October 25, 2012

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

We've made it up to studio album thirteen...the year is 1976...the artist is Ray Stevens...the label is Warner Brothers...the album is Just For the Record. After a little more than 5 years with the Barnaby family of labels, Ray joined Warner Brothers in 1976. This label, unlike Barnaby, was considered a major label. Barnaby had long been an Independent label and as is the case with many Independent labels there was more creative freedom and less of a strict bottom line demand. Warner Brothers, in spite of it's West Coast identity and pop music affiliations, marketed Ray as a country music artist...the first label to do so. The debut album features 10 songs...all but one are original. The lone cover song happened to be Ray's debut single, "You Are So Beautiful". This continued a trend that had started with his previous album where he offered his own arrangements and interpretations of well known recordings of the past. Ray borrowed the bluegrass vibe he famously applied to "Misty" for his debut single, and like the 1975 hit, his debut single for Warner Brothers met with somewhat similar success. Ray's version of "You Are So Beautiful" hit the Country Top-20. Ray also had a hand in writing more of the songs on this LP, too. One of my favorites is "Cornball"...it's got a very catchy melody and is performed incredibly well.

One of the artists behind the scenes on this particular album as well as in the previous album was Toni Wine. She was part of the Archies singing group...their biggest release, "Sugar, Sugar", ironically enough featured hand-claps from one Ray Stevens! Toni supplied a song on Just For the Record and she can be heard providing the harmony vocals on it, too. The song is titled "Gimme a Smile" and it's one of my all-time favorite songs on the album. Those who are fans of The Captain and Tennille, or are familiar with their hit songs, might be familiar with a song called "Can't Stop Dancin'". Ray Stevens co-wrote that song and it appears on this 1976 album. It would later be covered by The Captain and Tennille and their recording would reach the Top-20.

All 10 songs, as a whole, carried a similar theme in that nearly all of the songs had to do with music in some shape, fashion, or form: singing, dancing, meditation, instrumental prowess...performing in general. When you title the LP Just For the Record it makes sense to fill the project with songs about music. The album reached the Top-40 on the Country Album chart.

"Honky Tonk Waltz" became the album's second and final single. This particular song, written by Paul Craft, became a Top-30 Country hit in America and in Canada. Ray performed this song on Pop! Goes the Country and comically attempted to dance with the show's host, Ralph Emery. Have you ever heard of a song written exclusively about meditation? If you haven't then Just For the Record has one such song. Simply titled "Om", Ray starts off the song talking about meditation and how music can be soothing and instrumental in meditation. The recording is more than 4 minutes and it's interesting and unique...there's a long electric guitar solo backed with a choir of voices exclaiming "ommm....ommmm....Om...." in rhythm. Trust me, you'll be going around saying "Om" several times a day after hearing the song! If anyone ever wonders if there's ever been a song about meditation look no further than this 1976 album. Elsewhere we have "One Man Band", a song about a couple who are breaking up and then there's "Once In Awhile" which deals with a man who carries strong memories of a former lover. It should've been a single...as should "Gimme a Smile". On the inspirational side of things is "One and Only You" and the strongest example of country is heard on "Country Licks" which gives respect to session musicians who originate from various locales such as Memphis, Tennessee and Nashville, Tennessee as well as Muscle Shoals, Alabama.

A lot of Ray's Warner Brothers recordings are among the most scarce. For the longest of time they remained out of print until the mid 1990's. Soon after the material went out of print once again and remained commercially unavailable until the Mp3 era took over the music industry in the mid 2000's. Two of the three compilation projects from the mid 1990's that Warner Brothers issued on Ray Stevens are available in Mp3 format at Amazon. The third project wasn't issued in Mp3 format for whatever reason.

Music continued to be a theme for Ray's fourteenth's studio album...the music was so close you could literally feel it...details in Part 14 of the Golden LP Series!

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