December 25, 2015

Ray Stevens: Santa Claus reaches a Million...

Oh, Merry Christmas to all of the Ray Stevens fans out there and those that visit this fan-created blog either intentionally or by accident through links or general on-line browsing. You can add another Ray Stevens YouTube video to the million-views club...the classic "Santa Claus is Watching You". It's reached 1,012,760 to date. This is an increase of at least 10,000 since my previous blog post. Back on December 17th of this year the video had nearly 980,000 unique views and this being the Christmas season I had a feeling the video would cross into the million stratosphere and it has. A particular social media site has a lot of posts from it's members and they're sharing that particular music video and it's being accessed by all sorts of devices...of course this helps drive up the discovery and each new discovery adds to the view total.

For those that still hadn't purchased any of Ray's Christmas recordings you still can. They're available all year long and if you feel the urge to make a purchase, even on Christmas Day, you can easily visit any number of on-line music stores and add the songs to your listening devices. The titles of the 2 Christmas CD's from Ray Stevens are...

1997: Ray Stevens Christmas: Through a Different Window (comical Christmas recordings) 

2009: Ray Stevens Christmas  (serious Christmas recordings)




December 17, 2015

Ray Stevens: 'Tis the Stevens to be Merry...

It's nearly that time...Christmas time...here in my part of the country the temperature on Christmas Day is predicted to be 73 degrees and I'm in the Midwest...typically by late December it doesn't get above 45 much at all during the entire months of December through late February. However, since this IS the season...it's time to spotlight the various Christmas music videos from Ray Stevens. 

Let's start this off with the classic "Santa Claus is Watching You" from 1985. This not only is a classic but it's the first music video in the career of Ray Stevens. It became a tradition on The Nashville Network every season to air this video...at one point it became the most popular Christmas music video via viewer feedback/requests. 



The song itself goes back in Ray's career to the early 1960s. The original recording by Ray and it's original presentation played out as a typical Children's novelty record of the time period including warnings from Ray for the kids to behave because Santa's watching. That the song could be completely re-imagined as a clever tale of holiday adultery...and have the victim/suspicious husband warn his wife that she better remain faithful because Santa's watching...well, to put it bluntly, it's one of those rare instances in which a remake/re-recording is a lot better than the original.

Ray re-recorded "Santa Claus is Watching You" for inclusion on his 1985 comedy album for MCA titled I Have Returned. The single's picture sleeve featured Ray, as Santa, peeking around the Christmas tree. The same year MCA issued a various artists collection called Tennessee Christmas. Ray contributed his original composition, "Greatest Little Christmas Ever Wuz", and for many, many, many, MANY years that 1985 compilation was the only place to find the recording. It essentially became one of those lost recordings because of it's lack of redistribution. A local AM radio station played it a lot every year...that's how I learned of it's existence...and for several years I mistakenly believed that Ray had recorded a comedy Christmas album because in my youth and inexperience about record sizes I had seen the picture sleeve of "Santa Claus is Watching You" at a flea market and mistook if for a full-length album. 

How I wish I could go back to that point in time and tell my grandparent's to get that recording...but it happened to be at a time when I had not yet discovered the music of Ray Stevens. This wouldn't happen for another half a year at the least (!!). I've long since estimated that my introduction to his recordings began at some point in the summer of 1986. 

Ray's first ever Christmas project didn't come along, though, until 1997 under the title of Ray Stevens Christmas: Through a Different Window. It has since become a classic in his career and a mainstay nearly every season. It's chock full of Christmas novelty songs that beat up political correctness and dare to send a comical jolt through the traditions of the season...the reason you'll see song titles such as "Bad Little Boy", "Guilt For Christmas", "I Won't Be Home For Christmas", "Nightmare Before Christmas", etc. The hit album helped spawn a hit stage show at the Opryland venue at the Acuff Theater. Strangely enough no music video productions emerged from the collection until more than a decade later...such as "Guilt for Christmas" uploaded onto his YouTube channel on May 1, 2013...



I must point out, though, that Ray re-recorded the song for this music video. In the 1997 original he doesn't sing in the pseudo-Austrian accent. The reason he decided to add the accent touch is a mystery but it's a distinguishing characteristic not found on the original.

Several years earlier on November 3, 2010 Ray uploaded "Nightmare Before Christmas" onto YouTube. This particular video's become the stand-out, the centerpiece, the unofficial national outcry of a world taken hostage by over-the-top politically correct advocates. It's not the only song that targets political correctness on the album as "Guilt For Christmas" certainly demonstrates but "Nightmare Before Christmas" hits more closer to everyone's lives because it takes the all too real situation of being labeled politically incorrect because you may hold a belief, speak in a certain manner, or have an opinion that's ordinarily perfectly harmless but because it can be misconstrued as "offensive" by somebody else then you're accused of being insensitive, inflammatory, racist, sexist, homophobic, or whatever else. The sick part of a lot of it is some people deliberately misconstrue statements made by others just to damage the person's reputation or career (a smear tactic, a smear campaign...).



Not all of the novelty songs on the 1997 Christmas CD are heavy or satiric...some are good old fashioned sing-a-longs. I already mentioned one of those types in "Greatest Little Christmas Ever Wuz". In the song Ray sings of an attempt to make-up with a lover and get back together. He suggests that because she's had to spend several past Christmases alone they'll combine all of the holiday's in a calendar year and celebrate them all at one time. The other bouncy sing-a-long is "Redneck Christmas". Although "Nightmare Before Christmas" is sort of the intellectual big brother of the recordings, "Redneck Christmas" has a lot of appeal, too. The 2 music videos are more or less neck and neck in unique views. "Nightmare Before Christmas" at the moment has 470,097 views and "Redneck Christmas" has 434,837. Keep in mind, too, that "Nightmare Before Christmas" had a 2 year head start...it arrived on YouTube in November of 2010 and "Redneck Christmas" hit YouTube on December 22, 2012.



A day earlier on December 21, 2012 Ray uploaded a cover version of "Blue Christmas" onto YouTube. The rendition that Ray paid homage to come from a stuttering version many falsely credited to the animated character, Porky Pig. The actual recording happened to be credited to the fictional Seymour Swine (Dennis Brownlee)...nevertheless if you visit social media sites you're going to come across comments from people citing the "stuttering version of Blue Christmas by the Porky Pig sound-a-like..." or "that Porky Pig version of Blue Christmas...". The music video has some comical sight gags and Ray's delivery is unforgettable, too...



In 2009 Ray issued an all-new Christmas project. This time around the collection of songs happened to be serious...featuring one original song and his versions of Christmas standards although on some of the recordings he kept the original arrangements intact. His take on "White Christmas" is something to behold. He does an uncanny impression of the recording by The Drifters...



The lone original song on the 2009 Christmas CD is "Deck The Halls with Teardrops". It builds on the traditional telling of Deck The Halls but rather than a festive and jolly fa-la-la sing-a-long it's instead a tale of melancholy and bewilderment. A different recording of "Blue Christmas" is featured on the CD...a straight recording...not the stuttering novelty. This 2009 Christmas CD is sold each season on Ray's web-store. You can also purchase it on Amazon (along with his 1997 comedy Christmas collection). Obviously you can purchase the Mp3's and have them on your computer in a matter of minutes.

This brings us to the rousing "Merry Christmas". This also hit YouTube on December 22, 2012. It revisits the politically correct theme once more and criticizes those that have problems with those that choose to say "Merry Christmas" rather than the generic 'Happy Holidays' or 'Seasons Greetings'. 

   

November 28, 2015

Ray Stevens: Australian Import CD, Blog 2...

