December 9, 2012

Ray Stevens: Golden LP Series, Part 38...

Welcome one and all to the Golden LP Series. This time around we take a look at studio album 38 in the career of Ray Stevens. In this 2009 project, titled Ray Stevens Christmas, Ray delivers the sounds of the season in the long-awaited follow-up to his 1997 Christmas comedy project. In this project, though, Ray is a serious crooner singing holiday songs with traditional and newly arranged musical accompaniment.

Ray gives us 10 performances and by now I must sound like a broken record but once again they're all great. On some of the recordings we have new arrangements but the bulk of the recordings keep the traditional sounds intact. What better way to start off a holiday CD than have the bouncy "Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow" lead things off. In one of the traditional songs getting a slightly different arrangement we have "Silent Night" and later on in the project we have his infectious performance of "Jingle Bells" which is unlike anything you've probably ever heard. Nearly the rest of the songs are quintessential holiday standards with the exception of one song, in particular, from the pen of Ray Stevens. "Winter Wonderland" is a song that I'd always liked from the moment I heard it. I must have been 7 or 8 when I first heard the song on a vinyl album by Lawrence Welk that my parent's played every year around Christmas time. The recording featured a soloist and I must've liked the singer's voice or whatever plus the concept of naming a snowman Parson Brown must've sounded funny to me. What 7 year old could actually comprehend the meaning behind giving a snowman that kind of name and yet I liked the song. In hindsight it must've been the vocalist's voice and the peppy and lively musical arrangement.

One of most recorded standards is "The Christmas Song", also known as "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire". Co-written by Mel Torme and popularized by Nat King Cole, Ray does a great job covering the song and the same great job can be said for his rendition of "Blue Christmas". The one song that came from the pen of Ray Stevens is "Deck The Halls With Teardrops". It's a wonderful uptempo sad song about an unhappy man during the holidays. There is prominent harmonica accompaniment to enhance the somber mood. Ray sings his heart out on the closer, "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas".

Ray offers his version of "White Christmas", track two on the CD. Ray borrows the stylings of The Drifters midway through, sandwiched between the crooner style popularized by Bing Crosby. Ray just recently made a music video of "White Christmas" and I've embedded it a few blog entries ago and naturally I'm going to embed it once more as I write about the CD from which it originated.

"Blue Christmas", in the meantime, has a unique parallel story to tell. Upon the release of this CD Ray went back into the recording studio and did his version of Seymour Swine and the Squealer's stuttering "Blue Christmas". The comical version from the fictional group had been a fixture on early morning FM radio and on the internet for quite awhile prior to Ray covering it in 2009. The comical version, featuring Ray stuttering and stammering the lyrics, was made available as a single-only through the internet. The CD single featured the comical version of "Blue Christmas" as well as "White Christmas", "Deck the Halls with Teardrops", and "Nightmare Before Christmas". It was an extended single release which were commonly referred to as EP's back in the vinyl era. The initials, EP, stood for "extended play".

Those wanting the Ray Stevens Christmas CD can purchase it HERE. While at Ray's web-store you can browse the other items. The EP is available, too, featuring the comical version of "Blue Christmas". Meanwhile, if all of this late fall/early winter 2009 activity wasn't exciting enough, Ray was soon to become something of an internet sensation exactly three years ago this month! I'll provide details in the next installment of the Golden LP Series!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Show your appreciation for the music of Ray Stevens...leave a comment...