Good Monday mid-morning! Way, way back in 2008 when I started this fan blog page I listed the various albums that have been on the market spotlighting the music of Ray Stevens. A lot of the compilation albums that hit stores in the '70s and especially the '80s and into the early '90s were out of Ray's control. Some people assume that Ray was responsible for all of those various compilation releases but in reality he wasn't. Those days are long gone but glancing at Ray's discography it'll be helpful if we lift the studio albums from the list.
Contractually, in many artists career, the release of a Hits album or two is part of a deal. There were some compilation releases that Ray was aware of but a vast majority were the result of record labels licensing, re-licensing, re-re-licensing Ray's songs for low-budget collections. Those kind of releases flooded the market in the '70s and '80s and were out of Ray's control. So, for those who visit his web-site and look at his discography, I hope you all don't think that all of those releases were did with Ray's approval because they weren't.
There was a time when I could walk inside the local Wal*Mart in 1993/1994 and see quite a few releases on Ray from Polygram (a division of Mercury Records) and then there was the K-Tel various artist collections of novelty songs and often there would be 1 or 2 early '60s songs from Ray among the track list. There was also a collection of gospel songs released on K-Tel...the title of the release was The Gospel Side of Ray Stevens. This was more or less the third or fourth re-issue of his 1972 Turn Your Radio On album. A quick way of knowing if a compilation on Ray Stevens is contractually approved is if the record label is the same as the one Ray was recording for at the time of it's release. When Ray was on Barnaby they issued several compilation albums on him. The same holds true for MCA and Curb Records. A lot of the other compilation releases were did after he had long departed the label's roster.
Here are the studio albums from Ray Stevens:
1. 1,837 Seconds of Humor; 1962 (Mercury Records)
2. This Is Ray Stevens; 1963 (Mercury Records)
3. Even Stevens; 1968 (Monument Records)
4. Gitarzan; 1969 (Monument Records)
5. Have a Little Talk With Myself; 1969 (Monument Records)
6. Everything Is Beautiful; 1970 (Barnaby)
7. Unreal; 1970 (Barnaby)
8. Turn Your Radio On; 1972 (Barnaby)
9. Losin' Streak; 1973 (Barnaby)
10. Nashville; 1973 (Barnaby)
11. Boogity-Boogity; 1974 (Barnaby)
12. Misty; 1975 (Barnaby)
13. Just For the Record; 1976 (Warner Brothers)
14. Feel the Music; 1977 (Warner Brothers)
15. There Is Something On Your Mind; 1978 (Warner Brothers)
16. Be Your Own Best Friend; 1978 (Warner Brothers)
17. The Feeling's Not Right Again; 1979 (Warner Brothers)**
18. Shriner's Convention; 1980 (RCA)
19. One More Last Chance; 1981 (RCA)
20. Don't Laugh Now; 1982 (RCA)
21. Me; 1983 (Mercury)
22. He Thinks He's Ray Stevens; 1984 (MCA; Platinum)
23. I Have Returned; 1985 (MCA; Gold)
24. Surely You Joust; 1986 (MCA)
25. Crackin' Up; 1987 (MCA)
26. I Never Made a Record I Didn't Like; 1988 (MCA)
27. Beside Myself; 1989 (MCA)
28. Lend Me Your Ears; 1990 (Curb-Capitol)
29. #1 With a Bullet; 1991 (Curb-Capitol)
30. Classic Ray Stevens; 1993 (Curb)
31. Hum It; 1997 (MCA)
32. Christmas Through a Different Window; 1997 (MCA)
33. Ear Candy; 2000 (Clyde Records)
34. Osama Yo' Mama; 2002 (Curb)*
35. Thank You; 2004 (Clyde Records)
36. New Orleans Moon; 2007 (Clyde Records)
37. Hurricane; 2008 (Clyde Records)
38. Ray Stevens Sings Sinatra...Say What??; 2008 (Clyde Records)
39. One For the Road; 2009 (Clyde Records)
40. Ray Stevens Christmas; 2009 (Clyde Records)
41. We The People; 2010 (Clyde Records)
42. Spirit of '76; 2011 (Clyde Records)
43. Encyclopedia of the Greatest Novelty Songs (To Be Announced)
**-The 1979 release, The Feeling's Not Right Again, could be considered a compilation album since all the songs except one in particular were available on other albums. "I Need Your Help, Barry Manilow" was the only new song on the album...the rest of the material had been recorded in 1976, 1977, and 1978.
