December 31, 2009

Ray Stevens: We The People physical single

Happy New Year's Eve to any that have stopped by here throughout the day. The hours are ticking away in 2009 and soon we'll be into 2010. I'll more than likely watch the ball drop countdown when it gets close to midnight. I've never actually watched the New Year's Eve programs all the way through. I've always turned the program on near midnight. When I was younger I'd watch Casey Kasem bring in the New Year on Nick-at-Nite. He hosted a rerun countdown that began around noon on New Year's Eve day and it would air right up until 12:30am with the #1 rerun bringing in the New Year. This was back in the late '80s into the early '90s. Since then I just watch the Times Square ball drop during the final five minutes of a year...but getting to the subject at hand...

"We The People" has enabled Ray Stevens' channel on You Tube to rank at #25 among musicians for the month of December. Ray hasn't had a You Tube page up and running very long, though. The channel debuted in the summer of this year. I believe it was a concentrated effort on the part of Ray and his people to get his newer releases exposed on the various social network sites since he wasn't being able to get his music exposed through the normal process of radio and television. Country music on television has all but vanished except for music video channels and those kind of television stations only want to play music videos by specific artists...the same with radio stations...if you're over 55 or 60 you don't have a chance on a contemporary radio station.

When you visit the official store at the Ray Stevens web-site you will see that a physical copy of "We The People" is available for purchase. Now, of course, a lot of people nowadays like to take it easy and just click their mouse, purchase the song, and have it downloaded onto their computer for instant listening pleasure. This is fine, of course, but a physical copy of the single may become a sought after item at some point given how rare physical copies of CD singles are. The CD single will cost $1.99 which is a dollar more than the digital single. The thing that collector's and consumers should keep in mind is once copies become available on eBay and other on-line auction sites, expect sellers to have a much higher asking price than $1.99 so my advice would be for people who want a physical copy of the CD to buy it at his web-site store now instead of waiting until later when it maybe sell for three or four dollars more.

Ray Stevens: Misinterpreted Mr. Businessman

Some of you may wonder why I title this blog the way I did. I title it that way because I want to address some of the popular misconceptions about the Ray Stevens hit song, "Mr. Businessman". On the surface the song sounds very much like a full-on attack of the quote, 'American businessman'. Some listeners who've discovered the song within the last decade or within the last several years thanks to social network sites come away with this interpretation that Ray's anti-Capitalistic and is anti-Business, etc. etc. In reality, or I should say, in my opinion, Ray isn't attacking corporate greed or the wealthy. When I hear the song I hear an attack on see, greed isn't something that's automatically a character trait of anyone with wealth. The movies and TV shows...and even to paint a portrait of the greedy businessman and the "petty, hard-working average guy". What all of this means is it's a character study. We're back at that 'character' phrase again. This "Mr. Businessman" song is a social commentary on the character of some businessmen...and yes, there are sleazy wheeler dealers...but you have sleazy slime-balls in all walks of life, rich or poor. So, in my view, this song was never meant to be an indictment on the businessman in general...but instead I think it was intended for those who in fact do go too far and become immoral, amoral, or unethical...but not everyone's a scoundrel who's a businessman or businesswoman and I'm not in favor of doing away with capitalism just because of those who abuse it. The original recording is located on his 1968 album, Even Stevens. Before anyone can ask...yes, that album is available as a digital download. You can buy individual songs from the album or the entire album. Known among critics of that time period as Ray's serious album...the first LP of his to concentrate on non-comical recordings exclusively came along in 1968. What the public-at-large didn't know is that Ray had been releasing 45's on Monument Records since 1966...and quite a few of them were love ballads and straight-ahead pop songs of the day. Much like the critics of today, the critics back then would only single out or highlight a big hit when it came to doing a write-up of an artist. Ray's big hits prior to "Mr. Businessman" in 1968 were a couple of comical recordings in the early '60s. In fact, the first single from Even Stevens was "Unwind" which hit and peaked in the pop Top-60. It was actually the commercial success of "Mr. Businessman" that gave the album much more wider exposure. The single hit the pop Top-30 and another, "Isn't It Lonely Together", hit the Rhythm and Blues Top-40. The album featured a picture of Ray on the back cover sitting on a stool with a music stand next to him. The pose was to suggest that he was the consummate musician and singer...which in fact he was and still is. As I mentioned in other blog entries, Ray's talents at producing and arranging are hugely under-rated. His songwriting was finally acknowledged in 1980 when he was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. The 1968 album was produced by Fred Foster and nine of the ten songs were written or co-written by Ray. Doing the math, this makes the album 41 years old.

