The reason I've written at length about those recordings over the last 8 years is because of their lack of familiarity...even among fans of Ray (!)...and given the fact that the songs have never been properly respected, appreciated, or presented in any prestigious kind of fashion (aside from those 3 CD's in 1995) I feel it's my unofficial duty to every so often keep those recordings from remaining obscure. So, after that bit of information to set up the focus of this particular blog entry, it's that time again to celebrate the late 1970s obscurities from the highly entertaining Ray Stevens...
|1995 3-CD Collection|
I remember being frustrated in the mid/late '90s as to the reason 2 songs from that time period continually appeared on compilation albums and yet he had several more hit songs for the label that routinely got overlooked and therefore continued to become unfamiliar to a latter-day fan base that had probably discovered Ray's music in the mid 1980s during his country comedy resurgence. Later on in the early 2000's I had began to wonder why the studio albums he recorded for Warner Brothers had never been fully restored onto CD, either. It's a mystery I'll probably never solve.
I've said this before and I'll say it again: I wish any record company that specializes in re-issuing vinyl albums onto CD would take a look at the studio albums Ray Stevens recorded in the late '70s and get those songs in circulation again and introduce this music to his diverse fan base. I have all of these vinyl albums but I'd purchase CD copies in the blink of an eye if they became officially available...
1976: Just for the Record (features 10 songs; chart hits include "You Are So Beautiful" and "Honky Tonk Waltz"; Ray's debut album for the label and it's deliberately more country music sounding; although it being primarily a West Coast pop oriented label and not too heavily entrenched in country music it nevertheless took on country music artists in the late '70s with various degrees of success; this album features one of my all-time favorite Ray Stevens recordings, "Gimme a Smile" and then there's the otherworldly "OM" and the sing-a-long toe tapping "Country Licks"; although "In the Mood" is a 1976 release it happened to be a single-only release in December and reached it's peak in February 1977 and therefore it isn't part of this album).
1977: Feel the Music (features 10 songs; chart hits include "Dixie Hummingbird" and "Get Crazy with Me"; not heavily publicized/promoted by the label; his image doesn't even appear on the front of the album cover as it's title called for the illustration of a stereo speaker to demonstrate the literal meaning of feeling the music. Ray performed a couple of the songs found on this album on an episode of television's Pop! Goes the Country and then much later in the early '90s performed "Feel the Music" during a televised award's ceremony; Yes, at that point in time, I thought it happened to be a new song! That's how little I knew of Ray's catalog of music back then as at the time I only had a little less than half a dozen cassette tapes of his).
1978: There Is Something On Your Mind (features 8 songs; 3 of those 8 are medleys which combine brief performances of 3 songs a piece; no chart hits; it's a lovingly put together tribute to early rock music and his beloved Rhythm and Blues influences; Ray records his versions of "One Mint Julep", "Money Honey", "Talk to Me", the comical title track; and in the form of medleys he performs abbreviated versions of songs like "Shake a Hand", "Do You Wanna Dance?", "Since I Met You Baby", and "Sixty Minute Man"; On both the front and back of the album there are liner notes provided by Ray Stevens himself and he offers his feelings and opinions regarding the choices in songs that he selected to cover for the project; It's possibly the most obscure and rarest of his vinyl albums and there's long been information suggesting that the album had never even been released in America and that it only seen commercial release in Canada).
1978: Be Your Own Best Friend (features 9 songs; the title track is the only chart hit from the album; the album's songs feature an overall soothing, mellow feel; the album's photo with a tanned Ray Stevens in white tuxedo and black shirt, seated at a white table, with the stark white background could have some thinking he's relaxing inside the padded cell of a sanitarium given his reputation for nutty, comedy songs but this happened to be his fifth non-comedy album in a row going back to the release of 1975's Misty album; the choice of colors could also be a reflection of the reflective nature of the inspirational title track in which Ray encourages people to believe in themselves rather than striving for acceptance from others; the album features another self-help ode in the form of "With a Smile"...featuring a very soothing delivery, almost a lullaby whisper, to convey the message in the song; In the same soothing vein is "You're Magic" and he transforms the previously recorded "You've Got the Music Inside" of 1973, featuring a more harder vocalization the first time around, into a much more softer presentation to compliment the overall feel of this particular album; the album has it's share of uptempo songs: "Comeback" and "Two Wrongs Don't Make a Right", in particular, and the glorious, grandiose opening track, "L'amour", is amazing; this album also features the ballad, "The Feeling's Not Right Again", which became the title of his next release).
1979: The Feeling's Not Right Again (this is largely a compilation album, not a traditional studio album, and it features 10 songs; it features one previously unreleased song and the success of that song happened to be the reason for this album's release in the first place; Ray's surprise hit in the early part of 1979, "I Need Your Help, Barry Manilow", inspired the concept of this compilation album; the single-only release featured cover art on it's picture sleeve parodying Barry Manilow cover art from 1974 and so, for the 1979 compilation album, a song Ray recorded the previous year, "The Feeling's Not Right Again", became the title track of this 1979 project; the song's coincidental similarity in title of an earlier song recorded by Manilow called "Tryin' to Get the Feelin' Again" pretty much meant that the cover art for Ray's 1979 album should parody the cover art of Manilow's 1975 album, Tryin' to Get The Feeling; the 1979 album became the final project released by Warner Brothers on Ray Stevens until 1995).
Here's that experimental collage I made reference to at the top of this blog entry...I spotlight the back of those 1995 CD's. I have no idea where in the world those photo's of Ray came from that were featured on the back of the CD's...the information credits the photographers but I've never thought to look them up on the internet to see if they have any of their photo's on-line...