Hello one and all...in late August I posted a blog entry centering around an import CD from Australia titled The Very Best of Ray Stevens. During that point in time there hadn't been much information about the CD beyond cover art on an Australian on-line store offering it for pre-order and a limited information product page on Amazon (featuring no cover art for the CD).

The CD had gone on sale in Australia on September 4th and then it became available on America's Amazon page the following week. Still, though, Amazon or other on-line stores in America never provided cover art or a track listing of songs. The Australian on-line stores hadn't provided a track list either. Out of curiosity I made a visit to the various Australian on-line stores and to Amazon and discovered that much more information about the CD had been made available. I don't know how long the information had been posted on-line and so a lot of this may not be breaking news but I've decided to create a blog entry about the CD regardless. In my late August blog entry I mentioned that once I find out more information about the import CD becomes available I'd post a future blog entry about it...and this is it.

The irony of offering an "import CD" at an on-line store based in America is the fact that a customer can visit an on-line store in whichever country has imported the CD to America and see their selling price and then tack on the extra cost of international shipping. If you Google the name of this CD along side the label it's on (Fanfare) you'll come across a number of Australian stores that are selling this CD. If you visit Amazon you'll see it there, too. Amazon, at the moment, is selling this import CD for $35.24 and you can visit their product page HERE. The product page itself doesn't provide a track listing but you can see the image of the back of the CD and click it for a larger view. There are 20 songs on the CD and it's singles-driven...there aren't any album tracks or B-sides among the selections. For those not aware of that terminology an album track is a song that exists on a studio album that never made an appearance on a commercially released single or wasn't issued on a promo single for radio station use only. Longtime fans of Ray's should know that "The Pirate Song" never appeared as a single-release on any 45-RPM but because of it's popularity among the fans it's become just as identifiable with Ray as "The Streak", "Ahab the Arab", or "Misty". Another example of an album track making an appearance on a Best Of collection released on Ray Stevens is "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head". Ray passed on recording the song, originally, and B.J. Thomas ended up recording the song and it's B.J.'s recording that appears on the Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid movie and soundtrack. However, around the time the movie appeared in theaters, Ray had ended up recording a version of the song and it appears on his 1970 studio album, Everything is Beautiful. Even though Ray's recording is just as great as B.J.'s and it retains the same music arrangement Ray's recording isn't the one that appears in the movie or it's soundtrack. Barnaby promoted Ray's version of the song, though...tying the song to the movie via a promo sticker that appeared on some releases of Everything is Beautiful.
    
I've read the fine print on the back of the CD and it lists Barnaby in the credits. This leads me to believe that the versions of "Ahab the Arab" (originally recorded in 1962) and "Harry the Hairy Ape" (originally recorded in 1963) are from the 1969 Gitarzan album. The recordings on that album have long been the property of Barnaby Records and it's family of labels even though the 1969 album had originally been released by Monument Records. The same holds true for Ray's other albums for Monument Records in both 1968 and 1969...and on this CD there are single releases from those Monument albums that routinely appear on compilation CD's such as this: "Mr. Businessman", "Unwind", "Along Came Jones", "Gitarzan", and "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down". If my assumption is correct and the versions of "Ahab the Arab" and "Harry the Hairy Ape" are from 1969 then the time-line of this compilation is the same as most others: 1968-1975. Given the selling price on Amazon of $35.24 I don't know if I'm willing to pay that much for a collection of songs I already have on other collections...but it bothers me not knowing if there are liner notes or not and if so are they accurate or filled with misinformation one may pick up on the internet or through word of mouth or if it's a personal essay about Ray Stevens and his style of music and entertaining. The 20 songs on the CD are listed below. If neither "Ahab the Arab" nor "Harry the Hairy Ape" are the original recordings from the early '60s then the earliest recording is 1968's "Unwind" with the latest being 1975's "Young Love" (issued as a single early in 1976). There are a couple of notable single-releases from this period missing from this collection...each one charted Country and Adult-Contemporary: 1973's "Nashville" (Top-40 Country; Top-30 Canadian Adult-Contemporary) and 1974's "Everybody Needs a Rainbow" (Top-40 Country; Top-20 Adult-Contemporary). Neither single crossed-over to the American Pop chart, though, and that's probably the reason they've been omitted from this collection (although "Nashville" made a brief appearance on Australia's pop chart!). It's inarguable, though, that "Young Love" had a better chart impact than either "Nashville" or "Everybody Needs a Rainbow". "Young Love" didn't even appear on the Australian music charts but it's featured on this CD. It's highest chart placing happened to be on America's Adult-Contemporary chart (peaking in the lower region of their Top-50).

If anyone out there has this CD let us know if there are liner notes and if song 1 and song 3 are the original recordings on Mercury Records or if they're the 1969 re-recordings. Seeing that song 2 is 1969's "Along Came Jones" I highly suspect that songs 1 and 3 are from 1969, too.

1. Ahab the Arab
2. Along Came Jones
3. Harry the Hairy Ape
4. The Streak
5. Gitarzan
6. Bridget the Midget The Queen of the Blues
7. Freddie Feelgood
8. All My Trials
9. Indian Love Call
10. A Mama And a Papa
11. The Moonlight Special
12. Sunset Strip
13. Mr. Businessman
14. Everything is Beautiful
15. Misty
16. Turn Your Radio On
17. Unwind
18. Young Love
19. America, Communicate with Me
20. Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down

November 26, 2015

Ray Stevens: Music to be Thankful for...

The entire catalog of music recorded by Ray Stevens is something to be thankful for on this Thanksgiving Day 2015. A career that goes back to the late 1950s and is still thriving to this day is a testament to durability and the ardent fans of which have remained fiercely loyal and devoted over the decades...a fan-base made up of all kinds of music listeners of all age groups...those that have been an appreciator of Ray's style of entertaining since the early years up through those that have discovered him fairly recently through video-sharing on social media outlets. No matter the manner in which Ray's music is discovered by the people the fact remains that, typically, once one discovers his brand of entertainment they remain fans for life. It's been my belief that should the unthinkable happen and one lose interest in Ray's music it's due to a listener being intolerable toward Ray's deliberately slow planning of music releases (whether it be in audio or video form). Oh yes...I've read many a commentary on-line over the last 10+ years from those that don't have the patience to wait for something to be released and their attention drifts elsewhere. A carefully thought out time-line has nearly zero acceptance to a lot of consumers whom, for the most part, want things instantly...and therefore recording artists have to push themselves onto their fans daily in order to retain attention. Ray Stevens, as far as I can tell, has never subscribed to that brand of marketing/advertising. Media overkill/saturation is wonderful for the fan (as they get to see their favorite appear on TV and see images of their favorite in magazines) and it's something that's necessary at some stage of an artist's career for the simple purpose of becoming established but prolonged saturation results in over-exposure. Those 3 cassettes that I'm holding in that photo are from 1995...it's been 20 years (!) since Warner Brothers loosened their tight grip on the Ray Stevens catalog of music in their vault.

His studio albums for the label (Just for the Record, Feel the Music, There is Something On Your Mind, and Be Your Own Best Friend) have never been properly re-issued on CD or Mp3 format. They only exist on vinyl, 8-track, and in cassette; but finding cassette copies of those studio albums is a task...but they do exist in that format because I've seen copies become available at outrageous prices on eBay and I've posted images of the cassettes on this blog before. The picture over on the right is me and my LP copy of There is Something On Your Mind. I'm thankful having the LP because of it's under-appreciated and under-rated quality. It's an LP that I can introduce to other fans that more than likely are not aware that Ray's career goes farther back than the 1980s and "It's Me Again, Margaret" or that it existed prior to 2009 and "We The People" (yes, some people that discovered Ray's music video in 2009 thought that he happened to be some guy making a music video...totally oblivious to his lengthy career). Although vinyl copies of this 1978 album are abundant on eBay and other on-line sites it's an LP that just doesn't get much attention...even among fans of Ray Stevens...but it's a gem of an album. I post images of this LP anytime the subject of his late '70s period comes up.