1. The Minority
2. Funny Man
3. For He's a Jolly Good Fellow
4. Say Cheese*
5. Mr. Businessman
6. Isn't It Lonely Together
7. Face The Music
8. The Earl of Stilton Square**
9. Unwind
10. The Great Escape

*-written by Ray Stevens and Bob Tubert
**-written by Tupper Saussy

December 30, 2009

Ray Stevens: Ahab the Arab revisited

"Ahab the Arab" goes back to 1962...which is something most if not all serious Ray Stevens fans know off the top of their heads. I've touched upon this song several times in my music journey blog entries and I felt like touching upon it once again. The song became synonymous in the career of Ray Stevens and at one time he was introduced on television shows as Ray 'Ahab the Arab' Stevens. Even today, if one is old enough, they'll refer to Ray as "that Ahab the Arab singer" because for some people that song will always remain linked to Ray no matter how many hit songs, both commercially popular or word-of-mouth popular, that he went on to have.

It was in that 1962 hit that Clyde the Camel came into existence. Since then, Clyde has become something of a mascot and in the 1990's through the present-day a Clyde logo has accompanied the home videos, CD's, and DVD's released on Ray's own record label, named Clyde Records, of course. It's been said that Ray got the idea to name the camel, Clyde, in reference to Clyde McPhatter of The Drifters fame even though McPhatter had been an R&B act prior to forming that group. A few of the songs that he was associated with ended up being covered by Ray Stevens through the years: "Sixty Minute Man", "Money Honey", and "Such a Night". Ray's version of "Sixty Minute Man" is part of a trio of songs that make up a 1978 recording called "The Banned in Boston Trilogy" on the R&B tribute album from Ray titled There Is Something On Your Mind. Ahab became the name of Ray's music publishing company for almost a decade...known as 'Ahab Music Company'. It switched over to the more officially sounding 'Ray Stevens Music' in the late 1970's.

In recent years, specifically in the early 1990's and in interviews this decade, Ray has often spoke up for "Ahab the Arab" after political correctness single-handedly hand-cuffed a previous generation of humor and it's humorists. In a more recent interview Ray is less defiant and states that he can see where some think there's political incorrectness within the song but doesn't support the idea that those who condemn the song should have control over those who see nothing offensive with the overall idea behind the song. The bottom line is most people who have problems with the song either don't understand it or simply object to the way the word Arab is pronounced. Some more affluent and high-brow choose to pronounce the word as "air-ub" instead of "a-rab". Yes, it sounds silly to dismiss a song simply on the way a singer chooses to pronounce words doesn't it? Even in high school, teachers would throw a fit if a student would say "a-rab" instead of "air-ub". When asked what the big deal was, a teacher would actually say "air-ub sounds better". But try singing along to lyrics such as "a-hab the air-ub" just doesn't come out quite right! This is why it stays forever "a-hab the a-rab".

This 1987 album is where I first heard the sounds of "Ahab the Arab", "Gitarzan", "Along Came Jones", "Everything Is Beautiful", "Turn Your Radio On", "The Streak", "Misty", and "Shriner's Convention". The other two songs, "It's Me Again, Margaret" and "Mississippi Squirrel Revival", I'd heard already on a previous album. Look at that album cover! It's quite great, isn't it! The spoofing of Bonnie and Clyde...and perhaps it's only coincidence that Clyde is the name of Ahab's camel, too. A 'hit' in gangster lingo and in some police jargon means a selected target...meaning that if a hit is placed on someone it means that someone's a target for murder. Of course everyone, I think, is well aware of the various meanings of the word 'hit'. That particular 1987 album has since been certified Platinum for over a million copies sold.

