August 1, 2011

Revisiting Ray Stevens, Part 4...

The Very Best of Ray Stevens, released in 1975, features 12 tracks recorded by Ray between the years of 1968 through one recording from 1961. The album was first released internationally in 1974 with a different picture of Ray...basically it was the picture of Ray that appears on his Turn Your Radio On album of 1972. That version features 14 tracks. In America the LP was released in 1975 with a bearded Ray Stevens on the cover and 12 tracks instead of 14. This wasn't the first appearance of a bearded Ray Stevens on an album, though...that distinction goes to 1973's Losin' Streak. One of the earliest pictures of him in his now well familiar bearded appearance was a 1969 publicity picture for "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down". As you can tell from the track list, the America release included emphasis on the early to mid '70s. The fact that the LP starts off with "Misty" and includes another 1975 hit, "Indian Love Call", indicated that the record label wanted to continue to spread the exposure of those two songs beyond the country format. Once upon a time a Greatest Hits or a Very Best of... collection was bought by casual fans and the public in general. Studio albums were often bought by the dedicated fans. This fact inspired a lot of record labels in the '80s, specifically, to fill out a lot of Greatest Hits releases with songs that didn't exactly reach the weekly music charts...but since the general public would most likely purchase a 'hits' collection rather than a studio album it enabled a lot of songs that otherwise wouldn't have gotten much attention the chance to shine and become familiar to listeners.

It wasn't uncommon for a song to become popular through exposure on compilation releases. Quite a few of the compilation CD's put out on Ray Stevens in the '80s and '90s contained a lot of non-hits but due to the exposure the songs continually got on a lot of compilation releases the songs became just as popular and familiar with listeners as the songs that made the charts. "I Saw Elvis In a U.F.O." is a single from Ray in didn't reach the charts but everyone in his fan-base knows of the song. Ray Stevens is one, if not the only, artist able to have popular songs and albums without the benefit of ranking among the Top-10 with each and every release. This is why I've constantly said chart rankings mean nothing to Ray's career. A lot of artists live and die with each chart ranking or agonize over why something peaked at #3 instead of #1...with Ray Stevens I've always gotten the feeling that he really doesn't care if one of his songs or albums charts at #1 or long as he's satisfied and his audience is pleased then all of the other stuff is just icing on the cake if it happens.

The track list for the America released Very Best of Ray Stevens is below:

1. Misty; 1975
2. Unwind; 1968
3. Turn Your Radio On; 1971
4. Everything Is Beautiful; 1970
5. Mr. Businessman; 1968
6. Indian Love Call; 1975
7. The Streak; 1974
8. Jeremiah Peabody's Green and Purple Pills; 1961
9. Nashville; 1973
10. The Moonlight Special; 1974
11. Gitarzan; 1969
12. Ahab The Arab

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