As you can see from the picture in my Blogger profile, the 41st studio album from Ray Stevens is quite a project. It's a 9-CD project titled The Encyclopedia of Recorded Comedy Music that Ray had been working on for several years. In early interviews Ray referred to this project by various working titles including one that I often quoted, "Ray Stevens Sings the Greatest Comedy Songs of All-Time". This title obviously wasn't used in the final decision and in late February 2012 this 9-CD masterpiece hit the marketplace. The project features 108 recordings altogether: 96 recordings, 12 per disc, are featured on discs 1 through 8 with 12 more on disc 9. The first 8 CD's feature a hefty dose of classic novelty songs that were made famous by other artists and were recorded by Ray Stevens for this project.
There are several songs from Ray's own time-line that are included among the first 8 CD's as to omit his own big hits would seem bizarre on a collection saluting comedy music from the '40s through the present. The 9th CD, also featuring 12 songs, is Ray Stevens material exclusively. It's billed as a collection of modern day novelty songs that certainly would have been big hits had they been released in an earlier time period.
Along with the 9-CD's you also get a wonderful booklet with information about each of the songs and Ray's comments about each of them. In addition to that you'll also get a summarized history of the novelty song and just how popular and commonplace it was to hear 2 to 3 novelty songs per hour along side the love ballads and other recordings that made up a typical pop radio playlist. The perception that novelty songs do not sell or that they are not remembered too long after their original release has become an accepted viewpoint by many music insiders and perhaps it's the main reason why major record labels do not issue novelty songs at all anymore. It's a viewpoint that Ray felt the need to disprove when he unleashed this project earlier this year. His belief that novelty songs have a much longer commercial and social shelf life and have the ability to stay on a person's mind long after they've vanished from radio playlists was proven correct time and time again when people began leaving feedback and comments about the project at various web-sites and recalling the times when they first heard these songs. Even those who weren't born when a lot of these songs were radio hits, it's safe to say, are aware of the existence of these songs from other forms of entertainment.
One of the songs that has stood the test of time, "Chantilly Lace", was a major hit recording by an artist known as The Big Bopper. It was equally famous by Jerry Lee Lewis. While some can argue that a few of the songs included are early R&B flavored ditties that come off as 'novelty songs' today, these recordings will nevertheless bring a smile to your face and in many cases the lyrics will cause you to laugh...a true ingredient of any comedy recording. In a project that contains 108 recordings there's no way I'm going to go through all of them, one by one, and so I suggest that you search the archives off to the right side of the page and look up my review of the Encyclopedia. It'll either be in the February 2012 or March 2012 archives. I'll name quite a few of the songs that Ray covers for this project: "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer", "Witch Doctor", "Abba Dabba Honeymoon", "Little Brown Jug", "Haunted House", "Three Little Fishes", "Ode to the Little Brown Shack Out Back", "No Help Wanted", "The Too Fat Polka", "Cigareets, Whuskey, and Wild, Wild Women", "Temptation", "I Still Write Your Name in the Snow", "Dang Me", "Chug-a-Lug", "The Thing", "The Downtown Poker Club", "Too Old to Cut the Mustard", "That's What I Like About the South", "The Preacher and the Bear", "Get a Job", "Western Movies", and many, many more!
The collection still remains an exclusive offer at Ray's web-store although there have been people who have intentionally purchased the project for the sole purpose of selling it for a much higher asking price on eBay and other on-line auction sites. Some feel Ray's asking price is too steep but it's actually a bargain for a project containing 9-CD's and an extensive booklet. Many other projects containing just as many CD's have asking prices in the hundreds of dollars and that isn't even factoring in sales taxes and shipping/handling fees. Ray's 9-CD project, with shipping and handling included, totals somewhere in the neighborhood of $86.00 estimate (that adds up to something like $10.00 per CD with the 9th disc and the booklet essentially free of charge).
Since the project hasn't been issued in wider distribution to other on-line stores I imagine that there are still quite a few consumers who don't frequent Ray's web-page that are unaware of this collection's existence and you fall into that category I urge you to become familiar with this massive collection of comedy music from the master himself. If you order a copy of the Encyclopedia by December 17th of this year you'll receive it in the mail gift-wrapped and signed by Ray. Details about this can be found HERE.
The link will show you the insides of the box set and how the CD's sit in the foldout section. An image of Ray in all black appears on the back of the box set's cover photo which you'll see when you click the above link. This picture's become a publicity photo of late.
Now, then, we've come to the end of the Golden LP Series and it's been wonderful, as I said, spotlighting Ray's studio albums of the last 50 years. Naturally, whenever Ray puts out a new CD or a new music video or makes an appearance I'll be here commenting about the projects and helping spread the word of their availability. In the meantime check out this Encyclopedia of Recorded Comedy Music if you haven't done so already. Also, don't forget that Ray's current music video is available for viewing, the seasonal "White Christmas". I'll return with a more conventional blog entry next time as this LP series has officially wrapped up.