This 1992 release was in limited distribution but in reality 10 of the songs contained on the release are identical to those found on a couple of albums issued in 1989 spotlighting the material Ray recorded for Mercury Records in the early 1960's; plus there's a couple of songs included on here that he recorded for the label upon his one album 1983 return. There's 12 songs in all ranging from 1961, 1962, 1963, and 1983. This is the only compilation release, that I'm aware of, to include "Game Show Love" among the tracks. That recording took place in 1983 and is one of my all-time favorites. It uses a lot of game show titles and catch-phrases in the lyrics...and for game show fans it's right up your alley. I used to watch game shows...A LOT...back when I was a kid and a teenager. The USA Network used to air vintage game shows on their schedule throughout the afternoon and into early evening. I'd watch them during summer vacation. The label that issued the 1992 CD is an independent named Special Market affiliated at the time, I assume, with Mercury Records or Polygram.

I'll leave you all with Ray Stevens' current hit single, "We The People", all about ObamaCare. This 2009 music video was done 47 years after the debut of "Ahab the Arab"...I say this just to give some perspective on just how much longevity Ray has had in the music business.

December 29, 2009

Ray Stevens: Millennium Collection

This CD is in the category of what I like to call no-frills. It isn't meant to be a slam against the collection...instead it's meant to be a positive reference. It's no-frills because it's a 12 song collection which focuses pretty much on statistically popular recordings in Ray's career instead of presenting lesser-known songs that are just as good as the hits. The liner notes are a nice touch but Ray Stevens purists and devotee's will perhaps cringe at some of the errors when it comes to single release years or lyric quotes that aren't word-for-word. It's like the author of the liner notes generalized the lyrics instead of using exact phrases. The liner notes were written, it says, December it wasn't something dug up from decades ago and dusted off and re-printed. The CD was released in 2004 and so it's been around for awhile. I've reviewed the CD at a few on-line stores and so I'll by-pass giving it a complete review here. There are several songs that make reference to pop-culture trends and fads and fashions of the day. Three of the songs are non-comical and another tackles the suspicions the public at large has with televangelists. The collection is a must-have for any new fans of Ray Stevens and even long-time's a nicely put together compilation project...even though, of course, long-time fans should already have these songs on other collections.

What are those songs I've been writing about? Here's the 12 song track-list...

1. Jeremiah Peabody; 1961

2. Ahab the Arab; 1962

3. Harry the Hairy Ape; 1963

4. Freddie Feelgood; 1966

5. Mr. Businessman; 1968

6. Gitarzan; 1969

7. Everything Is Beautiful; 1970

8. Turn Your Radio On; 1971

9. The Streak; 1974

10. Misty; 1975

11. Shriner's Convention; 1980

12. Would Jesus Wear a Rolex?; 1987

As you can see, the song's are listed on the CD in chronological order so a listener can hear the progression in sound and vocals as Ray's career goes along. There are quite a few singles left off the collection, most notably "It's Me Again, Margaret" and the Top-20 country hit "Mississippi Squirrel Revival", both were singles during 1984-1985; his 1970 Top-5 hit in England titled "Bridget the Midget", and his 1979 Top-20 Easy-Listening hit, "I Need Your Help, Barry Manilow" is also left off. So there were plenty of popular recordings that were left off the collection but as I said in the beginning of this blog entry, this CD is a no-frills collection that sticks to the basics and pretty much focuses on what could be considered 12 of Ray's signature hits.

December 28, 2009

Ray Stevens: Little Boy Blue

Welcome to another blog entry in my Ray Stevens world. It's been awhile back and I don't recall if I posted about this or not but several months ago a couple of obscure songs from Ray Stevens appeared on You Tube. One of the songs, "Our Wedding Day", is a duet with a singer named Gini Hayes. There was another song, "Little Boy Blue", a solo release that I'm including in this blog. I have no idea what year this recording took place...only that it was during sessions for NRC, the label Ray recorded for during 1959 through 1960. It's published by Lowery Music and it's a rather young vocalization. To date there's only been something like 140 plays of the video since October and so that leads me to believe that it wasn't promoted much or it was a victim of bad timing. Sometimes a video upload will emerge but then a couple of hours later other uploads appear and push something else further down a page. I've seen uploads completely disappear from public lists even though they're still available for the public to watch. Due to the relatively low view total of this upload, I'm hoping to remedy that by including one of the songs in this blog...the quiet, piano laced "Little Boy Blue". The other song, the duet "Our Wedding Day" with Gini Hayes, is also available on You Tube.

