August 14, 2017

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville...Restless Heart...

Hello one and all...I'm a bit late in posting my commentary/review of the latest episode of the Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville series. As all of you should know by now I often give away spoilers...and so for those that are able to see his weekly PBS series and haven't seen this episode yet I'll warn you in advance that I often give out a lot of information pertaining to each episode so spoilers are plentiful. Here we go...

Ray opened the show performing a rendition of "That Old Black Magic". This is a song that goes back a great many decades in the world of pop music. It's the creation of Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen and it's been recorded by many recording artists over the all fields of music...but it was first recorded by Glenn Miller in 1942. Some of the other artists that have recorded it include Bing Crosby, Sammy Davis, Jr., Ella Fitzgerald, and Frank Sinatra to name just several. Ray's performance seemed to blend the Ella Fitzgerald and Sammy Davis, Jr. it was completely uptempo. The trio of female back-up singers that appear in every episode are referred to as The Shameless Hussies (a reference to an adjective directed at Ethel in Ray's 1974 song, "The Streak") and the band is The A Team. In this episode the back-up singers appeared next to Ray during the performance of "That Old Black Magic"...this was necessary because as the song was winding down each one took turns spinning into Ray's side (as Ray was in the process of singing the lines 'down and down I go, 'round and 'round I go').

After this lively show opener the limited animation music video of "Smoky Mountain Rattlesnake Retreat" hit the television screen. The music video originated in the mid 2000s with a slower, ballad-like vocal delivery but it was originally recorded by Ray in 1986 and in a much more uptempo vocal delivery. After the music video ends Ray is shown seated at the piano as he introduces Restless Heart...calling out their names. He tells the audience that Verlon Thompson was once a member of the group (the lead singer, in fact) and mentions that Verlon had married Suzi (Ray's daughter). Verlon happened to be with the band before any single releases emerged (prior to their being signed to a record label).

In an interesting note it is during this segment a story about Glen Campbell was brought up by a member of Restless Heart. They told the story of how early in their career Glen suggested that they record something by Jimmy Webb...and ultimately they got around to recording "Wichita Lineman" for an upcoming project 30 some years after the suggestion. Glen passed away recently (August 8th at the age of 81). The story/reference to Glen is entirely coincidental given this episode was taped in the latter half of 2016...but once you all see the episode you'll perhaps get a little bit of a chill on the back of your neck hearing the story in the aftermath of Glen's recent passing. A music video from the group is mentioned, too. You can find it on YouTube.

Ray and Restless Heart then team up for a rendition of "Everything is Beautiful". First, Ray begins to sing the first line but lead singer, Larry Stewart, interrupts the performance by saying they all have a surprise for him. The surprise? They sing the opening verse originally performed on the single release by the group of children. After the performance it's time for the Video Jukebox segment. This time around we're treated to the live-action music video of "Freddie Feelgood". In this video we see Ray appear on-screen 6 times in the same screen shot. He appears as himself but also appears as Freddie, Yum-Yum, Ace, Tyrone, and Percy. After the video concluded Ray handed it over to Restless Heart and they performed one of their classic hits, "The Bluest Eyes in Texas".

Ray follows their performance with his take on "Spiders and Snakes", the classic originally recorded by Jim Stafford. Ray recorded it in 2012 for The Encyclopedia of Recorded Comedy Music. The original from Jim Stafford hit in 1974...the same year as Ray's "The Streak"...although "Spiders and Snakes" had it's chart debut much earlier (in November 1973). Jim has never appeared on Ray's television series, as of this writing, and based upon OETA's episode list he isn't scheduled to appear on the episodes that'll be airing on PBS stations in the fall and winter months of this year...but the two of them have some similar statistics.

Jim opened a theater in Branson, Missouri in 1990...Ray opened his theater in 1991...Jim was born January 16, 1944...Ray was born January 24, 1939...they each are known for comedic performances but each one also has superior talent at serious performances and are both multi-instrumentalists.

I don't have a copy of it, I wish I did, but in the early 1980s Archie Campbell did a live performance of his chicken fight story, "Rojo", on one of the award shows. In the background stood both Ray Stevens and Jim Stafford side by side providing chicken clucks. Ray closes this episode of CabaRay Nashville by telling a story about a kid being accused of cheating on a test in grade school...and then the music strikes up the familiar melody of "Everything is Beautiful" and Ray picks someone to dance with from the studio audience.

Next week's episode guest stars John Michael Montgomery but only a brief description accompanies the episode mentions that John will be performing "Sold" and Ray is to to perform "I'm Kissing You Goodbye"...and that's all there is to the description of next week's episode on the local PBS station that carries the show. Unless breaking news emerges concerning a CD or music video release I'll be posting my next blog entry this weekend...yes, you guessed it, it'll be my recap of the next episode of Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville!!

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