December 3, 2012

Ray Stevens: Golden LP Series, Part 32...

Studio LP 32 came along in 2000 on Ray's own label, Clyde Records. As many of Ray's fans are well aware, his audio output had slowed down as his home video releases increased. Ear Candy, the name of the 2000 project, is a quaint 10 song offering. The image doesn't pick up the details of the cover photo too well but there's a giant candy cane sticking through one ear and protruding out the other. Now, of course, it's a photo trick but it rates up there with other visually memorable photo pics through the years. The title refers to the derogatory term applied to music that's sweet, non-threatening, and suitable for practically any age. This particular studio album didn't receive a lot of publicity considering his home video release of Funniest Video Characters around the same time period was attracting more advertisements. No matter...most of the songs on this 2000 Ear Candy release would achieve much more attention a few years later when Ray signed a deal with Curb Records, the label he recorded for during most of the 1990's. As mentioned, there are 10 songs on here. Ray co-wrote, with Glenn Fortner, a song titled "Deerslayer". This song would later become a music video experiment but the plot deals with a guy who hits a deer. He pulls the deer into his car and that's when all the chaos happens. It features a catchy hook line within the chorus with frequent pleas for 9-1-1 assistance. Buddy Kalb contributed most of the other songs. He and his wife wrote "The Hustler", a ballad that tells the story of a young pool player attempting to defeat a legendary pool hustler. The song, as I later found out, dates back to the mid '80s and was originally recorded by the late Mel McDaniel. It's anyone's guess why Ray didn't record the song the first time around but at that point in time he was concentrating on filling his albums almost exclusively with humorous songs. "The Hustler" and "Safe at Home" were the two non-comical ballads of the project. "Safe at Home" has a patriotic and nostalgic flavor and it made it's debut on this 2000 project. It's a song that Ray inserted into his concerts almost 3 years ago.

The contemporary habit of talking on cell phones while driving is the subject of "Hang Up and Drive". By now that habit's increased to texting while driving and doing all kinds of other things with cell phones while driving. This song was also turned into a music video experiment. The experiment I refer to was a series of music video productions that featured live action Ray singing in front of limited animation backgrounds. The project kicks off with the Cajun flavored uptempo recording of "Bon Temps Routlette". In this song we hear a wild story of casino inhabitants and a sub-plot centered around adultery and the wealthy. In "The Dog Song" Ray sings a song from a dog's point of view. A couple has broken up and the dog sets the man aside and tells him all the things he should have done to keep the woman there. "King of Christmas" is a comical story of what may happen if Elvis were Santa Claus. One of the songs that uses a lot of satirical nuance is "The Lady on the Radio". In this performance Ray sings about being embarrassed that his wife called in a love advice radio program and told the world their private issues. By song's end Ray exacts his revenge. The closing number, "No Lawyers in Heaven", has recently been a Bluegrass favorite by a number of Bluegrass groups but Ray recorded it in 2000 and it's never been made available anywhere but here. It's a story about lawyers, of course, as well as political correctness and it's impact on the legal system.

Most of the songs on Ear Candy would make their way onto a 2002 project that I'll write about later in an Extra feature. Since this 2000 release is a studio album I decided to refer to this as studio LP 32. The 2002 CD lifts a lot of the songs from Ear Candy and includes exclusive material as well. We'll talk about this 2002 release in the next installment!

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