January 29, 2011

Ray Stevens...Critical Reaction, Part 3...

I came across a comment from a web-page today suggesting that Ray Stevens only recorded 3 albums of non-comedy material. The person making the comment wasn't specific by remarking that he's aware of only 3 non-comedy albums or if he really believes that's all he's recorded. As the many fans of Ray Stevens are aware he recorded non-comical songs pretty much during his entire early career up until the mid 1980's. This point in time represents the turning point in his career where he decided to have comedy as the main focal point of his recording career. Some think Ray has always had comedy as the focal point of his career but those who think this have a lot of learn when it comes to Ray Stevens. In some of my earlier blogs in 2008 and early 2009 I put his non-comedy albums and songs front and center and in this blog entry I'll be doing the same thing just to reiterate that Ray had a long career releasing non-comical recordings prior to the mid 1980's and he definitely had more than just 3 albums worth of non-comical songs.

The following is a list of studio albums recorded by Ray between 1968 and 1983 which consisted of nothing but non-comical, serious recordings. Given that it's a list of studio albums I'm not going to reference compilation albums during those same years on this list:

1. Even Stevens; 1968 Monument
2. Have a Little Talk With Myself; 1969 Monument
3. Everything Is Beautiful; 1970 Barnaby
4. Unreal; 1970 Barnaby
5. Turn Your Radio On; 1972 Barnaby
6. Nashville; 1973 Barnaby
7. Losin' Streak; 1973 Barnaby
8. Misty; 1975 Barnaby
9. Just For the Record; 1976 Warner Brothers
10. Feel the Music; 1977 Warner Brothers
11. There Is Something On Your Mind; 1978 Warner Brothers
12. Be Your Own Best Friend; 1978 Warner Brothers
13. One More Last Chance; 1981 RCA
14. Don't Laugh Now; 1982 RCA
15. Me; 1983 Mercury

On the other side of the coin between those same years of 1968-1983, Ray issued the following comedy albums:

1. Gitarzan; 1969 Monument
2. Boogity-Boogity; 1974 Barnaby
3. Shriner's Convention; 1980 RCA

That's it! Between 1968 and 1983 Ray issued a grand total of 3 comedy albums. There were numerous compilation/greatest hits releases out during those same years emphasizing a lot of his comical recordings from the early and late '60s but as far as studio albums go he only recorded 3 comedy albums during that entire 15 year span.

Ray's first album is a Mercury release in 1962, 1837 Seconds of Humor. This LP, as well as a 1963 follow-up, This Is Ray Stevens, featured a lot of comical and non-comical recordings...they weren't exclusively all-comedy or all-serious. However, much of the comical recordings from those two albums, coupled with 1969's "Gitarzan" and a 1970 single, "Bridget the Midget", enabled Ray's image to become identified as comical...in spite of the serious recordings he was actually having hits with.

A lot of the comical songs that appear on a wide variety of compilation albums issued on Ray weren't necessarily hit songs in the conventional sense of the definition. More often those comical songs were lifted from studio albums and spotlighted on compilation LP's simply because Ray's biggest commercial impact came with the comical recordings...and for commercial potential it makes more sense to load a compilation project with what sells the strongest.

Music consumers tend to appreciate Ray's comical songs more and more and as a result it's those comical recordings which have the most commercial impact but yet critics tend to believe his non-comical recordings truly show off his talents. I feel both his comical and non-comical recordings equally show off his artistic talents.

A 1979 LP, The Feeling's Not Right Again, was issued by Warner Brothers. I didn't include it in either list because it's a compilation album featuring material Ray recorded during 1976 through 1978...with just one new recording, "I Need Your Help, Barry Manilow". The Manilow parody became a surprise mainstream hit and apparently the label wanted an entire LP issued to promote the song...instead of it being available as a single-only...and so a compilation LP was issued with obvious emphasis on the new recording. I wrote a few blogs about this album and the song...one blog entry I wrote called The Parody of Barry springs to mind. You can find it in my archives off to the right.

Since 1984 Ray's marketed himself as a comedian as many of you know...and he's had a lot of success and impact since then with his recordings and lately, music videos, but let's never forget the non-comical recordings and that middle period of his career.

Gee, I remember starting this blog entry commenting on something I seen at a web-page suggesting Ray only recorded 3 non-comical albums...and here we are paragraphs later...it's a clear illustration of the impact Ray has had on our lives where we can talk and talk and talk...and talk...about Ray's career and music.


  1. Thanks a lot for this blog post! As a writer of many music related topics, I considered writing an article detailing the serious side of a funny man (Ray Stevens)and still might write it. Your post is very accurate and gives a fuller picture of this very talented man. Take Mr. Business Man for instance, hello? But having said that, I wrote a humorous song myself which is inspired by Ray and Warren Zevon - Vampires At The Campfire www.cdbaby.com/Artist/LesMarcott
    Thanks again for your insights.

  2. His second album, 1963's 'This Is Ray Stevens', could technically also be labeled a "series" or pseudo-series album because half of it's songs aren't comedy/novelty songs (i.e., "Funny Man" "Teen Years" etc.)


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