December 27, 2009

Ray Stevens: 45 at 39

It was 39 years ago this month that a certain novelty single became a hit for Ray Stevens. It was a novelty single in the truest sense of the word. The utterly bizarre concept and the execution of the music and lyrics was comic genius in my opinion. This single, to the best of my knowledge, wasn't suppose to be a major hit because at the time it was released as a single-only and it didn't appear on any long-playing (LP) album. Add to this the fact that a month earlier in November of 1970 Ray's record label issued the much more serious recording, "Sunset Strip". While "Sunset Strip" became a Top-20 hit with Adult-Contemporary radio listeners, called Easy-Listening at the time, it's performance on the mostly sales-driven Hot 100 wasn't as successful. It peaked in the Top-85 of that chart but as I mentioned it did real well with the adult audiences of the time period. How odd, though, that his record label decided to release a new single barely a month after "Sunset Strip" hit. Ray has often said that in a lot of cases he'd come up with strange or bizarre idea's for comedy songs out of the blue that nobody else would touch and so he'd end up recording the songs himself. I happen to think that this is one of those cases when it comes to "Bridget The Midget", a novelty single that hit in December of 1970.

As I mentioned, the single was only available at the time on a 45 and the fact that it was released a month after "Sunset Strip" indicates to me that there wasn't suppose to be much attention focused on the comedy song. Remember, 1970 was the year of "Everything Is Beautiful" and other more serious recordings from Ray...and it was in late 1969 and throughout the first 11 months of 1970 that music buyers and TV watchers were becoming used to the dead-serious Ray Stevens who had a comical side. Previously, Ray had been known as the comical singer who had a serious side. So, just as the serious Ray had become accepted again out comes "Bridget The Midget" and he's labeled a comedy act once more. The novelty single reached it's peak in early 1971 and in America the song managed to climb into the Top-50 on the pop chart but over in England the single tickled their funny bones, I imagine, because it reached the Top-5 on their pop music chart. The single features the gimmick of sped-up vocals to achieve the singing and talking voice of Bridget, a go-go dancer. The song takes place inside a go-go where Ray plays all the characters. He portrays the singer/narrator, the stagehand, the hippie patron, Bridget and her back-up group.

The single remained on a 45 until some point in the early '70s when it was placed on an album. Since then it's become a fixture on just about all the compilation albums that record labels have issued on Ray through the years. The image below is my Tower of Stevens. Actually it's my cassette tape tower and I snapped a picture of the Ray Stevens section. It's a digital picture that I took this morning and if you click it you'll be able to see a bigger image. I didn't get the 2002 release, "Osama Yo' Mama" into the shot because it's elsewhere in my bedroom because as you can see there would be no room for it...all of the slots are taken up by other cassettes.

The first cassette tape I lucked out and found on-line. I still keep my eyes open for cassette copies of Ray's 1980's out put. So far Shriner's Convention on RCA, from 1980, is the only album from his 1980-1982 RCA tenure that I've been able to find in cassette format. The tape underneath Shriner's Convention is the 1983 Greatest Hits release that RCA issued which features just two RCA recordings...the rest of his RCA singles weren't spotlighted. For a more legitimate look at some of his RCA recordings one should seek out Collector's Series from 1985. In my Tower of Stevens it's the fifth tape shown. The collection only spotlights eight recordings, though. It was a budget-priced series that RCA issued on artists that had recorded for the label both past and current. For anyone who comes across this blog entry or any other one that I've written be aware that I don't offer links to free downloads. I don't offer links to anything free. The way I see it, 99 cents doesn't kill anyone. That's how much songs on-line cost. So, for those who want to hear the songs I write about in my blog entries, search for them at Amazon's MP3 store or at Itunes...or visit Ray's web-site store and purchase CD's or DVD's.

