October 21, 2012

Ray Stevens: Golden LP Series, Part Eight...

The eighth studio album from Ray Stevens was the gospel collection, Turn Your Radio On. The album featured a lot more original material than standard gospel numbers although one of the more familiar gospel songs, "Turn Your Radio On", acted as the album's title. The album had apparently been in the planning stages for awhile because in the middle of 1971 Ray started releasing gospel singles in the aftermath of "Bridget the Midget" and the massive success he had with the song. The first gospel release was "A Mama and a Papa", a song from the pen of writer named Tom Autry. The single told the tale of the importance of having both a mother and a father figure in your life. As is the case with most gospel songs there's a resistance by mainstream radio to embrace the material and as a result they rarely obtained any publicity...which affects potential sales. Nowadays there are several weekly music charts that specialize in gospel and inspirational releases as well as various radio stations that program all gospel music. 

"A Mama and a Papa" charted for a couple of weeks on the Hot 100 in May 1971 and peaked in the Top-90. It nonetheless did exceptionally better on the adult-oriented Easy-Listening format where it hit the Top-5 in America and the Top-10 on Canada's equivalent. The single's b-side, "Melt", has never appeared on any compilation album and as far as I know the only place it's available is on the b-side of "A Mama and a Papa".

One of the eye catching things about the album's cover is what I've often referred to as the heavenly glow that surrounds Ray. The bright light effect. This particular image of Ray would also appear on several single releases overseas. The second single release, "All My Trials", features a marvelous arrangement and one that in the publicity pieces pointed out that Ray overdubbed his voice over 20 times to create the background choir effect heard throughout. It was released in the fall of 1971 and it peaked in the Top-70 on the Hot 100 but like it's predecessor it had it's biggest impact on the Easy-Listening format where it reached the Top-10. The running time of the song, in it's full length, was more than 4 minutes which must have created issues among some radio stations because there's an edited version that also exists. The edited take removes a large chunk of what I call the instrumental mood music which also includes a passage of nothing but vocally created musical accompaniment where Ray's overdubbed vocal harmonies come into full display. If you're familiar with the longer version you'll more than likely prefer it over the edited version. There's more than 1 minute of audio removed in the edited down release.

The third single release was the album's title, "Turn Your Radio On". Issued late in 1971 it ultimately became a hit single early in 1972. The song reached the Top-10 on Canada's country music chart and the Top-20 on America's country music chart. It also reached the Easy-Listening Top-30 and the Top-70 on the Hot 100. The album hit the Top-20 on the Country Album list. It was by far his biggest showing, to date, on the various country music charts. His various singles had charted more heavily on pop music's Hot 100 as well as the Easy-Listening chart and this would remain the case through the mid '70s when his releases were also starting to appear more consistently on the weekly country music chart. A fourth single release, "Love Lifted Me", became an obscure hit single in Bangkok but nowhere else. Ray's version of the song featured a rock and roll arrangement and it's a great recording but it's one of those kind of songs that had limited appeal regardless of how good it was. Some of the other songs on this collection include "Glory Special", "Let Our Love Be a Light Unto the People", the previously released "Have a Little Talk With Myself", and the gospel shouter "Why Don't You Lead Me To That Rock" which starts out rather quietly but builds up to it's explosive conclusion. Ray would follow up the all-gospel release a year later in 1973 with his ninth studio album which featured a rather peculiar title track...was Ray Stevens really on a Losin' Streak in 1973?

We'll find out in the next installment of the Golden LP Series.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Show your appreciation for the music of Ray Stevens...leave a comment...