February 29, 2016

Leap into Ray Stevens Fun...

On this Leap Day let's leap into the deep catalog of the music of Ray Stevens! In some of my previous blog postings I've been promoting the upcoming release of a 24 song CD spotlighting his Monument Records singles (music releases from Ray during the five year period of 1965-1970). This project is still set for a March 4th release and it's available for pre-order on Amazon. I've also shared a YouTube advertisement clip that Ace Records (the label releasing the Ray Stevens compilation) posted on-line.

By all means once you visit the YouTube PAGE containing the CD advertisement be sure to either leave a comment, share the video on social media, or at the very least "like" the video. I'm speaking to those that have chosen to watch the video, of course.

In an earlier blog post I cautioned people to be on guard because the person on the video opens up the CD and flips through the booklet/liner notes and so if you're a Ray Stevens fan that prefers to not know any details concerning the CD's presentation or packaging then the video wouldn't be something you're likely going to want to see...but if you're one that wants to see detailed visuals about the CD beforehand then go ahead and click the above link and leave a message, share, or "like" the clip.

Here is the Amazon LINK to The Monument Singles CD. Those recordings represent some the rarest and obscure in the career of Ray Stevens. Prior to Ray's involvement in recording for Monument Records, which begun late in 1965, he had already been signed to the label as a producer/A&R man, dating back to 1963! In a unique situation of the time Ray had a recording contract with Mercury Records (dating back to 1961) but in 1963 he signed a contract with Monument Records to produce records and generally be in charge of recording sessions, etc. etc. Under this kind of contract Ray couldn't record for Monument...he could only do session work for the label...and so from 1963 through the middle part of 1965 Mercury Records continued to release single recordings on Ray. Once the Mercury recording contract ended Ray was free to record for Monument, rather than just be a producer/arranger, and the results began to show up late in 1965 with the release of "Party People" and "A.B.C.".

A couple of years ago (2014) Jasmine Records issued a CD on Ray titled Ahab, Jeremiah, Sgt. Preston and More...The Early Ray Stevens. Aside from it containing the first 2 studio albums that Ray recorded for Mercury Records it also featured several of his singles for Prep Records and it's parent company, Capitol.

In fact the CD's first 15 recordings originated as vinyl singles released by Prep, Capitol, and NRC (1957-1960). Even though that CD is a must-have it leaves off more than a few recordings during his Mercury years. Not many people realize that Ray recorded a version of "When You Wish Upon a Star" (the same song heard on many Disney-related projects). Ray's recording can be found as the B-side of "Scratch My Back" (a 1961 novelty recording that didn't chart). The A-side can be found on Ray's debut LP for Mercury in 1962 (titled 1,837 Seconds of Humor) but the B-side has never been made available in any other music format.

A couple of his other Mercury singles have also remained in deep catalog obscurity: the B-side of "Butch Babarian", a love ballad titled "Don't Say Anything", has also remained on vinyl...never to see the light of day on cassette, CD, or Mp3.

Several other Mercury singles from Ray Stevens that haven't graduated to CD yet also include "Rockin' Teenage Mummies", "It Only Hurts When I Laugh", "Mr. Baker the Undertaker", "The Old English Surfer" (all from 1965); and the B-side recording "It's Party Time" (the A-side being 1963's "Speed Ball"). Until recently the Halloween-like recording from 1964, "Laughing Over My Grave", had remained a vinyl exclusive for more than four decades before it became available as an Mp3. The song had originally only been available as the B-side of "Bubble Gum the Bubble Dancer".

I'm aware that here have been other vinyl singles and B-sides by Ray Stevens released on other record labels that haven't been issued on CD yet but for this particular blog entry I've only been focusing on his Mercury and Monument recordings...but lets leap ahead from 1964 to 2016... 

Ray Stevens made a guest appearance on the Grand Ole Opry this past Saturday (February 27th). He appeared during the segment hosted by Mike Snider. During the introduction Mike mentioned Ray's current CD, Here We Go Again!, and the television program (Ray Stevens' Nashville).

Ray performed "Mississippi Squirrel Revival" and "Everything is Beautiful". In between those performances he told a Bubba joke. It wasn't your typical Ray Stevens appearance, though. In times past whenever Ray happened to be an Opry guest he'd usually have almost an entire half hour turned over to him but this time around his performance happened to be much shorter than that. The program's available in the Opry Archive page and you can listen to the Saturday night episode, in it's entirety, by clicking HERE. Be sure to choose the February 27, 2016 episode. If you're only wanting to hear Ray's portion of the program Mike Snider begins to introduce Ray right around the 57 minute, 15 second mark on the audio timeline. 

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