I'm really thankful for the Losin' Streak LP...it's one of my priceless LP's in my Ray Stevens collection of vinyl. An interesting bit of personal information regarding this obscure LP is in order. Once upon a time I wasn't on-line...I didn't become an internet visitor until 2002. My first exposure to the internet came via a Web-TV...and I visited eBay and other places in those earlier years. I didn't get an actual computer until sometime in the mid 2000s...and I became more familiar with the internet as time marched on. On the primitive Web-TV that I had I couldn't visit (or didn't want to visit) too many places because of the dial-up nature and the long time it took to load pages and so for the first couple of years of my on-line experience I didn't get to explore the internet much until the purchase of the desktop. I remained on that computer until it eventually stopped performing...and I've been on this laptop for almost 2 years. The point of that story is the moment I got onto a high-speed, non-dial up computer I visited eBay and wouldn't you just know it...I couldn't find a copy of Losin' Streak!! I never made on-line purchases via the Web-TV and at that time the 1973 Ray Stevens LP had a lot of presence on eBay. Slowly but surely copies of the LP began surfacing on eBay once more and the moment I seen a Buy-It-Now option for the LP at a reasonable price I immediately purchased it. My elation caused me to take a photo of it...as you can see it's on full display underneath the lid of my portable turntable. The 1973 LP has never been properly re-released on CD or Mp3. He recorded the album for Barnaby Records...his other studio albums for the label have since been issued in CD and Mp3 format but Losin' Streak remains a non-reissue.

My list of Ray Stevens recordings all of us fans should be thankful for...in no particular order. Here goes... "Ahab the Arab", "The Streak", "Night Games", "Mary, My Secretary", "Gitarzan", "Party People", "Everything is Beautiful", "Make a Few Memories", "The Dooright Family", "Sir Thanks-a-Lot", "Ruby Falls", "Sunshine", "It's Me Again, Margaret", "Misty", "Nashville", "Gimme a Smile", "The Blue Cyclone", "I Need Your Help, Barry Manilow", "Everybody Needs a Rainbow", "Have a Little Talk with Myself", "America, Communicate with Me", "Workin' for the Japanese", "The Moonlight Special", "Along Came Jones", "Isn't It Lonely Together", "Virgil and the Moonshot", "Melt", "Comeback", "Don't Laugh Now", "The Mississippi Squirrel Revival", "Set the Children Free", "The Ballad of Jake McClusky", "One More Last Chance", "Can He Love You Half as Much as I", "Junkie for You", "Taylor Swift is Stalkin' Me", "Game Show Love", "Mama's in the Sky with Elvis", "Retired", "Marion Michael Morrison", "Shriner's Convention", "Osama Yo' Mama", "Mr. Businessman", "There Must Be a Pill For This", "Feel the Music", "My Dad", "Greatest Little Christmas Ever Wuz", "Blues Love Affair", "Caribou Barbie", "Your Bozo's Back Again", "Hair", "Southern Air", "Oh, Leo Lady", "Cap'n Trade the Pirate", "Sunset Strip", "You're Magic", "This Ain't Exactly What I Had in Mind", "The Deodorant Song", "There Is Something On Your Mind", "Sex Symbols", "Concrete Sailor", "Mama Sang Bass", "Just About Love", "Little By Little", "Tabloid News", "Just for the Hell of It", "This is Your Life", "It's Party Time", "Cooter Brown", "Bubble Gum the Bubble Dancer", "Glory Special", "Country Boy, Country Club Girl", "Never Ending Song of Love", "Lady of Spain", "Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens", "Would Jesus wear a Rolex?", "I'll Be In Atlanta", "Pretend", "Erik the Awful", "The Motel Song", "Mr. Baker the Undertaker", "Mr. President - Mr. President", "Speed Ball", "Sittin' Up with the Dead", "Talking", "Family Funeral Fight", "Come Around", "Pin the Tail on the Donkey", "Barbecue", "The Pirate Song", "If Ten Percent is Good Enough for Jesus", "Cool Down Willard", "Come to the U.S.A.", "Surfin' U.S.S.R.", "Idaho Wine", "Islands", "The Lady on the Radio", "Cornball", "The People's Court", "We The People", "Soap Opera", "Bridget the Midget", "The Last Laugh", "We Don't Take Nothin' Off Nobody", "Blood and Suede", "Obama Budget Plan", "You're Never Goin' To Tampa with Me", "Dream Girl", "Bionie and the Robotics", "God Save Arizona", "I Used to Be Crazy", "Santa Claus is watching You", "Bagpipes, That's My Bag", "The Global Warming Song", "Turn Your Radio On", "Bon Temps Roulette", "I Saw Elvis in a U.F.O.", "If Jesus is a Stranger", "Save Me From Myself", "A Handshake Will Do", "Kiss a Pig"...and so many more!!! 

As fans of Ray Stevens we should all be thankful that he continues to release music and appears in concerts. If you have a copy of his memoir, Ray Stevens' Nashville, you'll learn some things about his frame of mind in the middle part of the 2000s after his "Osama Yo' Mama" single and it's accompanying album ran it's course on the charts in late summer of 2002. His current CD, Here We Go Again!, has yielded 2 on-line video hits: "Taylor Swift is Stalkin' Me" and "You Didn't Build That". The lead-off single received a fair amount of publicity upon it's release on February 24th in music video form, obtaining 436,963 unique views to date, and he performed it several times as a guest on the Grand Ole Opry earlier this year but the second release, a political song, hasn't gotten much publicity outside of it's presence on political-leaning blogs. The official upload on YouTube of "You Didn't Build That", posted at Ray's YouTube channel, has the video currently sitting at 65,277 unique views. It debuted on May 19th...half a year ago. The video totals don't reflect repeated plays by the same visitors. Some visitors to a music video may watch it multiple times on the same day or frequently re-visit the video clip throughout the month or year. All of the repeated plays by the same visitor is still counted as "1 visit". You can read about unique visitors and unique views by doing a Google search. A couple weeks ago Ray appeared as a guest on the Grand Ole Opry and he performed "There Must Be a Pill For This"...this could be the third single from his current CD but so far there hasn't been a music video issued. He may have performed it just to spotlight it but then again it may become a future video clip. If a music video becomes available I'll blog about it, of course! Ray is much more busier promoting his RFD-TV series, Ray Stevens' Nashville, a half hour series that airs Saturday nights at 8:30pm Eastern. The series is less than a month old but the first season's already taped.

The focus and concentration on this program no doubt caused the halt of additional music video releases on YouTube. The Taylor video arrived in February, 3 months later the political video arrived in May, and if the pattern had been kept intact a potential third YouTube video would've debuted in August...but the nature of his career is unpredictable. For you see, just as it appeared a YouTube video from him would surface every 3 months during the 2015 calendar year, it didn't happen exactly as it appeared it might.

From a 1973 LP to a fascinating 2014 memoir...this is Ray Stevens' Nashville...


And from a fascinating 2014 memoir to a ratings success on RFD-TV in 2015...this is Ray Stevens' Nashville...

November 20, 2015

Ray Stevens...Diamonds and Pearls a-Plenty...

