In 1996, Curb Records issued Great Gospel Songs. This one is more or less a re-issue of Turn Your Radio On with a couple of other songs added. The 1972 LP seen another re-issue via Collectible Records as part of a 2-LP-on-1 CD project paired with his 1975 LP, Misty.
A couple of years ago (in 2010) a compilation from Ray surfaced titled A Funny Thing Happened In Church Today (spotlighting mostly comedic recordings centering around religion and church service). As far back as 2010 Ray had been mentioning in his various interviews that he'd hoped to put out a gospel album of newer recordings at some point. In 2012 it appeared as if a gospel project was on the horizon...excitement amongst fans of Ray Stevens really started to set in during a radio interview with Mike Huckabee as we all heard "If Jesus Is a Stranger" for the very first time in 2013 (December 4th). At the time of that appearance the gospel album had a release date set for January 2014...with the title being 'Onward Christian Soldiers'. Along the way something must have come up because the scheduled January release was pushed back without a specific future release date being announced.
Afterward not much was mentioned of an upcoming gospel release until the summer of 2014 during the early stages of Ray's Nashville memoir release. During an autograph signing at Fan Fair images of Ray's gospel CD appeared as booth decoration and pictures of him from the CD's photo session were on display. I did not attend Fan Fair but I've seen pictures of him meeting fans and signing autographs at Fan Fair and you can easily see images of the gospel CD in the background.
An announced release date of August 19 soon surfaced as did news of it's affiliation with the Gaither gospel music company. The CD carries a Gaither Gospel Series banner on the top left side of the CD.
I first heard and seen Ray perform track 4, "Farther Along", in a YouTube video. The performance comes from a special called God Bless America Again. In the studio recording heard on the gospel CD it clearly fits the country gospel format...it has that 'sound' (to my ears at least). Given it's a studio recording it features a lot more production, obviously, than you'll hear on the YouTube video.
Once you get the CD chances are, if you're a long time fan of Ray's, that you'll get chills and maybe goosebumps as you listen to the familiar intro of "Have a Little Talk with Myself". The song, originally recorded by Ray in 1969, makes a brief appearance as part of a medley. It's paired with "Just a Little Talk with Jesus". Some more examples of Ray's production skills appear in "Onward Christian Soldiers" (in the planning stages of the CD that was to be the CD's title!). The recording blends the gospel sounds with military might and as far as the production goes it clearly holds the title for the most production value (aside from the opening medley). As you listen to "The Old Rugged Cross/Rock of Ages" and especially "Old Time Religion/When the Roll is Called Up Yonder" you'll find yourself caught up in the moment and there's some phrases in his rendition of the "When the Roll is Called Up Yonder" that are great to the ears. I hadn't heard Ray sing like this in awhile!! He hits notes in the Duane Allen range (of The Oak Ridge Boys).
After listening to the CD the Ray Stevens Gospel Collection, Volume One was definitely worth the wait!! You'd have to be one of the most bitter, mean, grouchiest people in America to not like this CD once you hear it.
Yes, this my sheet of paper containing my notes. As I listened to the CD I made notes of some of the things I wanted to say in my review.