In this installment of the Golden LP Series we look at studio album twenty-six in the career of Ray Stevens. We also say farewell to the 1980's in this blog series. Studio album 26 hit in 1989 with the title of Beside Myself. The album featured, for the first time since 1983, non-comical recordings from Ray Stevens. The project was split in half between the serious and the comic personalities of his songs and it featured a memorable album photo, too. Since the early '80s Ray's albums featured memorable photo shots and as the decade went on the photo shots became increasingly memorable and deliberately eye catching.
The cassette release came into my possession at some point in the very early '90s. It had been an elusive release and a project that I was not aware of until I saw it sitting in a tape rack at a local shopping store. I was unable to convince my parent's to purchase the tape. Apparently it was still selling for it's original asking price which would've been anywhere between $9.95 to $12.95. I was never able to come across another Beside Myself for the longest of time. As luck would have it, though, another retail store had the tape in what's known as the discount rack and my parent's got it for me for Christmas. I was excited beyond belief...I unwrapped the plastic from the case and opened the cassette. I glanced at all the song titles, the writers, musicians, etc. etc. but I held off playing it. When I spent the night with my grandparent's I had my grandfather play it on a portable tape player he had. This was a memorable occasion for the wrong reasons, though. After the first song was over we assumed the cassette was defective because Ray's vocals were in slow motion...after listening to the next song I didn't know what to think. I stopped the tape because I couldn't take the sound quality. Thinking the elusive gem was defective I was not going to play it anymore but something caused me to play it on my own tape player. The one I had was the standard radio/tape player combination. I put the tape into the tape deck, hit play, and was astounded at how crisp and crystal clear the music was and how Ray's voice was as it should be. What had happened is my grandfather hadn't used his portable tape player in quite awhile and the batteries were nearly run down! This had caused the tape to playback in a low, barely listenable quality...much like when you switch speeds on a turntable and play an LP at 45-rpm speed or play a 45-rpm at LP speed.
The fourth track, "Butterfly Inside a Coupe de Ville", tells the story about the pressures of fame, the trappings of success, and how even if someone appears to have everything, the lack of a relationship makes it all meaningless. This deep thinking was prompted by the sight of a harmless butterfly that was trying to get out of a cadillac. The song's title would have you believe it's a comical song but it's not. The fifth song, "There's a Star Spangled Banner", uses topical news and the military conflicts of the era to salute the American flag and all it stands for. It's another great performance.
used to be crazy...but demonstrates to us that he's perfectly sane now. Once you hear the way he demonstrates his sanity you'll find yourself laughing and giggling. The song is a marvelous showcase for his skilled impressions and mimicry. By the end of the performance and still trying to convince us that he's sane and serious and no longer "crazy", Ray has assumed the role of a british King. The song ends as Ray offers a frenetic, comical exchange of dialogue between himself and his impressions of John Wayne, Walter Brennan, and the King of England. Amidst this activity you'll also hear a chicken and a barking dog lend themselves to the chaos.
Beside Myself wrapped up the 1980's for Ray Stevens and it also wrapped up his association with MCA for the time being. He joined the label in 1984 and by the end of 1989 he was in the process of joining up with another record label. It was the start of a new decade...which always brings about feelings of a new direction, a new outlook, a new start, a change in direction, etc. etc. What would 1990 and beyond hold in store for Ray Stevens? Which label would he find himself on? How would the changing tastes on country radio and country television impact his career? How would political correctness impact his career? Would his next LP be a comical one or a blend of comedy and ballads? Were there any music videos on the horizon? Such questions will more than likely be addressed in the next installment of the Golden LP Series. Although the manufacturing of the LP had dwindled down considerably and it's commercial appeal had dwindled down as more people were buying compact devices like cassettes and CD's, I'll still use "LP" in the blog entry title even as we get more and more into contemporary technology.