Oh yes, 2015 couldn't slip us by without giving some spotlight to one of Ray's hilarious, hysterical comedy recordings from his vast catalog of comedy recordings. The pirate chest is busting over with diamonds, pearls, gold doubloons, necklaces and bracelets, etc. etc. As is the case with so many of Ray's comedy songs this one didn't even see a release in single format. The song sort of became a word of mouth hit over the decades. Ray obviously realized it's impact on his audience because he recorded it a second time in 1991. "The Pirate Song", sub-titled "I Want To Sing and Dance", originated in 1985 on the comedy album I Have Returned. That album hit in the fall of 1985 but it didn't reach it's maximum peak until the spring of 1986...going all the way to the #1 spot on Billboard's Country Albums chart. The album's success, at the time, stemmed from a couple of single releases: "The Haircut Song" and "The Ballad of the Blue Cyclone"; but during the Christmas season the updated "Santa Claus is Watching You" received a special release. The song is track number 10 on the 1985 album. A music video became available, too. The song is an update, both musically and lyrically, of the original recording of "Santa Claus is Watching You" that Ray released as a single in 1962. The original recording had children as it's target audience but in the 1985 update the story shifted from the playful "better behave kids 'cause Santa's watching" idea to a tale of a man that warns his wife that she better be faithful and treat him right because Santa's out there and he's watching. It's one of the most lighthearted approaches to the subjects of adultery, cheating, and unfaithfulness that you'll probably ever here.

"The Pirate Song", as mentioned, didn't have a single release on vinyl but by 1991 it had firmly become established as one of his modern classics. The 1991 re-recording (on the CD titled #1 with a Bullet) is a rushed performance. Once you hear the 1985 original recording and then listen to the 1991 re-recording you'll immediately notice the change in tempo. The song's still funny because the story and his bickering back and fourth as a couple of pirates remains the same. On one side of the pirate deck is a gruff, traditional pirate...yearning for the thrill of attacking any ship that sails their way and making off with the loot. The pirate's name is a parody of traditional pirate names heard throughout history- Long John Blackbeard Peg Leg Patch Eye Hook. On another side of the pirate deck is a much less gruff and none too traditional pirate whose got a penchant for femininity and detests the gross lifestyle of his fellow pirates and the captain. The feminine pirate prefers to eat only the finer things and in his spare time longs to sing and dance instead of attacking, plundering, and killing anybody. So much demand for a music video of "The Pirate Song" throughout the 1990's led Ray and company to put together a music video in 2000. Several other songs from Ray's 1985 comedy album debuted in music video format in a 2000 VHS release called Funniest Video Characters. Ray re-recorded "The Pirate Song" for a second time exclusively for this music video production. In the 2000 re-recording for the music video he returned the song back to his original tempo and delivery. 15 years after the original recording the timing remained perfect and his mimicry of the 2 pirates was as great as before.

Pearl and Diamond represent a "30th anniversary" and so it makes sense to title this blog entry in the manner in which I titled it. The official music video is on YouTube and I've embedded it. Keep your eye on one of the pirate members and see if you recognize him...I'll give a hint...he's one of the legendary figures in country music both in radio and television and later authored a series of best-selling books about his experiences in country music as an interviewer/host. I may have given it away with that last hint.



Fast-forwarding to 2015...Ray's guest appearance on the Opry last Friday is available as a podcast on the Opry's site. Earlier this morning it wasn't available but it's there no. I can't provide an isolated link to the podcast and so once you click the link you'll have to go to the podcast marked 11/13/2015 Friday Night Opry and click the play button underneath the date. Ray appears during the second segment hosted by Mike Snider (following the opening segment hosted by Connie Smith). Ray sings "Such a Night" and then he sings "There Must Be a Pill For This". It's as if he had read my mind...I've been hoping that he'd perform that song in his concerts or at the very least create a music video for it. It's a very funny song.

OPRY ARCHIVES

Ray Stevens Nashville...a Ratings Triumph...

Hello all!! It's been almost a month since my previous blog entry but I've been adjusting to this new job of mine. It's a 10 hour, 4 day a week job at bizarre hours: 2am-12pm. I find myself sleeping most of the rest of the day as a result and only having sufficient internet time on my days off...but yet instead of using the free time to keep the blog page current I find myself sleeping even more...but I decided to at least post a blog entry for the month of November.

As you should all know by now Ray Stevens hosts a weekly television series on RFD-TV called Ray Stevens' Nashville. It debuted on November 7th (my last blog entry in October promoted the upcoming series debut) and this coming Saturday marks the 3rd episode's air-date. There have been several promo articles surrounding the program's debut and at least 3 interviews with Ray giving details about the series. One of those interviews can be listened to by clicking HERE.

The interview originated on November 4th on radio station WYMG in Illinois. The phone connection isn't the sharpest (perhaps that being the reason for the lack of publicity) but it's an engaging interview. I came across it by accident, actually, as I was reading up on some of the latest Tweets about Ray Stevens.

It's conducted by an on-air personality named Liz Willis and she described herself as one of his fans, ever since "Gitarzan", and so the style of the interview is more in the mold of fan-gushing (which is highly understandable!!).

RFD-TV, on November 16th via Twitter, announced that Ray's television series had the highest ratings of any of their other series currently airing. Have you all noticed several of the banners that have popped up on-line pertaining to the series? I posted a banner in my previous blog entry...that one originated from Ray's Facebook page. There are a couple of others you can see if you do an image search. The one I like the best is the image of the Nashville skyline in black, the title of the program in white all-caps lettering, Ray's name in red, and a caricature illustration of Ray's face on a yellow circle (presumably a full moon). You can see that image in all it's glory by clicking HERE.

Last Friday (November 13th) Ray made another guest appearance on the Grand Ole Opry. Why in the world hasn't he become an official member of the Opry by now is anybody's guess. He appeared during the 7:30-8:00pm segment hosted by Mike Snider. The podcast hasn't been posted in the archive section of the radio station's website yet.

Ray's previous guest appearance had come in late September of this year during a segment hosted by Mel Tillis. Earlier still Ray guested on the Opry and around the same time he was the star performer on Larry Gatlin's Opry Country Classics recurring radio series. I'd say in the last 5 years or so Ray Stevens has guest starred at the Opry (either on a Tuesday, Friday, or Saturday) at least 10 times.

In my previous blog post I didn't include a link to the home page at the RFD site because, at the time, Ray's series hadn't debuted and there wasn't a show page available. Since the November 7th debut RFD has posted a page detailing Ray's series and you can view it by clicking the link below...

RAY STEVENS' NASHVILLE

October 29, 2015

Ray Stevens Nashville on RFD-TV...

Hello all!! It's getting closer to the debut of Ray Stevens Nashville. The upcoming talk/variety program is set to debut next Saturday night, November 7th, on RFD-TV. Based on the information the first guest is Steve Wariner. The series is a long time coming and if you've been a fan of Ray's for any length of time, like say, more than 10 years or at least 20 years then you're well aware of how long Ray has sought a television series of some kind. You can research many print interviews or recall any number of television interviews and more than likely at some point Ray's made mention of his hope of having a series on television...at one point in time in his interviews he often mentioned his work on an adaptation of Johnny Appleseed that he hoped to get into production. In the early '90s (1992) he issued a VHS called Amazing Rolling Revue that contained what he described as an unsold pilot for a television series. A couple of years later (1995) he emerged with a direct-to-video movie titled Get Serious! (just recently issued on DVD for the first time). The long held tradition of releasing a movie to theaters and then having it issued on VHS was being challenged given Ray's idea of doing the reverse. He had the idea of issuing a movie on video, first, and then attempting to get theatrical distribution but it didn't come to fruition.

Sometime around 2008/2009 Ray participated in a duet recording of a song called "Retired". The song is about the effects of retirement. Not long after the retirement theme was explored in that duet recording along came Ray and a series called We Ain't Dead Yet!. An unsold pilot, at first, it expanded into an on-line, subscription-based series that ran for about half a year. The series took place inside a retirement home called The Encore. Ray recorded a solo version of "Retired" for his 2009 CD, One For the Road.