*-The 2002 release, Osama Yo' Mama, featured a track list mostly lifted from his 2000 Ear Candy release and so it, too, can be considered mostly a compilation project.
I included the 1979 and 2002 releases in the studio album category because each release contained a major hit single for Ray...it was a scenario in which each album was constructed to support the hit single instead of the other way around.
Here is a list of Notable Compilation Collections:
1. The Best of Ray Stevens; 1967 (Mercury; re-issued in 1970, 1987, and 1993)
2. Greatest Hits; 1971 (Barnaby)
3. The Very Best of Ray Stevens; 1975 (Barnaby)
4. The Many Sides of Ray Stevens; 1977 (GRT; 2-LP collection)
5. Greatest Hits; 1983 (RCA)
6. Collector's Series; 1985 (RCA; features 8 recordings Ray did for RCA)
7. Greatest Hits; 1987 (MCA; Platinum)
8. Greatest Hits, Volume Two; 1987 (MCA)
9. Get The Best of Ray Stevens; 1987 (MCA; 2-LP collection sold on TV)
10. His All-Time Greatest Comic Hits; 1990 (Curb; Gold)
11. Greatest Hits; 1991 (Curb; features alternate version of "There's a Star Spangled Banner")
12. Cornball; 1995 (Warner Brothers)
13. Do You Wanna Dance?; 1995 (Warner Brothers)
14. The Serious Side of Ray Stevens; 1995 (Warner Brothers)
15. The Country Hits Collection; 1998 (Varese Sarabande)
16. All-Time Greatest Hits; 2001 (Varese Sarabande)
17. The Millennium Collection; 2004 (Hip-O)
18. Box Set; 2005 (Clyde Records)
The 1985 collection was re-released in 1987 and in 1992. "One More Last Chance" appeared on the original release in 1985 but it was replaced on the two re-releases by the comical "Put It In Your Ear". Since Collector's Series is the only compilation to showcase Ray's RCA recordings exclusively it's become a notable release. I really don't see RCA or whoever owns the original recordings issuing anything on Ray anytime soon. It would be nice if Ray's studio albums from 1980, 1981, and 1982 were to get re-issued in Mp3 form or in CD form, but, considering that no other release outside of the eight song Collector's Series have become available the chances are it'll never happen. Warner Brothers, until 1995, also kept Ray's recordings in the vaults and never kept them in print and commercially available. It continues to remain baffling why Ray's RCA recordings remains out of print in an era when re-issue's of older albums is very commonplace.
The 1995 3-CD series from Warner Brothers represented the first time his recordings for the label were spotlighted in great detail. Most compilations prior to 1995 feature "In The Mood" and "I Need Your Help, Barry Manilow" but never bother to spotlight any of his other recordings for the label. The 3-CD series did a great job at spotlighting a lot of his under-rated recordings for the label...some of the recordings reached the country charts and one of them, "You Are So Beautiful", reached the country Top-20 in 1976...but given how out of circulation the songs had become (the label never kept any of his songs in print) it was, for a lot of people, like a discovery. There were a couple of songs Ray recorded for Warner Brothers that weren't highlighted in the 3-CD series but the bulk of his output for the label had finally become commercially available again.
The 2001 release on Varese Sarabande includes the rare 1960 recording by Ray of "Sgt. Preston of the Yukon". This recording is rarely available except on low-budget various artist collections...it's nice to see the song available on a collection as top-notch as All-Time Greatest Hits. This collection is also notable for including "Everybody Needs a Rainbow", an under-rated Top-40 country hit for Ray in 1974. It's a bouncy, cheery recording and it's never been included on hardly any collections, even though it was a hit, so it was great seeing it available on a modern-day release.
Earlier I mentioned the lack of RCA material in print by Ray Stevens. To date the RCA material is the least commercially available. Ray's studio albums for Barnaby Records, well, most of them, were re-issued on CD format in 2005 by Collectible's Records. Each CD contained 2 studio albums for a total of 6 studio albums re-issued altogether. 1973's Losin' Streak wasn't re-issued. It remains on vinyl.
The 2005 CD releases were:
1. Everything Is Beautiful / Unreal
2. Nashville / Boogity-Boogity
3. Turn Your Radio On / Misty