September 7, 2009

Ray Stevens: Christmas Is Here!!

The Ray Stevens Christmas CD arrived this past Saturday. I had hoped that it would have arrived on Friday, after having got an e-mail on Wednesday letting me know it had been shipped, but it arrived on Saturday. The CD is released on his own label, Clyde Records. I don't know if Curb Records will distribute it later in the year or not. Usually a few of his projects that he does on his own label are later re-released on a major label several months later. In a previous blog entry or two I wrote about the CD's availability and that I had sent off for it. The CD is all serious recordings and a sequel to his 1997 Christmas Through a Different Window comical collection. This latest CD doesn't give a musician credit list so I don't know who's playing on the CD. The saxophone is featured quite a bit, though.

Publishing wise, a lot of the songs are affiliated with ASCAP which to sharp eyed fans of Ray will notice is a departure of sorts. A lot of the songs that Ray sings are usually affiliated with BMI. Also, many of the songs found on countless Ray Stevens albums are published by Ray's own company: Ray Stevens Music, which is affiliated with BMI.

So, glancing through the songs that are on the holiday CD, you'll be able to see that it's weighted down with ASCAP material. Now, of course, this sort of topic about publishing companies and all that isn't really something the casual or even die-hard fan of any singer would notice or let alone feel it worthy of discussion...but there are some out there who do take notice when they examine a CD's credits and look at the technical information.

Getting back to the CD's material...

There is one original song here while the rest of the songs are your traditional choices for a Christmas project. "Deck The Halls with Teardrops" is the lone original song...from the pen of Ray Stevens. It's in the category of sad Christmas songs. There's a harmonica solo that is heard throughout the song at various times wailing out the "Deck The Halls" melody...but it isn't a parody of "Deck the Halls", it merely borrows the melody during the harmonica solo's.

His version of "White Christmas" features a unique arrangement. In it Ray blends the Bing Crosby style with the Drifters style and when I first began to listen I assumed that it would continue the crooner style throughout but it doesn't.

"Let It Snow!", the CD's opening song, features a jazzy arrangement. In fact, one of the things you'll notice are the arrangements are almost all non-holiday sounding. The lyrics are Christmas oriented, of course, but the arrangements are jazzy/big-band. "Jingle Bells" features a mixture of humorous Ray playing the part of the man riding the horse, calling out to the horse with the sounds of a whip in the background, "giddy up, horse! yee haw!!", but it's not a comical song.

One of the departures of the non-traditional arrangements is "Silent Night" conveys the religious sound throughout. "Blue Christmas" is done crooner style. "I'll Be Home For Christmas" is transformed into a talking blues style with some "let me tell ya..." lyrics added in. "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" features an echo chamber and it's a perfect song to close out the collection.

Ray, if you ask him, usually will tell you that he grew up listening to R&B and blues in addition to country and that's why a lot of the songs he's recorded always had a hint of classic R&B in them...especially the material of late.

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