February 16, 2011

Ray Stevens: From Mockingbird Hill to Capitol Hill...

35 years ago, in early 1976, Barnaby Records issued it's last single on Ray Stevens in the form of "Lady of Spain" backed with "Mockingbird Hill". The songs come from his final studio album for the label, 1975's Misty. That particular album featured Ray's versions of many pop-standards: "Over the Rainbow", "Deep Purple", "Cow Cow Boogie", "Indian Love Call", and the title track, "Misty". On that same album Ray also covered the country classic "Oh, Lonesome Me" and "Young Love". The only new songs on the collection were "Sunshine", written by Ray; and Layng Martine, Jr.'s "Take Care of Business". The song's title may have been inspired by a line in an earlier Ray Stevens song, "Mr. Businessman", although "Take Care of Business" is a slow love ballad having nothing to do with corporate America.

"Mockingbird Hill", as mentioned, appeared as the B-side of Ray's take on "Lady of Spain". In Ray's arrangement, Mockingbird still comes complete with shrills, tweets, and tra-la-la's but the melody is much more R&B flavored. Patti Page recorded a pop version of the song as did Les Paul and Mary Ford. Two years after Ray recorded his version of the song it was recorded by Donna Fargo and has since been recorded by other artists. The song is basically a story about contentment as it deals with a person who's happy with their life and gets enjoyment taking in the tranquil scenery dubbed "Mockingbird Hill" for all the mockingbirds that inhabit the area. Ray's recording of it is catchy, in my opinion, and a listener is drawn more into his vocalization and the melody. If you take away Ray's inflections then what you end up with is a recording that offers nothing different from all the other recordings of the song.

From Mockingbird Hill we travel to Capitol Hill...

4,164,529 is the most recent hit count for the Ray Stevens music video, "We The People", on You Tube. The single/music video deals with the political consequences of voting in ObamaCare. Now, given that the song came along nearly a year before the 2010 midterm elections, the song has taken on a kind of prophetic symbolism. The November 2010 midterm elections saw the biggest addition of Republicans in state Governor races and local elections plus an increase in Republicans in both the Senate and the House of Representatives...largely more in the House. Although there were some Democrats re-elected the majority of political races taking place this past November were won in mostly landslide fashion by Republicans. Ray appeared at C-PAC on February 10th and performed this song. He alerted those in the audience that he recorded it late in 2009 before the 2010 midterm elections. He described the song as kind of prophetic given how the November elections turned out. The We The People CD includes several other songs that went on to become viral music video hits on You Tube: "Caribou Barbie", "Throw the Bums Out!", "Come to the USA", and "The Global Warming Song". A song and music video from 2004, "Thank You", was included on this collection as well because it fit the overall theme of the project.

To date the biggest music video success on You Tube for Ray Stevens is "Come to the USA"...this music video's gotten 4,871,555 hits. The song's about illegal immigration and it became an enormous video sensation as the Arizona-Mexico border problem became intensified nationally throughout the summer of 2010. The illegal immigration bill that was signed into law in Arizona was treated with protest from liberals and the Federal Government...inspiring Ray to make the music video, "God Save Arizona", which was not part of the We The People CD. The music video's gotten 636,762 hits at the moment. The song got some exposure in an episode of The O'Reilly Factor but the impact of the coverage, I think, was subdued because within the same segment that Ray's song was spotlighted there was exposure given to a liberal music video with sentiments directly opposite from those expressed in Ray's song. The video exposure for both songs back-to-back, each with different viewpoints, canceled each other out in my opinion.

Ray is currently expected to release a new project that'll feature his current TSA song that he's been promoting in a series of radio station interviews. Titled "The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore", Ray has yet to release a music video of the song. I'm continuing to watch any news that trickles out of Ray's office...but no new information's been released since my last blog entry on the 14th.

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