A couple of years ago The Nashville Network re-launched as a regional sub-channel and in 2013 the channel brought Ray-ality TV to it's schedule. That half hour series consisted of edited footage of Ray's many video appearances and television performances sandwiched between newly recorded footage.

To re-cap: 1992's Amazing Rolling Revue didn't make it to a series and is only available in it's entirety on VHS and 1995's Get Serious! didn't branch out into a theatrical release; the efforts of We Ain't Dead Yet! and Ray-ality TV certainly come close to Ray's wish of having a continuing television series (at last!) but in each case there wasn't nationally televised airplay and so, as a result, the exposure on a national scale was more or less non-existent. 

Last year Ray began issuing YouTube-only clips, also titled Ray-ality TV...referring to them as webisodes. Ray's YouTube series, more or less, featured re-released/edited/re-mixed offerings of just about everything from his video career to that point (footage going back to the early 1990s in some cases!). Performances from his Branson, Missouri concerts (1991, 1992, 1993, and 2010) made their way into those clip-filled installments, too.

All of those prior efforts, including some I didn't get around to mentioning, leads up to this brand new television venture on an even bigger stage than before...it's Ray Stevens' Nashville...and as you can see from the promo/banner the series debuts on November 7th at 7:30pm Central, 8:30pm Eastern...


RFD-TV is available nationally in millions of homes and in terms of potential audience it could bring his series tens of thousands of viewers weekly. If you don't get the channel as part of your regular cluster of programming then call your cable provider and ask for it. I am hoping that the series becomes available at some point on DVD for posterity's sake.

October 3, 2015

Ray Stevens: Pigeon Forge concert...

Hello all...and for me this has certainly been a memorable October introduction as far as the change in weather is concerned. Normally there isn't such a drastic change in temperatures but the last couple of days it's not gotten above 55 degrees. A return to normalcy is on the way, though, as today's high is going to be the upper 60s.

Speaking of numbers...the current unique views for "You Didn't Build That" are 54,927. This is a pick-up of 4,175 since my previous blog post.

This past Saturday Ray made a guest appearance on the Opry. He appeared during the final half hour segment of the night. Mel Tillis hosted the segment. Ray performed "Misty" and "Mississippi Squirrel Revival". Ray told a story about monkey's in outer space and he spoke of his upcoming television series...the program is called Ray Stevens' Nashville (the same name of his memoir). If you visit Ray's Facebook page you'll see that the banner's changed to reflect the upcoming series (it changed on September 29th). Mel, in his introduction, remarked that the program is to debut on November 7th on RFD-TV. Also mentioned in the introduction was the availability of Ray's current CD, Here We Go Again!. Mel referenced his famous stutter during the promo for Ray's CD.


Ray's completed several of his concerts since my previous blog post (the SKyPAC concert happened yesterday, October 2nd) and today he'll be doing 2 concerts at the Country Tonight venue in Pigeon Forge, TN. You can read about those concerts in this promo...

PIGEON FORGE

After tonight's pair of concerts in Pigeon Forge Ray's next appearance is up north in Canada at the Casino Rama venue on October 9th. Since it's a Casino there's an age restriction: 19 years and up. It's my assumption that he'll sing "Sgt. Preston of the Yukon" either as part of a medley or perhaps in full performance...it's an obvious choice and it's too irresistible to omit from the set-list. You can hear that 1960 recording and other early recording on this CD. It covers a lot of ground as far as the earliest of Ray's commercial recordings (dating back to 1957). The inclusion of those rare single releases Ray's first 2 studio albums for Mercury Records in their entirety make this one of the better compilation releases...one of the best of the last 5 to 10 years.


"Sgt. Preston of the Yukon" is a pivotal song in his career...if it weren't for his writing and recording the song in 1960 and it becoming a near-hit (before being pulled off the air for copyright reasons) he probably never would've thought of issuing comedy/novelty music at all. The fact of the 1960 novelty song getting a lot of attention and airplay (more than anything he previously had out on the market) gave Ray the idea that comedy songs could get him attention...and the rest is history as they say.

September 18, 2015

Ray Stevens obscure 1978 cassette...

It's me once more! For those that have read my blog posts over the last 6 years or so you're familiar with the excitement I often display upon seeing something obscure, rare, or hard to find (all synonyms, yes!) pertaining to Ray Stevens. This time around it's a 1978 cassette copy of There Is Something On Your Mind!! Talk about obscure!! It's often hard to find in vinyl...seeing a cassette copy is almost unheard of...but yet a cassette copy of the album appears on eBay.

I never post links to eBay anymore because I've long become well aware of the fluid nature of the site...once an item is purchased or taken off the site by it's seller the link I provide will no longer be active. I found that out by looking through my archived posts several years ago and clicking on the links I embedded only for a blank error page to open up or a page informing me that the product is no longer listed/available. I'm sure other links that I've posted become that way during the passage of time but more so if the link is tied to an auction site.

If you're interested in seeing or possibly bidding/purchasing this rare cassette do a search on eBay of "Ray Stevens + cassette tapes" and select the newly listed option or you can go a general search for "Ray Stevens + There is Something On Your Mind". It'll be among the first results. The listing debuted on September 10th...so it's been nearly 2 weeks since it appeared. I just discovered it today. The 1978 album features Ray's excellent covers of vintage rhythm and blues songs from the '50s and '60s by groups such as The Clovers, The Drifters, and solo artists such as Ray Charles, Bobby Marchan, and Bobbie Freeman. The title track had originally been recorded in 1959 by a saxophonist named Big Jay McNeely and his release featured vocals by an artist named Little Sonny Warner. The appeal of Ray's 1978 album, aside from it's main appeal of it being an album by Ray Stevens, is that the material Ray chose to cover wasn't limited to the smash hits of Rhythm and Blues that crossed over to pop music radio. The album goes a long way at spotlighting songs that didn't cross-over and become million selling pop hits.

The asking price for the cassette is $24.99 or best offer...but clearly the seller realizes that the rare, obscure nature of this product may be of value to fans of Ray Stevens. As usual read carefully before making any purchase or any bids on auction sites and ask the seller questions that can't be replied by a simple "yes" or "no". The products are previously owned by others and aren't typically in pristine, crisp condition but an honest, serious eBay seller will not risk his or her reputation by selling defective products and so, in theory, the seller should be up-front in their reply. I have the vinyl copy and it features some superb liner notes about every song and it includes a summary/commentary from Ray as to the reason behind the making of the album. This appears above Ray's photo on the LP version. His commentary/opinions of the songs he chose to cover appear on the back of the album. I can't tell if this feature comes with the cassette as only the photo and track list appear on eBay. There isn't any photo of inside the cassette case on eBay to see if the liner notes are part of the cassette copy or not. I doubt they are...one of the allures of the vinyl album is getting features exclusive to the vinyl release...shifting gears from 1978 to present-day 2015...

As you all should be aware of Ray's been on a mini-tour lately. He's performed a series of concerts (typically 2 or 3 per month) going back to the start of summer. The tour is named for his current CD, Here We Go Again!, even though there is plenty of current merchandise from Ray Stevens that no doubt is also being sold to concert goers, too. One such item being the memoir, Ray Stevens' Nashville. If it's not being sold at the merchandise table then purchase it from his on-line store or on Amazon.

Here We Go Again! Concert trail...

After the September 19th concert tomorrow at The Alabama Theatre in Myrtle Beach, SC Ray is going to be extremely busier than usual. If you're a member of his mailing list you should have gotten some e-mails about some of the happenings that are going to be taking place next week. It revolves around the television program that he's putting together. Search some of my earlier blog posts to read about the project. Ray closes out the month of September making a guest appearance at the Grand Ole Opry on September 26th. As mentioned in a previous blog entry I assume Ray is going to announce more information about the television program he's working on during the Opry appearance.

