October 25, 2012

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

Studio album 12 in the career of Ray Stevens arrived in 1975 in the form of Misty. The LP contains 11 songs with 9 of them covers of mostly pop standards dating back well before 1955...with a few latter day pop songs thrown into the equation. The LP spawned four single releases...three of those releases became chart hits.

As mentioned, issued in 1975, "Misty" was the first single release. The single displayed Ray's arranging talents as he changed the slow, love ballad associated with Johnny Mathis into an uptempo, Bluegrass-infected arrangement. The main instrumentation on "Misty" was the banjo, fiddle, and the steel guitar accompanied by the piano and other instruments but by and large the banjo and steel guitar were the most prominent. The single features a lengthy, famous steel guitar solo in the middle of the song. The piano makes it's way into the solo but it's the steel guitar that dominates. As a single, "Misty" would reach the Top-5 on the Country chart and the Top-20 on the Hot 100. It's success was soon followed with the Misty album...which features a rather peculiar photo shoot of Ray decked out in a flashy white suit with a dark backdrop. I've often remarked that it looks as if he's taking in the applause from some concert or television appearance. I wish I knew the story behind this unique cover shot but I don't. There are two original songs on here to break up the flow of cover songs. "Sunshine", written by Ray and arranged in a Bluegrass flavor, is a catchy love song. Layng Martine supplies "Take Care of Business", a love ballad with heavy emphasis on love...it's one of the few songs in Ray's long career that you could describe as sultry or 'hot'. The title was probably inspired by a recurring line in Ray's 1968 hit "Mr. Businessman". Elsewhere on the album we have covers a plenty...one of the greatest is his take on "Deep Purple" which, near the end, features one of the highest notes he's ever delivered.

High notes and desire flood his version of "Indian Love Call" where instead of giving it an uptempo feeling, associated with Slim Whitman, he slows the delivery way down and turns it into a drawn out love ballad complete with doo-wop background vocals. He took his version to the Country Top-40 in the middle of 1975 and it reached the Top-70 on the Hot 100. If you order one of the DVD volumes of Pop! Goes the Country that I've written about in a few blog entries you'll be able to see Ray perform the song from the time period it was a hit. Ralph Emery, the show's host, comments that the song had been a hit for Slim Whitman as well as Nelson Eddy and Jeanette McDonald but it had never been performed quite like the way Ray Stevens does it. The single became a fixture on several compilation albums through the latter half of the '70s and into the early '80s but then it became obscure. The thing that I've often found annoying by that practice is it prevents successive audiences of hearing certain songs from his career that were actual chart hits and with reduced availability the song(s) become less and less familiar...even though the familiarity should never go away within an artist's fan base. A Ray Stevens audience in 1989, for example, should have been as familiar with his current recordings as his older recordings. A fan of Ray's in 2012 should have some sort of basic knowledge about where Ray came from as well as his music path and various other things pertaining to him. Songs he recorded in 1975, for example, are as familiar to me as songs he did in 1968 or 1988 or 1973 or 1993 or 2002, etc., etc. However, this all-encompassing point of view obviously isn't shared with many record companies and so a lot of compilation albums released on Ray Stevens seemed to cater to specific time frames and it's perhaps decided that someone in 2012 may not care to hear something Ray recorded in 1970 or 1983 or 1991. "Indian Love Call" made a re-appearance in an early '90s compilation release and it appeared on later Mp3 digital releases but it's definitely one of those hit songs from Ray that's obscure now.

"Young Love", originally a huge hit for Sonny James and later, Tab Hunter, received the Ray Stevens treatment for the Misty album. "Young Love" became the third single release from the album in the latter half of 1975. Ray's version reached the Country Top-50 and on the Hot 100 pop chart it managed to crawl up several spaces where it peaked...one of his lowest charting Hot 100 finishes since the mid 1960's. Some of the other cover songs, not released as singles, but still just as great are "Over the Rainbow", "Cow Cow Boogie", and "Oh, Lonesome Me". The latter is the only cover song originating in country music from the pen of Don Gibson. 

Depending in what country you lived in at the time, Barnaby Records often issued singles seemingly at random...pushing songs that may have been album tracks or B-sides in America but issuing them overseas as A-sides. Judging by the picture sleeve, "Lady of Spain" is the A-side and "Mockingbird Hill" is the B-side. The picture of Ray comes from his 1973 Nashville album. "Mockingbird Hill" had been pushed as an A-side early in 1976. It was around this point in time that Ray and Barnaby Records parted ways. This was by far his longest-lasting home...having released his first singles for the label early in 1970. Several months after Ray's departure from the label, "Lady of Spain" Bubbled Under the Hot 100. Ray's departure from Barnaby in the early part of 1976 ended on a high note, actually. He won a Grammy in 1976 for Best Arrangement of the Year for his version of "Misty". There was no lengthy gap between single releases, though, and his debut single for the much larger Warner Brothers Records arrived soon after "Mockingbird Hill" had failed to reach the charts.


  1. When I saw Ray in concert not long after the success of the Streak, the costume on the Misty LP cover is what he was wearing. He made jokes about it of course. It was in the style of an Elvis jumpsuit, or Nudie suit, with a peacock theme.

    1. Thanks for the comment! I had seen pictures of Ray in similar suits and was going to call it a jump suit but at the last minute I didn't...instead I called it a flashy white suit. There's a picture of Ray inside the fold-out cover of 'Do You Wanna Dance?', a 1995 compilation CD from Warner Brothers, and it shows him in a plain white suit of some kind standing in front of a curtain. When I first saw the picture it looked like he was strolling up to a podium to accept some sort of publishing award.


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