Ray Stevens: Musings from a loyal fan

While searching the internet earlier tonight I never realized it until now that in just about every instance where someone says they're a fan of Ray Stevens they almost always say that they've been a fan since they were a kid or a teenager. I've yet to come across someone on-line that says that they just discovered Ray Stevens and that they're in their 40s, or older. It made me wonder how many people out there learned of Ray Stevens in their youth. Chances are the biggest reason most younger people of today say they've been a fan of his ever since their childhood is due in large part to the comedy songs and the comedy music videos. They appealed to audiences of nearly any age that cared to take a listen or take a look when it came to a music video. In my case I became a fan of his in my childhood, too. The material from his 1984 comedy album, He Thinks He's Ray Stevens, was among my first exposures to his songs. I then heard the hit songs from his 1987 Greatest Hits album which contained quite a few 1960's and 1970's recordings...and then there was the 1986 Surely You Joust album along with the 1987 Crackin' Up album. Those four albums, I should say cassette tapes, were my grandfather's until I took possession of them in my teenage years. I grew up on those 1980's albums and his comedy side had always been my preferred choice. It still is my preferred choice but as I got older and was able to add to the modest collection, all of his non-comedy songs throughout his long career became just as familiar to me through repeated listens as the comedy material I grew up hearing. Today when I hear the 1980's comedy songs he recorded for MCA it always causes me to think back to the times when I'd listen to the recordings on car trips with the grandparent's.

I added vinyl albums to my Ray collection this decade. Thanks to my internet access around the start of the decade I was able to shop at places like eBay and Amazon and other on-line stores that often sold vinyl albums you just couldn't find anywhere...not even flea markets in my area carried anything by Ray Stevens on vinyl. So, thanks to the internet and some other sources, I was able to slowly build a collection of Ray Stevens on vinyl in both 45 and LP format. The album that I'm looking at is his 1988 album, I Never Made a Record I Didn't Like. I had actually found it on cassette in the early 1990's and my grandfather bought it for me. I had thought at the time I had stumbled upon a rare collection of material because none of the songs were the early '90s I had seen Ray various times on television shows and he never performed songs from that album. So, I figured it was a rare album. It turns out that the album was popular with his audience and with comedy music fans at the time but it lacked a popular single that could have helped keep the album more noteworthy. It's a great collection of songs, though, and several of the songs on the album became popular through word-of-mouth and exposure on social network sites.

Here the vinyl album is, sitting on my turntable. There are 10 songs on the collection...a couple of the songs are quintessential novelty in their strange and peculiar way. The songs in question are the album closer, "Old Hippie Class Reunion", the bluesy "Booger Man", and the darkly humorous "Mama's In The Sky With Elvis" which originally appeared a year earlier on Greatest Hits, Volume Two. Several songs on here take an absurd look at the ordinary and by doing so enhance the mundane into the entertaining. For example, "Language, Nudity, Violence, and Sex" is a country romp and stomp sing-a-long about satellite television and all of the perks that come with it. The humor comes from the inexperience a family has with more adult-oriented programming that you can't see with basic cable. A vague reference to Dr Ruth is heard within the song's lyrics. "I Don't Need None of That" is a song about the unexpected things that pop up in life.

Track List:

1. Surfin' USSR
2. The Booger Man
3. Mama's In the Sky With Elvis
4. Language, Nudity, Violence, and Sex
5. Bad
6. The Day I Tried To Teach Charlene MacKenzie How To Drive
7. Blood and Suede
8. Ethelene The Truckstop Queen
9. I Don't Need None of That
10. Old Hippie Class Reunion

December 26, 2009

Ray Stevens: Monkey Business

Throughout the career of Ray Stevens there has been a good supply of monkey business taking place. By this I mean recordings putting monkeys, apes, gorillas, and other members of the animal kingdom front and center...or in the background. Specifically I am referring to "Harry the Hairy Ape", "Gitarzan", "Monkey See, Monkey Do", and his cover of the theme song of the musical group "The Monkees". The animal closely associated with Ray is the camel...but it's the chicken that's made it's way onto three separate recordings and in the background of various comedy songs. Ray became associated with the camel in 1962 after the success of "Ahab the Arab" and several years later he named his music publishing company, Ahab Music Company, with a camel logo as it's trademark. Today that camel logo continues to appear on many Ray Stevens products and in fact, the camel's name, Clyde, serves as the name of the record label that Ray owns and operates.

The earliest known primate in Ray's career is an ape by the name of Harry. This creature of the zoo emerged in 1963 and upon escape made his way to a park where he liked to jump out from behind bushes and scare people. Harry loved this hobby as we're told in song but something strange happened when a near-sighted DJ came strolling through the park. This 1963 romp reached the Top-20 on the pop chart and the Top-20 on the R&B chart. Chart statistics show that it charted higher in the Top-20 with the R&B audience than with the pop audiences. A limited animation music video was put together decades later and appears on this Volume Two edition of Cartoon Carnvial. Harry, as you can see, is the ape with the guitar in the lower left hand corner of the DVD cover. While the 1963 recording is the original he re-recorded the song in 1969 and it's even better than the original in my opinion. A lot of this has to do with more advanced recording techniques and the boosting with energy atmosphere created behind the song's performance. This 1969 re-recording often appears on the various compilation releases put out on Ray. The re-recording appeared originally on the 1969 Gitarzan album...and this brings me to "Gitarzan", obviously.