The activity doesn't stop there...in early October look for more concert appearances from Ray. He'll be in Bowling Green, KY at the SKyPAC venue on October 2nd. According to the publicity reports it's a near sell-out. An ad for the concert has aired on YouTube to promote the concert. I had posted the video back on September 3rd but the uploaders have since made that video private (if you come across that embed it'll now state that it's private) but they've re-uploaded the ad and made the video public again due to the concert getting closer and here it is...



The very next day, October 3rd, he'll be performing 2 concerts in Pigeon Forge, TN at the Country Tonite Theatre. The first concert is at 3pm and the second is at 8pm.


Ray Stevens Concert: 9/19/2015...

Hello once more...here's a reminder that the next Ray Stevens concert appearance on his limited engagement Here We Go Again! Tour is tomorrow night at THE ALABAMA THEATRE at 7pm. The link takes you to the advertisement. You can still purchase tickets since it isn't an official sell-out but, obviously, you should purchase your tickets in-person at the venue given that the concert is tomorrow night. Call the number listed in the link I provided.

If you're new at this kind of thing the person at the box office will inform you of any seating available or it could be a recording informing a caller that tickets are now only available at the venue's box office.

I assume that some venues set aside a number of tickets for in-person purchases because not everyone purchases tickets through mail-order or on-line or some people may learn about a concert at the last minute and their only way of obtaining a ticket is at the venue itself (assuming the concert isn't a sell-out by then).

In my own small way I've been promoting his concert appearances for those that are able to attend and I'll continue to do so. Unfortunately there aren't many, if any, concert goers that relate their experience or reveal much about the performance or song selections and so I rarely have any Ray Stevens post-concert information to share. If I do come across feedback from those that attend a concert of his I often make mention of it or I direct readers to a link containing the feedback.

There have been some comments posted on Twitter from concert goers...mostly in the form of pictures...so it isn't as if everybody that attends his concerts are tight lipped...it's just not an onslaught of feedback.

September 15, 2015

Ray Stevens: You Didn't Build That, Blog 3...

Hello one and all!! I'm assuming those that attended the previous concert from Ray Stevens at the Moon River Theatre (this past Saturday night) enjoyed the program...there hasn't been any feedback from those that attended...no comments, no pictures, no nothing...but I'm guessing that one of the songs performed is this one...his most recent video release, "You Didn't Build That". As mentioned in passing in the previous 2 installments spotlighting this video the title originated from a remark Obama made during one of his numerous speaking events...can't remember if he said it during a State of the Union address, a campaign speech, a campaign rally...or wherever...the point is the phrase generated inspiration enough to compose a song using the phrase. Ray, Buddy Kalb, and Chuck Redden are the credited songwriters. It's track 9 on the Here We Go Again! CD. The video hit YouTube on May 19, 2015...of course you're all encouraged to share this video among your on-line friends and share it on political sites if you hadn't done so already.

The upcoming 2016 election cycle and the various debates among candidates tend to dominate much of a cable news programs and the political blog sites...and it'll only get more and more dominant as the calendar flips over to 2016...but Obama's still the President...he's still in a highly powerful position to push his agenda through a largely inept Congress...but let this song remind you of the kind of policies and the kind of mentality that you don't want in the White House anymore or, for that matter, in Congress anymore...



Unique views for the video sit at 49,752...a month ago the count sat at 41,815. The fact that the video's gotten a 7,000 plus increase with hardly any mainstream media coverage is cause for some celebration. The actual pick-up in views is 7,937...so it's more closer to 8,000 additional discoveries since mid August. Let's see it break the 50,000 plateau sooner rather than later. If you are one that prefers the audio over the video you can click HERE and purchase the Mp3 of "You Didn't Build That" on Amazon.

September 14, 2015

Ray Stevens: Alabama Theatre 9/19/2015...

Hello once more...in following the advertisements currently underway on social media sites I, too, am here to spread the word about the upcoming concert in North Myrtle Beach from Ray Stevens at The Alabama Theatre.

You can read the article/interview about the upcoming concert by clicking HERE. As you'll learn in the article the concert is this Saturday night, September 19th at 7pm. All of the details (such as ticket prices and an overview of his career) can be found in the link. The article is decent and does a good job at mentioning some of the songs from Ray's catalog that usually do not get much coverage and it incorporates some of the latest happenings in his career instead of being almost exclusively focused on past accomplishment as a lot of concert promo's of established artists tend to be. The article promotes his 2012 project, The Encyclopedia of Recorded Comedy Music, as if it's just been released but I commented about Ray having a comedy CD out of brand new recordings, too. You can purchase this CD at AMAZON where it's gotten rave reviews. Strangely enough it's not available in his on-line store...and it's been half a year since it's debut back in March...but above is the Amazon link and here's the cover photo...


In the meantime a couple of posts on the social media site of Twitter, from the Washington, D.C branch of The National Guard, included pics of Ray Stevens from an appearance at the Opry House Sunday night (yesterday). The performance was apparently closed to the general public but pictures of Ray on the Opry stage in performance, before a crowd of National Guard members and presumably their family and friends, appeared on-line. You can find those pics by doing a simple search for Ray Stevens or a search for NGAUS while at that particular social media site.

September 10, 2015

Ray Stevens and the Moon River Concert...

Hello once again! Here's a reminder that Ray Stevens has a concert coming up...this coming Saturday night at the Moon River Theatre in Branson, Missouri. You can read about it and purchase tickets HERE. I've mentioned this concert in previous blog posts but considering it's now a couple of days away I thought to make mention of it once more. It's his first concert of the month...he has 2 more concerts planned for later in the month in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

Beginning today you can purchase 2 of Ray's DVD collections in a special offer ($15.00). Each of the DVD collections regularly sell at his web-store for $10.95 each but starting today both are being sold together. The DVDs are the Cartoon Carnival releases. Each release (Volume One and Volume Two) features 10 music videos...most of them featuring animated characters on screen (including Ray himself) but there are some that feature live-action Ray interacting with animated backgrounds.

You can purchase the special offer HERE.

In one of the summer 1970 video clips found on Ray's YouTube channel there's a clip titled "Swamp Girl". In addition to the comedy sketch there's also the recurring segment called "Who is Ray Stevens?". In that segment you'll be treated to cameo appearances by Don Knotts, Andy Williams, and Jonathan Winters giving their response as to who they think Ray Stevens happens to be. The routine came about due to Ray's low-key nature and the idea/belief that a television audience is different than a music audience.

Ray had made periodic appearances on Andy's television program in 1969 and into early 1970 and according to producers of Andy's program Ray happened to be the most popular/talked about guest and so they approached him with the offer to host Andy's summer program. Ray, up until that point, had been a fixture on the pop music scene for nearly 10 years and he had several recordings and albums to his credit (some of those songs became million sellers).

The exposure on the summer television program launched him into pop superstar stratosphere. Ironically his summer series began on June 20, 1970...a couple of weeks after "Everything is Beautiful" had reached it's #1 finish on both the pop and the Easy-Listening charts...but the further exposure the song received on Ray's summer series enabled it to remain a top seller. Given the fact that it remained #1 pop for 2 weeks and #1 Easy-Listening for 3 and the fact that it hit the Top-40 internationally (reaching #1 in Australia and Canada and the Top-10 in Ireland and England) it's not a surprise to learn that it became the #12 song for the entire year of 1970. A massively popular recording.

The final episode of the summer series aired on August 8, 1970. During the production of the series he was promoting some other songs, too, which came to light on the Unreal album (released after the summer series ended). "America, Communicate with Me", for example, became the big single from that album but "Sunset Strip" is a masterful recording, too. Each single became a hit on the adult oriented Easy-Listening radio format (music that still appealed to a broad audience...but typically appealing to people aged 35 and older instead of 30 and younger).

