October 31, 2011

Revisiting Ray Stevens, Part 14...

Halloween day...October 31, 2011...I posted a Halloween themed blog a couple of days ago where I spotlighted some of the songs Ray recorded with a Halloween overtone. Search the archives on the right side of the screen for the blog titled The Entertaining Ray Stevens, Part 2. In this particular blog entry I decided to post the other side of The Best of Ray Stevens, a compilation that Mercury Records issued on Ray Stevens in 1970. This release features material Ray recorded during the years of 1961 through 1963. It's a combination of album songs and single releases. The collection is notable for a very rare recording of "Ahab the Arab" from some point in the early '60s. I do not know, even to this day, when this performance was recorded. The recording is made more rare by the fact that country music personality, Ralph Emery, is heard at the beginning introducing Ray to a small audience. My guess is this is an audio taken from a television program...I know Ralph hosted a pop music program at one time in the mid '60s and perhaps that's where this audio comes from!? Wherever it comes from it's an obscure recording. Purists are dismissive of the recording and complain that it doesn't belong on a collection like this but I have a differing opinion on the matter.

The liner notes, as you see here, were written by someone named Bob Scherl. Since the collection was released in 1970 the liner notes slip in references to some of the songs Ray recorded in the late '60s (which aren't part of this collection). Tracks 6, 7 and 11 were originally released as commercial singles exclusively and weren't part of his 1962 or 1963 albums for Mercury, which is where 7 of the songs on this 1970 compilation comes from.

The songs on the collection were all written by Ray Stevens:

1. Ahab the Arab
2. Funny Man; 1963
3. Harry the Hairy Ape; 1963
4. It's Been So Long; 1963
5. Speed Ball; 1963
6. Santa Claus Is Watching You; 1962
7. Butch Babarian; 1963
8. Loved and Lost; 1963
9. The Rock and Roll Show; 1962
10. Jeremiah Peabody's Green and Purple Pills; 1961
11. Bubble Gum the Bubble Dancer; 1964

Ray's 1962 album for Mercury is titled 1,837 Seconds of Humor. Tracks 9 and 10 in the above collection are from that album. His 1963 album for Mercury was titled This Is Ray Stevens...tracks 2 through 5 and track 8 are from that album. Track 1 was previously unreleased while tracks 6, 7 and 11 were issued as single-only releases. Some of Ray's singles featured b-sides that have not yet appeared on any commercially released album. His version of "When You Wish Upon a Star" is the original b-side of "Scratch My Back" from 1962. The b-side has never made it to any LP or CD in the last 49 years. "Scratch My Back" never made it to the Hot 100 but was released as a follow-up to "Jeremiah Peabody's Green and Purple Pills".

"Don't Say Anything" is the b-side of 1963's "Butch Babarian". "It's Party Time" is the b-side of 1963's "Speed Ball". A song that I commented about several blogs ago, "Laughing Over My Grave", is the b-side of 1964's "Bubble Gum the Bubble Dancer". A couple of other singles, both the A and B side, that Ray recorded for Mercury have never been available since their original release: 1965's "Rockin' Teenage Mummies" and it's b-side "It Only Hurts When I Laugh" as well as "Mr. Baker the Undertaker" and it's b-side "The Old English Surfer". The releases in 1964 and 1965 came after he had signed with Monument Records. The recordings took place at some point in the early '60s when he was still with Mercury.

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