December 24, 2014

Ray Stevens: United Kingdom CD Import...

Hello to all the Ray Stevens fans!! As you can tell Ray's been on a's typical during the final weeks of the year, though, for most artists to take a lengthy Christmas break. As 2014 nears it's end I decided to publish a blog entry about a CD that I finally got around to ordering a couple of days ago. I made a blog post about this CD back in April...yes, that's the month that it became available! I finally have it in my possession and I'm glad I do because a lot of those early Ray Stevens songs are so obscure. Through my contact with other fans of Ray Stevens I have heard these early recordings before...and I couldn't wait to get this CD once I became aware of it's existence back in the spring. Does this collection have anything that I hadn't heard? Technically, no! However, since this CD is an import from the United Kingdom I discovered that "Ahab the Arab" must have had an alternate lyric for radio stations in Europe. I knew of the song having a radio edit and knew of the longer version, too. I have the radio edit and the longer version...each appear on various compilation CD's issued by Mercury and their subsidiaries but was I surprised at what I heard during Track 19 of this CD, the radio edit of "Ahab the Arab". Gone is the reference to R.O.C cola and MAD magazine and in their place is a reference to a pistachio milkshake and Fatima's reading a nameless magazine. The Arabic chant is a lot more exaggerated than before, too. Hearing this slightly altered lyric caught me by surprise, as I mentioned. I could have heard this before, though, but you'd think I'd remember hearing it!? One of the unique things about the CD is that it features the radio edit as Track 19 and the full length version as Track 25.

The back of the CD features a track list, credits, and an image of Ray that appeared on his 1962 single, "Santa Claus is Watching You". That song appears on this CD, too, as track 23. Much like the previous commentary, this song also had a radio edit. The CD features the unedited copy, clocking in at 3 minutes, 15 seconds. The edited copy is a little more than 2 minutes in length (its not on the CD). The first 15 songs on this 31 track collection come from the years, 1957-1960. Since several of those songs were originally released as A-side/B-side vinyl singles, the 15 tracks that lead off the collection are in actuality only a handful of single releases. 6 vinyl singles (1 song per side) adds up to 12 songs...and so doing the math the first 15 tracks works out to something like 7 vinyl singles total and one additional song added in. If you're a casual fan of Ray's then this collection is a revelation for you. If you are only aware of his latter-day comical songs or his political music videos then this collection is a revelation for you. These recordings come from a time when Ray Stevens was heavily into pop music and R and B. His pop crooning and rocking R and B delivery (on songs like "Tingle", "Chickie-Chickie-Wah-Wah", "School", "Cat Pants", "That's What She Means to Me", and others) reveal the teenage idol material that he could convincingly sing...during the time the first 15 tracks of this CD were recorded Ray indeed was a teenager...he turned 20 in January 1959 (meaning that he was all of 18 and 19 during the first 8 recordings on this collection).

When you hear Ray say that music is his whole life and that it's all he's ever done...he isn't joking around.

Most of the remaining 16 tracks (11 of them, at least) come from his debut album for Mercury. The album, titled 1837 Seconds of Humor, features the Top-40 recordings "Jeremiah Peabody's Green and Purple Pills" and "Ahab the Arab", plus the Hot 100 entry, "Furthermore". A fourth single release, "Scratch My Back", didn't reach the charts but it's nonetheless is this entire 31 track collection. There are several songs from his 1963 album, This is Ray Stevens, sprinkled throughout.

Even though this CD covers some obscure and wonderful recordings from Ray Stevens there are still several more songs reaching for recognition from the dungeons of obscurity (those include songs such as "It's Party Time", "Laughing Over My Grave", "Melt", and his version of "When You wish Upon a Star" just to name a couple.

1. Rang Tang Ding Dong (I'm The Japanese Sandman)
2. Silver Bracelet
3. Cholly Wolly Chang Chang
4. Five More Steps
5. Tingle
6. That's What She Means to Me
7. Chickie Chickie Wah Wah
8. Cat Pants
9. The Clown
10. School
11. High School Yearbook
12. Truly True
13. What would I Do without You
14. Sgt. Preston of the Yukon
15. Who Do you Love
16. Jeremiah Peabody's Green and Purple Pills
17. Teen Years (1963)
18. Scratch My Back
19. Ahab the Arab (radio single edit)
20. It's Been So Long (1963)
21. Furthermore
22. Saturday Night at the Movies
23. Santa Claus is Watching You (originally released as a single-only)
24. Loved and Lost (1963)
25. Ahab the Arab (longer version)
26. Popeye and Olive Oyl
27. The Rockin' Boppin' waltz
28. PFC Rhythm and Blues Jones
29. The Rock and Roll Show
30. Julius Played the Trumpet
31. A Hermit Named Dave

Those interested can purchase the CD on Amazon by clicking HERE.

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