Here is one of the clips from Ray's 1970 summer series...


Ray Stevens: Freddie Feelgood and more...

One of the funniest recordings from Ray Stevens originated in 1966 but seen it's official music video arrive 34 years later in 2000.

"Freddie Feelgood and His Funky Little Five Piece Band", or as it's referred to by fans, "Freddie Feelgood", arrived in music video form in 2000 as part of a collection released on VHS titled Funniest Video Characters. The collection also provided the music video debuts of "The Pirate Song", "The Haircut Song", "Juanita and the Kids", and "The Blue Cyclone". The latter music video split in 2 separate parts like the original recording from 1985. A couple of previously released music videos from 1997, "Virgil and the Moonshot" and "Too Drunk To Fish", appeared on the home video collection to complete the project.

These music videos have since become fixtures on Ray's YouTube channel...in the process introducing an entirely different audience to some of the songs he recorded in the '80s and '90s that often go overlooked in the shadow of some of his other recordings from that time period. As far as the 2000 home video goes "Freddie Feelgood" was the oldest of the group. Ray's catalog of comedy songs also have great video potential and is one of the reasons why so many of his older songs were becoming available in modern-day music video format. Ray and his associates could take one of his comedy songs, at random, and be able to present a music video of it...and "Freddie Feelgood" having an origin from the mid '60s lent itself perfectly to video. The song itself is paints a visual picture...and that's the key to a lot of Ray's success in transforming an audio recording into a music video production so effortlessly.



Ray performed the song on the 1970 summer television program he hosted for Andy Williams...

Video of Ray's summer program had never been made available outside of a stray clip or two for historical purposes. This all changed a couple years ago after Ray uploaded dozens of performances from the 1970 summer program. Myself and several other fans of Ray Stevens have come to the conclusion that Andy's death (September 25, 2012) resulted in the availability of these performances after all those decades of unavailability. If you look at the videos from the 1970 summer series each of them contain an AW watermark. The video clips from the summer series didn't start to appear on Ray's YouTube channel until August 2013 (almost a full year after Andy passed away).

These performances are interesting, entertaining, highly nostalgic, and totally enjoyable for a variety of reasons. At long last fans ere able to see full-length performances (not just 20 to 30 second snippets) of Ray's summer television program. As an added plus there are performances by his cast of regulars...including several routines featuring both Ray and Andy (!) even though, technically, Andy was suppose to be on vacation.

"Freddie Feelgood", the music video produced in 2000, arrived on YouTube on May 25, 2011. At that point in time Ray had experienced phenomenal success on YouTube throughout much of 2010 and it carried over into 2011 and it created the opportunity to gather up some more older music video productions and introduce them to a different audience that perhaps didn't even see the music video's originally (more than a decade ago).

Ray launched his YouTube channel on July 13, 2009. The first 12 music video uploads to appear on his channel happened to be music videos taken from his home video projects Comedy Video Classics, his movie, Get Serious!, and 3 animated music videos that appeared on DVD originally in 2006 as part of a 5 music video collection called Teenage Mutant Kung Fu Chickens. Another DVD of 5 animated music videos from Ray also became available in 2006 titled Gourmet Restaurant. All of the videos from those DVDs have since been uploaded onto Ray's YouTube channel.

The heaviest traffic for Ray's YouTube channel is focused a lot on his politically-themed comedy videos. I say that because the numbers speak for themselves. A good chunk of the unique views that his music videos have obtained are tied almost exclusively to the political offerings. Although he's reduced the number of politically-themed music videos in the last couple of years, nevertheless, the run of political comedy videos he released during a 2 and a half to 3 year period (2010-2013) represent the lion's share of his YouTube success.

After decreasing the amount of political comedy output Ray returned to uploading earlier video productions onto his channel for much wider exposure. As mentioned earlier the 1970 performances from the summer television series he hosted made their debut on his channel in August 2013. A performance of "Freddie Feelgood" is among the video clips that emerged and here's a 1970 performance long before CGI and other special effects became commonplace in video production...a perfect display of Ray's innovative and creative abilities...


September 9, 2015

Ray Stevens: All-Time Hits...

As I often do I highlight compilation albums issued on Ray Stevens...some I've got in my collection and some I find posted on-line most typically listed on auction sites that I feel the need to comment about or promote through this fan-created blog page.

All-Time Hits is one of those misleading titles that many record companies place on compilation albums. The basic reason is to grab a consumer's eyes...and then once their attention's been obtained the next thing some, not all, but some consumers do is look at the album's photo/picture of the artist. Then the consumer, in the vinyl era, more than likely would flip the album over and read the song selections. Usually a different photo of the artist appeared on the back of the album...a kind of exclusive photo for those that purchased the album. Promos and ads rarely gave the back of album's much, if any, exposure and so a lot of fans that didn't purchase vinyl albums (preferring singles) weren't aware of the practice of having the main publicity photo of the artist on the front of the album and then a secondary photo on the reverse side.

One of the recurring concepts of compilation albums labeled either Greatest Hits, The Very Best of, or All-Time Hits is the use of photos of the artist that, usually, do not match the era in which the bulk of the recordings took place. This is, of course, more common for artists that have had incredible longevity in the music business. Even though there a lot of artists from Ray's generation and those that came before him that have had a massive catalog of compilation albums issued on them I've noticed that the compilations issued on Ray have had some of the most misleading photo's accompanying a release.

This release, All-Time Hits, originated in 1996 in cassette format and featuring a minimum of just eight recordings it was marketed as a budget-priced release. Issued on Polygram Records, a subsidiary of Mercury Records, the eight recordings on the project happened to have been recorded by Ray during his stay at Mercury (1961-1965, 1983) and one song, oddly enough, from his RCA period (1980-1982). Of course not every recording during his Mercury or RCA stint are represented but 8 recordings are. The track list: "Ahab the Arab", "Harry the Hairy Ape", "Jeremiah Peabody's Green and Purple Pills", "My Dad", "Shriner's Convention", "Speed Ball", "Furthermore", and "Funny Man". Six of those recordings come from the early 1960s but the photo of Ray that's used from a much later era (perhaps from a photo session in 1983 during the making of his studio album that year). If one is not too familiar or conversant with all things Ray Stevens as some of us are you'd probably think that Ray looked like that during the recordings found on this collection but in reality he did not. On six of the eight recordings found here he looked like this...



A note to collectors is this 1996 compilation includes the original recordings of his early 1960s hits on Mercury. A lot of compilations use the Monument re-recordings but on this collection, since it's affiliated with Mercury, the original recordings are featured.

All-Time Hits is also available in CD format. Although a cassette is perfectly capable of holding a large amount of recordings only 8 appeared on the cassette copy. However, for the CD release, three songs were added. In a move to entice CD sales using the allure of "bonus tracks" the 11 track version of All-Time Hits incorporated 2 additional recordings from the early 1960s and one recording from 1981. The three bonus recordings are "Butch Babarian", "Santa Claus is Watching You", and "One More Last Chance". The reason, well, one of the reasons that I have both the cassette and CD releases is because of my desire, at the time, to have any Ray Stevens release that appeared in retail stores.

Secondly it's because I only had a cassette player at the time...I didn't have a CD player and I definitely didn't have a record player, yet. So, once I got a CD player I found All-Time Hits in CD format and purchased it...the allure being I didn't have any of those songs on CD format at the time. You could say I was slow at getting the latest listening devices. I'm still like that...I don't have an Ipod or Ipad or tablet or whatever the most recent listening device happens to be but I do purchase/download songs on Amazon if I choose to but ordinarily I prefer a CD copy.

