,304)
#1: "Come to the USA" (4,781,631)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Show your appreciation for the music of Ray Stevens...leave a comment...