One of the various compilation albums released on Ray Stevens through the years is this one by RCA in 1983. Simply titled Greatest Hits, this LP was an overview of some of his single releases from the late '60s through the mid '70s as well as two comedy recordings lifted from his debut album for RCA in 1980. The reason I decided to spotlight this particular compilation is because of it's sentimental value. This was among the first collections on Ray Stevens that I came across on my own...my earlier introduction to Ray's music came from the few cassette tapes that my grandparent's owned (which are now in my possession). I have the cassette copy of the 1983 LP as you can see...I've come across a few images of what the back of the album looks like and I've posted those in earlier blog entries. If I ever come across a vinyl version of this collection and the price is right I'll more than likely purchase it. I've got a vinyl, cassette, CD, and Mp3 library of Ray Stevens recordings and there's nothing like having either or all formats of the same project in your collection. The album features 10 recordings...8 of the songs could be found on many other projects. The contemporary songs on this album were his two 1980 recordings of "Shriner's Convention" and "The Dooright Family".
This compilation also features a comedy reliance...only two of the selections are non-comical, "Mr. Businessman" from 1968 and 1970's "Everything Is Beautiful". Among the other songs featured are "Misty" from 1975, which won a Grammy early in 1976 for it's music arrangement. "Everything Is Beautiful" is the other Grammy winning song which won for best pop male vocal performance. The 1969 recording of "Ahab the Arab" is track two...one of the few times on a compilation album that features that particular song so early in the sequence...usually it's toward the end of a collection or it's in the middle of the pack. "The Streak", his mega-hit from 1974, usually appears at the start of a collection on side 1 or side 2...in this compilation it's track three on side 1. The image provided is a scanned image of the cassette cover. I didn't crop or edit the obvious visual flaw where the side of the cassette attempted to be a part of the scan so that's why it looks the way it does. One of the driving forces behind my wanting this compilation release is that it contained "The Moonlight Special", a song that I had never heard at the time of purchase. For me it was like finding hidden treasure the moment I heard it. I was not aware of the television program, The Midnight Special, and so this parody of that program caused me to ultimately find out exactly what Ray was spoofing. I knew he was doing impressions of Wolfman Jack as well as Jerry Lee Lewis but not being too familiar with rock and pop music history as I had been with country music it took me awhile to figure out that he was doing a rural impression of Alice Cooper midway through. Gladys Knight and the Pips are spoofed in the recording, too. Greatest Hits became one of the last major releases from RCA on Ray Stevens. The label and it's subsidiaries would continue, at times, to release low-budget compilations on Ray but this 1983 release was the last major project on Ray that they would promote/publicize. The LP reached the Country Album chart, his first charting album since 1980. Upon the release of this album, Ray and RCA parted ways. There were no single releases from Ray that made the charts throughout all of 1983 but he emerged in the latter half of 1983 with a new LP on a different label...studio album 20 was soon to hit the market.