December 4, 2011

Ray Stevens: Comedy Music Magnet, Part 6...

It's The Best of Ray Stevens...a release from Mercury Records in 1970 spotlighting 11 songs recorded by Ray between the years of 1961 and 1963. The ironic aspect of the collection is most of the songs made up Ray's 1963 album, This Is Ray Stevens. In hindsight Mercury should have re-released the 1962 and 1963 albums in 1970 but that wasn't on the agenda back then. 1970 was a banner year in Ray's career as he hit #1 on the pop chart for the first time...and he hosted a TV show in the summer...and the song that went #1 would end up winning a Grammy in early 1971 in the Best Male Pop Vocal Performance category. Considering all that went on in 1970 for Ray Stevens I assume Mercury was eager to re-introduce earlier songs from Ray right at the time "Ahab the Arab" was the biggest hit of his career. Another irony about this 1970 release is you get a live performance of "Ahab the Arab" complete with an introduction by country DJ Ralph you don't actually get the hit recording of the song. I know this sort of thing irks some people but if you're as big a fan of Ray Stevens as I am you already have plenty of copies of the hit recording of "Ahab the Arab" elsewhere that it doesn't matter that an obscure version is featured on this particular collection.

This cassette version, released in 1987, cuts off the top row of illustrations that appear on the vinyl release. What you get with the cassette are 6 illustrations whereas on the vinyl copy the album cover has 4 more illustrations that appear behind the album's title. The same 11 songs on the vinyl album are here on the cassette release, though. I've often remarked on this blog that this particular collection is where I first heard the much younger Ray Stevens. Keep in mind that when this release became a part of my collection I was still unaware of the vast amount of recordings that Ray did...I was only familiar with the handful of cassette tapes that my grandparent's owned and that I'd listen to. I was still uninformed and in the process of discovering a lot about Ray during that time period. There's still a rush of excitement, even now, if I hear a song that Ray either wrote, produced, or arranged for someone else...and this holds true if I come across vintage pictures of him or find video of him that I've never seen before. The excitement's still there. I'd like to know who came up with the idea that you can't be a fan/supporter of a singer for years/decades. I'd like to know so I can tell him or her that they're wrong.

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

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