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.


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