September 11, 2011

Revisiting Ray Stevens, Part 12...

Continuing on with the patriotic/military slant for today's blog entries I thought it would be nice to put three Ray Stevens CD's on display. As mentioned in an earlier blog entry Osama Yo' Mama: The Album was released early in 2002. The exact date was February 12, 2002. The song, "Osama Yo' Mama", reached the Country singles charts in December 2001, peaking in the Country Top-50 based pretty much on the airplay it got on morning radio programs where playlists are a little bit looser. It also hit the Country Single Sales list in December as well as the Hot 100 Single Sales list. It made it's debut on the country singles chart during the last week of 2001. Based upon sales of the "Osama Yo' Mama" / "United We Stand" CD single it remained charted on the Hot 100 Single Sales list for more than 15 weeks (peaking in the Top-10) while on the Country Single Sales list it remained charted for more than 30 weeks (peaking at #1). The music video of the song came along in early 2002 and lastly, the full-length CD in February 2002. The sales of the CD single, as mentioned in a previous blog entry, enabled it to be named the fifth most popular selling country song of 2002. As noted previously, all of this success was accomplished with little to no significant airplay on country or pop radio. The album which Curb Records issued in February 2002 consisted of 10 recordings. The unique aspect of the CD is that 7 of the 10 tracks had previously appeared on an exclusive CD that Ray released in 2000. I say exclusive because it was only available for purchase through his web-site and as a result the general audience was unaware of it's existence. That CD, Ear Candy, is listed in his discography at his web-site but it's no longer available for purchase at his web-site store. The tracks from Ear Candy that didn't make an appearance on Osama Yo' Mama: The Album were "King of Christmas", "The Dog Song", and "No Lawyers in Heaven". "The King of Christmas" and "The Dog Song" would later make an appearance on the more widely distributed Box Set in 2005 but "No Lawyers In Heaven" has never made an appearance beyond it's debut on the 2000 Ear Candy release. The song was written by two legendary writers: Paul Craft and Billy Edd Wheeler. In Bluegrass circles the song became a big #1 hit for the artist, Charlie Sizemore, during this past summer. It's his version that gets airplay on the local classic country radio station in my area. It was funny, though, because I knew of this song from Ray's recording of it 11 years ago but some people out there believed it to be a brand new song.

Osama Yo' Mama: The Album track list:

1. Osama Yo' Mama (2001; music video available)
2. Hang Up and Drive (2000)
3. Safe At Home (2000)
4. Freudian Slip**
5. Deerslayer (2000)
6. Bon Temps Roulette (2000)
7. The Hustler (2000)
8. The Lady on the Radio (2000)
9. Gone For Good (2000)
10. United We Stand (2001)

"Freudian Slip" made it's debut on this 2002 CD. However, I'm not sure when it was actually recorded. It could've been recorded in 2000 for the Ear Candy CD but cut out at the last minute but it also could've been recorded in 2001 prior to 9/11. It has a 2001 copyright date but that can be misleading due to the fact that "The Lady on the Radio", which appeared on the 2000 CD, shows a 2002 copyright date within the credits of the 2002 CD. A sequel to "Osama Yo' Mama" appeared in 2003, "Hello Mama". This song was available as a single only and a music video came along the same year.