The CD copy of All-Time Hits displaying all 11 tracks. The titles that have an asterisk to their left indicate the bonus songs found only on the CD. Considering how obscure Ray's 1983 studio album for Mercury happens to be it always puzzled me as to why only "My Dad" appeared on this compilation and nothing else from that album...instead choosing a couple of his RCA recordings to represent the early '80s period. Don't get me wrong, though...the inclusion of "One More Last Chance" is most certainly a welcome addition. Given that "My Dad" appears it's still a mystery as to why his 1983 studio album, Me, has never made it's debut on CD or even Mp3 yet. Polygram, the label that issued this in 1996, certainly had the capability of including songs from the 1983 album or else "My Dad" wouldn't have made an appearance...so it's odd that they, nor Mercury itself, have ever thought to reissue Me. One thing about this collection that can't be said for other compilations issued on Ray Stevens is this one features single releases only. Every track on here found it's way onto the pop or country music charts. Usually the compilation releases included album tracks, chosen seemingly at random, along side the actual single releases. This practice raised awareness for a lot of recordings by Ray Stevens that were originally meant as album cuts.

Yes, this is the cassette copy...the one I purchased at the local Wal-Mart store back in 1996. It's still in excellent shape. I never handle cassettes, CD's, or vinyl singles and LP's in a rough manner or toss them around, etc. I guess the only strike against this collection is the lack of liner notes. I've become spoiled by the liner note concept that accompanies a lot of music collections even though, strangely enough, I never cared one way or another if something featured liner notes or not; but since I've gotten older and have seen a lot of liner notes and articles about Ray that are more fiction than fact it's becoming something of an interest of mine if a compilation features liner notes or not. The thing about liner notes is the subjective nature of the authors, which I don't mind, I'd be more offended to see negative criticisms...but the thing I'd noticed about liner notes is the passing of misinformation and the omission of information. Bios found on Ray omit the fact that Ray recorded an album for Mercury Records in 1983 and the label released several singles on him throughout the bulk of 1984 prior to his departure to MCA and his relaunch as a country comic. Liner notes often omit that Ray had more than a couple of hit recordings for RCA and Warner Brothers...in some liner notes only a couple of songs are highlighted during an entire 7 year time span (1976-1983) and this sort of lack of information does a disservice to any new fan of Ray's and it's maddening to long time fans that don't appreciate seeing his catalog of music go overlooked. So it's great if a CD has liner notes but it's also wise on the reader or the fan's part to do research for themselves, too. I was once a new fan of his...and my only exposure to his music happened to be what appeared on the CD's available in retail stores and the several cassette tapes originally owned by my grandparent's. If I remained content on just enjoying the songs on those projects I'd be missing out on a LOT of other great recordings from his career. Some prefer just to listen to a handful of recordings by him (recordings from the mid '80s primarily) and dismiss anything else he's recorded. 1987's Greatest Hits on MCA and Greatest Hits, Volume Two contain the recordings that are associated heavily with Ray...and therefore those compilations have gotten the most sales.

The liner notes for the Platinum 1987 album, however, doesn't mention that the recording of "Ahab the Arab" is from 1969. The author mentions the song was a hit in 1962...but this naturally suggests to a new fan that the recording they're hearing is from 1962. I didn't learn that the recording was from 1969 until some point in the 1990s...I had gotten the Mercury cassette titled Funny Man and heard his early '60s recordings for the very first time and that's how I heard "Ahab the Arab", the original recording, for the very first time. The cassette features a bearded Ray Stevens on the cover...looking nothing like he did in the early '60s...which fits in with the overall theme of this blog entry spotlighting compilation albums featuring misleading images of Ray on the cover.

September 3, 2015

Ray Stevens upcoming Tour Dates...

Ray Stevens has six concerts planned for the months of September and October. These are part of his mini-tour titled Here We Go Again which began earlier this summer. Up first is an appearance in Branson, Missouri on September 12th at The Andy Williams Theatre. Tickets went on sale in May...if you hadn't called about tickets by now it may be too late to get a seat near the stage. You need to call 1-800-MOON-094 or visit the promo page HERE.

The second concert planned for this month is in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina at The Alabama Theater on September 19th. You can read all about it and purchase tickets HERE 

On September 26th Ray has another guest appearance on the Grand Ole Opry. You can listen to the Opry on the radio and on the internet but if you prefer to attend in person you can purchase tickets by clicking HERE. At the moment the page only has 3 performers listed for that date but there's going to be more performers scheduled by the middle of the month.

The first concert scheduled for October takes place at the SKyPAC venue on October 2nd. This is an acronym for Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center. A video clip debuted on YouTube earlier today promoting the upcoming concert and you can see it below...



The next day, October 3rd, he'll be in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee to perform 2 shows at the Country Tonite venue. The first one being 3pm and the second being 8pm. You can read about it HERE.

6 days later on October 9th he'll be up in Ontario, Canada at the Casino Rama. You can read about it HERE.

Ray Stevens: Video Singles...

There's been a pair of video singles tied to the current Ray Stevens CD, Here We Go Again. The first happened to be "Taylor Swift is Stalkin' Me" and the second, "You Didn't Build That". The video's are extreme opposites of each other...the first one deals with the delusions of a man believing Taylor is stalking him because he sees her everywhere that he happens to be. Ray performed the song several times in the spring of 2015 during some of his appearances...one such being a guest appearance on the Grand Ole Opry...it happened to be the first time he performed it in concert. Those that had no idea who Ray Stevens happened to be didn't know what to make of the video.

A lot of those confused and at a loss being young kids and teenagers (primarily Taylor's fan base) that more or less had been alerted to the video due to it containing Taylor's name in the title. Some of the more humorless didn't care for the song's festive tempo and levity taking place at a fictional mental institution. It's gotten more than 300,000 views, regardless.

The second video single returned Ray to the political comedy field after an extended hiatus of new material for that genre of entertainment. Prior to the release of "You Didn't Build That" a couple of months ago his last political comedy video arrived a year ago this month in the form of "If You Like Your Plan" (September 22, 2014). It's been seen by more than 120,000 people. "You Didn't Build That" has been seen by close to 50,000 people so far.

I stress that this isn't the heat of a political season, yet, and even though Obama can't run for a third term he nevertheless is going to play a major part in the 2016 election cycle by virtue of his policies being attached to whichever Democrat gets the nomination. If it's Joe Biden expect to see a lot of issues that defined the Obama-Biden Administration to be fair game during the campaign trail in 2016.

Even though Ray's foray into political entertainment came as a surprise and a shock to most people late in 2009 nearly all of the political music videos from him that have appeared on YouTube feature a comical presentation to keep the mood lighthearted even though, if you listen carefully, the lyrics are pointed and actually, serious, but masked behind a comical presentation on video. "You Didn't Build That", his current video single, takes a phrase from one of Obama's speeches and it's turned into a song about Obama's twisted attitude about American business.

Not all of Ray's political videos have been visually comical, though. A couple are deeply serious. In the latter category there's "God Save Arizona" (August 4, 2010) and last year's "Nero Fiddled" (October 10, 2014). The 2010 video's focus happened to be the enormous problem of illegal immigration along the Arizona-Mexico border...more specifically the lawsuit that former Attorney General, Eric Holder, issued against the State of Arizona as a result of their enforcement of their immigration laws.

The 2014 video focuses in on Obama's consistent misplaced priorities and his lack of strong leadership in face of real threats...like the real threat of global terrorism. It's a strong message criticizing Obama's Presidency. "If You Like Your Plan" and "Nero Fiddled", at the moment, are available only as video singles on YouTube.

Share these among your on-line friends if you hadn't done so already... "You Didn't Build That", "Nero Fiddled", and "If You Like Your Plan"...