The 40th studio album from Ray Stevens arrived in 2011 and like several of his recent CD's it had two separate release times. The first release was in April 2011 as an exclusive offer at his web-store while the national release didn't happen until August 2011. This is why you'll come across bloggers writing of this CD in the spring of 2011 and other on-line sites commenting on the CD in the fall of 2011 and in either case the writers refer to it as a 'just released' CD and technically it's an accurate statement.
The title of the project, Spirit of '76, features a CD cover photo showing Ray's face super-imposed on a previously illustrated body from the famed painting of the same name. The project contains 11 songs and the first two single/video releases occurred months before the CD's actual release. The first single release came about in August 2010 titled "God Save Arizona". It was made into a music video as well. This was a departure from his recent video releases whereas this one features an all-serious approach vocally and visually. The song criticized the illegal immigration problem but it went even farther than that and criticized the Federal Government, too, specifically the Attorney General, for the passive and weak policies centering around the problem. The video's gotten more than 900,000 on-line views since it's release.
When the TSA was making national headlines in the latter part of 2010 and into early 2011 due to their aggressive and invasive security methods at airports all across the country Ray emerged with "The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore" in February 2011. In the song Ray sings about the goings-on at an airport where he and his fictional wife are groped and patted down by an employee of the TSA. In a comical twist, the wife can't get enough of the body screenings and pat downs. The topic was based on a heated issue that was one of the most talked about for a period of several months and the music video seemed to mirror the national shelf life of the topic as well as it's been in the mid 300,000 view total range for nearly a year. Then again the follow-up music video, released in April 2011, returned Ray to the arena of hard hitting politics and this could have played a factor in why the TSA video was ultimately overshadowed.
When the Spirit of '76 became available at Ray's web-store in April, a few weeks later a new music video emerged in the form of the "Obama Budget Plan". This song utilized some of the same melodies heard in the previous TSA recording and it told the further story of Ray, his fictional wife, and now a fictional son was brought into the picture. In the song Ray tells the story of emulating the massive printing of money in Washington, D.C. by operating his very own printing machine in his basement. The song points out all of the practices and policies currently in place under the umbrella of the Federal Government and how private citizens do not have the luxury of printing their money and having spending sprees like they do in Washington, D.C.
By video's end we see a sight gag where a newspaper headline shows that Ray and his family have been arrested for emulating the practices of the Federal Government...and yet lawmakers continue to go about their merry way authorizing and setting forth spending sprees in their own interests rather than in the interest of the nation as a whole. The budget heavy lyrics and catchphrases associated with the debt and deficit played a role in the video catching on with a debt/deficit weary public. A tie-in appearance on several programs on the Fox Business Network aided in the publicity of the video. As of now the video's gotten 1.9 million on-line views. The actual tally at last look is 1,998,556 total unique views and so it's close to 2,000,000 unique views at the moment. There has not been a budget passed in Congress during the entire first four years of the Obama Administration and who's to say that there's going to be one in the second four years?
In September 2011 Ray issued the "Mr. President - Mr. President" music video. Ray had previewed this song at a C-PAC event in February 2011 a few months before Spirit of '76 was released. I couldn't wait to get a copy of the song and when the Spirit of '76 became available in April I purchased it right away in it's Mp3 form since at the time the Mp3 was the only available format for purchase. I don't own the physical CD which is why you don't see a picture of me showing it off.
Anyway, "Mr. President - Mr. President" asks a series of questions of the President and we get fictionalized responses from Ray based upon how the President should answer but in reality never will. The video uses pics of Obama as well as a live action eye blinking Obama lifted from, I assume, one of the very few press conferences he's given. Ray incorporates some scat-singing in the middle of the song and at the end while the music video at various times uses camera tricks to show three separate images of Ray side by side. Ray is dressed up as the traditional news reporter with the suit and tie, fedora hat, and handy with the pen and paper. Total on-line views as of now sit at 810,752.
In part 39 of this series I commented that Ray went back and forth between his 2010 and 2011 projects for a few months. This scenario was first played out in late July of 2012 when a song from 2010's We the People became a new music video, "Obama Nation". In this song Ray explains the far left-of-center progressive direction that the President wants to take the country in with the aid of an unsuspecting and largely uninformed general public. The song's title is obviously based on the word, 'abomination', but a clever pun in the title of "Obama Nation" seems so natural. Total on-line views for the video as of now sit at 747,530.
The follow-up music video, this time from Spirit of '76, titled "Grandpa Voted Democrat", hit a day before the 2012 election this past November. The video, in hindsight, should have been issued a couple weeks earlier as a build-up to Election Day with this reminder of voter fraud but instead it became available on Election Eve 2012, November 3rd. The video has managed to obtain 163,763 unique views during it's first month of on-line availability but I don't look for this video to create a lot of media hype or any major increase in views until the next election cycle rolls around unless there's some kind of voter fraud story that breaks nationally.
Observant readers might be wondering why there was a nearly year long gap between music video releases by Ray Stevens during the latter half of 2011 into the late summer of 2012. "Mr. President - Mr. President" had been released as a music video in September 2011 but it didn't receive a follow-up until July 2012 with the release of "Obama Nation". You may be asking yourselves: what in the world was going on in the career of Ray Stevens from late 2011 through the first half of 2012? Well, in late 2011, Ray was in the final stages of an upcoming project that he had been working on since around 2009. The massive popularity of his political music videos from December 2009 onward had pretty much took priority with studio albums 39 and 40 devoted to political and social commentary songs but he remained working on this soon to be released project nevertheless. Finally, after a couple of years of brief mentions of the project in several interviews, this long-awaited project saw it's release in February 2012...and it was well worth the wait...an incredible project Ray referred to as a labor of love. Details will be forthcoming in my final installment of the Golden LP Series!