In spite of the success Ray was having in 2001, 2002, and into 2003 it would take the release of a 2009 music video and this 2010 CD before a national audience took notice once again. In the wake of this CD's release much of the comments from music listeners and music critics alike was that this was Ray's first release in many years and in some articles the writers made it sound as if Ray hadn't put out anything since his home video projects in the early '90s. Since those projects were sold using TV commercials that aired nationally chances are that was the last time they heard of anything new from Ray Stevens!? That's just a theory, though. In previous blog entries I've deliberately highlighted the projects that Ray released between 1996 and 2008. Why? Well, it's because of the overwhelming belief by some that Ray was in retirement before "We The People" came along in 2009. The "We The People" music video became an enormous viral hit on You Tube. It was released in early December 2009 and by February 2010 it had surpassed 2,000,000 on-line views. The song, all about opposing Obama Care and the damaging effects it'll have on the country's medical programs, enabled Ray to become known as a political entertainer. The viral success of the music video led to the ultimate release of this CD in the spring of 2010. The We The People CD features 22 songs and it includes a bonus DVD of 4 music videos. Since 2010 was a mid-term election year the music and the videos from this collection resonated with a segment of the country and suddenly Ray Stevens found himself participating in Tea Party functions both large and small performing the political songs that people discovered on You Tube. "We The People", "Caribou Barbie", "Throw the Bums Out!", "Come to the USA", and "The Global Warming Song" are just four of the music video releases on You Tube connected to this 22 song CD. "Thank You", Ray's patriotic song and video from 2004, was placed on this 2010 collection because it fit the mood of the CD and it had the potential to reach an entirely new audience the second time around thanks to You Tube. "Thank You", for instance, is one of the songs Ray released in 2004 which was during that point in time, 1996-2009, in which music critics and many bloggers said he was in retirement! In fact, some critics used headlines suggesting that Ray came out of retirement to tackle the political issues of the day. That's how out of touch they were! The CD would reach the Top-60 on the Country album chart but would go on to reach the Top-10 on the Comedy Album chart. All of the commercial success and popularity of this collection is tied to his music video successes on You Tube which advertised the music to millions of people. The collection was in the Top-10 on Amazon's various top sellers rankings for several months.

We The People track list:

1. We The People (music video available)
2. Caribou Barbie (music video available)
3. Stand Up
4. Three Fractured Factions
5. Dear Andy Griffith
6. The Global Warming Song (music video available)
7. Let's Roll
8. Solar Powered Song
9. Fly Over Country
10. We Are the Government
11. The Fallen Ones
12. Come to the U.S.A. (music video available)
13. If 10% Is Good Enough For Jesus
14. Kings and Queens
15. Obama Nation
16. Throw the Bums Out! (music video available)
17. Sucking Sound
18. Safe at Home
19. Thank You (music video available)
20. Pledge of Allegiance/Star Spangled Banner
21. Mr. Businessman (live version)
22. Midnight in Baghdad

DVD videos:

1. We The People
2. Thank You
3. Caribou Barbie
4. Throw the Bums Out!

This particular collection is the current release from Ray Stevens. It was initially issued in the spring of 2011 with limited availability. The collection wasn't released to wider distribution until the summer of 2011. It was in February 2011 that Ray issued the music video, "The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore", and he embarked on a mostly talk radio tour. He visited several morning shows on FM radio, too. The song/music video spoofed the TSA and the invasive security procedures taking place at airports. The song dealt with a topical issue that was all over the news for a period of several weeks. To date the music video's gotten over 200,000 on-line views. In my opinion this is due to the fact that the topic of the TSA and the idea of spoofing the airport security procedures requires some sort of personal experience from the video watcher in order to fully enjoy the song. There's a large segment of the population that doesn't fly and therefore they have no experience with airports and so a song about airport security isn't going to connect with that part of the population no matter how funny the song and music video are. Still, it's a top notch performance from Ray and his music video co-stars. Upon the release of the Spirit of '76 CD it was discovered that the previously released "God Save Arizona" is among the track list. This bit of information technically makes the song the lead-off single while "The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore" becomes the second release from the collection. "God Save Arizona" had only been available as a single and an on-line music video prior to it's inclusion on this CD. That particular song/music video deals with the Federal lawsuit between the United States and Arizona over illegal immigration. The video's gotten over 800,000 on-line views. After "The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore", Ray released the "Obama Budget Plan". This music video, to date, has 671,155 on-line views. The video, obviously, saw a dramatic increase of views during the peak of the debt ceiling debate several weeks ago. It was just above 500,000 views in mid August and now it's approaching 700,000 in less than a month's time. This CD didn't reach the national charts largely due to the limited advertising that it received. Who knows what 2012 holds in store, though. It being an election year we may see further publicity arise from this collection. There are a couple of songs on here that will fit the election season next year.

Spirit of '76 track list:

1. The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore (music video available)
2. Mr. President - Mr. President
3. God Save Arizona (music video available)
4. Cap'n Trade the Pirate
5. My Uncle Sam
6. November Storm
7. Mi Casa Su Casa
8. Grandpa Voted Democrat
9. Obama Budget Plan (music video available)
10. News Machine
11. New Normal

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