December 3, 2012

Ray Stevens: Golden LP Series Extra...1998...

In this Golden LP Series Extra we look at a release from 1998 on Ray Stevens. One of the things that is commonly misunderstood when it comes to compilation releases is that the artist okays their release. This is furthest from the truth when it comes to artists of Ray's generation where songs are passed around and handled and owned by a multitude of record companies depending on which label an artist originally recorded their songs for. A lot of the compilation albums released on Ray were not in his control.

Legitimate Greatest Hits or Best Of collections are often contractually mutual between the artist and label but once individual songs start to get sold and purchased and re-sold and purchased by other parties and licensed and re-licensed, etc. etc. it creates scenarios where record labels, mostly low-budget affiliates or overseas imports, are able to put out projects on artists that never even recorded for their label. Then the next thing an artist knows is there's a flooding of the market of compilation releases featuring their music with a general audience under the impression that the numerous releases are endorsed and approved by the artist.

Ray's Monument and Barnaby recordings featured the most exposure on a whole host of compilation releases through the decades. The owners of those recordings would grant permission, via a licensing fee I assume, to nearly any label in existence to distribute those recordings as they saw fit. This kind of thing has fell off sharply in the last 5 years or so and you don't see the abundance of compilation releases on Ray as you once did.

In 1998 the Varese Sarabande label released a 16 song project on Ray Stevens and it's titled The Country Hits Collection. The CD gathers, at random, 16 songs that Ray recorded between the years of 1969 and 1975. The CD comes complete with a mini booklet/liner notes and several publicity photo's issued on Ray through the years. The notable aspects of this CD when it was originally released was the fact that it was the only CD in existence to feature an abundance of album tracks from Ray's various albums during that 1969-1975 time period. This release came several years before Collectible's Records began issuing nearly all of Ray's full-length Barnaby vinyl albums onto CD and so for a period of years The Country Hits Collection was the lone CD that featured songs that up until then were pretty much exclusively vinyl.

Even though later releases from Collectible's eclipsed the overall importance of this 1998 project, it's still worth looking up for the liner notes, photo's, and "Piece of Paradise", a b-side from 1975 that made it's CD debut on this 1998 collection and it's never been available on any other CD since then. It was first issued as the b-side of Ray's hit recording of "Indian Love Call". It was also a non-album b-side meaning that it didn't appear on any album and was exclusive to the 45-rpm single and so it's one of those rare and obscure recordings that you're not really going to know about unless you branch out into the weeds and learn about all the numerous recordings by Ray Stevens through the decades.

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