December 23, 2011

Ray Stevens and Santa Claus, Part 4...

As we draw closer to Christmas it inspires me to do a pictorial event that I call The 12 Rays of Christmas. Simply put it's 12 images of Ray Stevens taken from various points in time...most of the imagery, of course, will be from albums but a couple aren't. This particular image is the flip side of He Thinks He's Ray Stevens. Several of Ray's early albums for MCA featured hilarious pictures on the back and this one's no exception. This particular album reached the Top-10 on the Country Album chart early in 1985 and it would go on to sell more than a million copies. The album was released in the latter half of 1984 but it didn't start to race up the charts until the release of the second single, "Mississippi Squirrel Revival", in early 1985. The squirrel single reached the country Top-20 upon it's release in January 1985. You might call it an unexpected hit because, as mentioned, it wasn't the first release. The album's first song, "I'm Kissin' You Goodbye", was actually the first single late in 1984. Then came "Mississippi Squirrel Revival" and this was followed by "It's Me Again, Margaret".

The picture sleeve that accompanied the song, "Moonlight Special", in hindsight looks out of place given the fact that the image of Ray is rather calm, reflective, and serious...a complete opposite of the song. The single's b-side is "Just So Proud To Be Here". I have no idea if the song's title was inspired by the famed Minnie Pearl catch-phrase but I often assume it is given that Ray was one of Minnie's friends and for a long time a neighbor of his. This image also appeared on an issue of Cashbox magazine that I own plus it appears inside the liner notes of the 1997 Rhino CD, The Very Best of Ray Stevens. "Moonlight Special" is Ray's wild take on The Midnight Special television program complete with a Wolfman Jack parody called Sheep Dog. Three acts are spoofed: Gladys Knight and the Pips, Alice Cooper, and Jerry Lee Lewis. The song is lengthy...and a lot of it's length may have halted it's airplay potential. It's still one of the most hilarious songs he's ever recorded with funny impressions of the three rock acts I mentioned.

As of December 23rd this is the current album from Ray Stevens. Now, of course, he's released another CD called Bozo's Back Again but that is a collection of songs that features re-recorded material. The purpose of that CD was to bring back songs from the 1980's that he recorded that the public at large, for whatever reason, weren't aware of the first time around. A lot of the songs on that collection were love ballads. Spirit of '76, meanwhile, is a collection of songs in a political vein. The picture is a send-up of the portrait...also known as Spirit of '76. This particular CD features the following: "Obama Budget Plan", "God Save Arizona", "Mr. President - Mr. President", and "The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore". As we head into January 2012 a lot of focus will be on the upcoming collection of novelty songs that Ray is to release. In recent interviews he's commented that the collection will be released in January...if this continues to be the actual release month and there are no delays I won't expect a lot of attention to be placed on Spirit of '76 until later in the year...but that's just my theory. This concludes the first 3 pictorials in The 12 Rays of Christmas. The rest of the imagery will be forthcoming...meanwhile...

You Tube at a glance...

Mr. President - Mr. President:
12/20: 401,837
12/23: 409,415

Obama Budget Plan:
12/20: 979,959
12/23: 997,322

Nightmare Before Christmas:
12/20: 183,963
12/23: 190,472

Santa Claus Is Watching You:
12/20: 211,430
12/23: 223,472

As you can see, the "Obama Budget Plan" video certainly has the momentum to reach the 1,000,000 plateau. It would be great if the video obtained that level on Christmas Day...but even if it reaches the million level later today or tomorrow it'll still be something to celebrate.

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