November 26, 2012

Ray Stevens: Golden LP Series Extra...1990...

Welcome to 1990...the start of a new decade in the career of Ray Stevens. Ironically enough the new decade brought about a few changes and one of the changes was a new record label home. After having been with the MCA family for 5 years (1984-1989), Ray joined the Curb Records label in 1990. Another irony was the label's first project with it's newest roster addition happened to be a compilation titled His All-Time Greatest Comic Hits. I assume given Ray's longevity in the music industry the label wanted it's first commercial release on Ray to feature material a general audience would more than likely be familiar with. This latest compilation more or less collected nine recordings from both Greatest Hits and Greatest Hits, Volume Two which had been released in 1987 by MCA. There was one recording on this 1990 project that didn't appear on either 1987 compilation and that was 1970's "Bridget the Midget the Queen of the Blues". It's anyone's guess why that particular hit single wasn't included on any of the 1987 compilations from MCA but whatever the reasons it found it's way onto the 1990 compilation. It is this very project that introduced me to that 1970 hit single from Ray. The collection also features "Would Jesus Wear a Rolex?", "The Streak", "Shriner's Convention" and others.

As you can tell from the picture and as you can see on the cover photo, one of the songs on the 1990 collection is 1984's "It's Me Again, Margaret". The image used on the cover is the actual publicity photo of the single that appeared in country music publications of the time period. Ray appears in character as an obscene phone caller forever on the quest to bring irritation and harassment to his victim, Margaret. I wrote about this single in previous blog entries and so this time around I'll make mention of the inclusion of "In the Mood". This recording appeared on 1987's Greatest Hits, Volume Two as well as other compilation projects down through the years. The performance, released as The Henhouse Five Plus Too, features a band of chickens who cluck out "In the Mood" backed primarily by a saxophone and a few other instruments. The recording was a Top-40 pop and country hit in America while it also reached the Top-40 in Canada and the United Kingdom early in 1977. The single was released under Ray's name overseas whereas in America it was released as The Henhouse Five Plus Too. Also on this collection, "Ahab the Arab" is the 1969 re-recording he did on Monument Records. The original recording from 1962 is most often featured on compilation releases from labels associated with Mercury Records, the label Ray originally recorded the song for. There have been multiple recordings of this song and it all depends on the record label when it comes to which version you're going to receive.

His two 1969 hit singles for Monument are included, "Gitarzan" and "Along Came Jones". His Top-20 country hit from 1985, "Mississippi Squirrel Revival", is track six. This collection would become a Gold album within a few years of it's release. The main reason for this, in my opinion, was due to the previous compilations no longer being available in wide distribution and so this 1990 project made up for the lack of classic Ray Stevens hits that weren't readily available anymore. I'm also of the opinion that the inclusion of "Bridget the Midget the Queen of the Blues" played a role in the sales of this album. The song hadn't been featured on any major compilation release by any of the labels that Ray recorded for during the 1980's. It's obscurity on American released Ray Stevens compilation albums perhaps caused the curious to purchase the collection just to hear that particular song!? The song's been a fixture on overseas compilation projects released on Ray Stevens considering that it hit the Top-5 in the United Kingdom in 1971 and charted on other international music surveys throughout early to mid 1971.

Ray's debut studio album for Curb Records would follow this compilation in the summer of 1990.

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