Although this single hit the Top-10 on the pop chart and sold over a million copies, one of the characters heard in the song is a that is described to have fondness for drinking but can carry a tune with the rest of them. In this recording the monkey has no name but it's one of the hooks of the song. The monkey, Jane, and Tarzan form a jungle band in this spoof of the Tarzan legend. I hope none of the more dedicated fans of Ray's gets offended by reading things you might already know. I usually always approach my blog entries under the assumption that someone is reading about Ray Stevens for the first time and so I end up repeating quite a lot of facts and information for that very reason. In other words, I don't want it to come across that this blog can only be enjoyed by those who are more dedicated than others...but yet I also want this blog to be thorough, too, and come across much better than the blogs that pop up every so often by people who don't really care about Ray Stevens' music but are simply using a song or two of his to attract readers. I've actually seen web-sites that copy word for word the "biography" of Ray Stevens and pass it on as original. That sort of thing can be called monkey business...but literally speaking we have a 1970 song called "Monkey See, Monkey Do". The song is a comment on the way people tend to want to emulate and copy other people, specifically in terms of material possessions. We don't hear monkey impressions in this recording, though. It's not a comical song unless you're someone who thinks the title makes it a comedy song regardless of the serious lyrics and message.

Now, when it comes to "The Monkees" we hear a couple of Austrians belting out the theme song and making nonsensical commentary to one another back and fourth. The lyrics, I think, deliberately blend all of the cultures in that part of the world together because there's references to the Alps, German culture and words such as Lederhosen and wienerschnitzel, and when you listen to the song you get the image of a duo on stage whose patter dissolves into full-blown anger. It helps your mind visually if you're familiar with the Bavarian dance routine. You've all seen the comedy skits that spoof the dancers and without fail a fight breaks out almost routinely by the end of the performance. Such a scenario was played out on National Lampoon's European Vacation as well as numerous episodes of Benny Hill's comedy programs. So, when you listen to "The Monkees" picture in your mind that kind of won't be hard to do with the authentic sounding music heard in the background. The song was recorded in 1984 and it appeared originally on his He Thinks He's Ray Stevens album.

December 25, 2009

Ray Stevens: Seriously Speaking...

Merry Christmas to all the Ray Stevens fans out there and to Ray as well. I've written about this holiday CD before and I assumed that this holiday season Ray would promote some of the songs from it but a certain song by the name of "We The People" came along and it's been the talk of the Ray Stevens world for the month of December...and the video on You Tube continues to get plays as it's in the mid 400,000 range in total views as of this writing. Something tells me, though, that Ray doesn't mind the attention being focused on "We The People" instead of the holiday CD. There's always Christmas 2010 to push this holiday CD's availability. There hasn't been much publicity or promotion around's perhaps by design since the songs are all traditional and serious...not a drop of comedy is to be heard. Ray's arrangements on these songs are more along the classic R&B and jazz sounds. I'm not saying it's authentic don't anyone reading this who happens to be a jazz fan think they need to straighten me out on authentic and progressive music styles, etc etc. If something sounds jazzy or R&B/bluesy to me, then that's how I'll describe it.

I wanted to write some more about this 1993 CD entitled Classic Ray Stevens. This CD appears a lot on eBay by those wanting to make some quick cash on Ray Stevens items. It also appears in search engines and other places where music is sold. The thing that often annoys me, though, is when people, usually on eBay, state that the CD is a greatest hits collection because of it's title. There was even one web-page that once remarked that this album "contains 10 Ray Stevens classics...". It was like a big write-up for a compilation album of some kind and to those in the know the actual CD is a song of then all-new recordings. The only reason it was titled Classic Ray Stevens was due to the eye-catching cover photo showing a classical music scene with a bust of Ray a top the piano. I usually just roll my eyes when I see people who sell this CD on-line proclaim that it's a collection of hit songs. Ray got a lot of mileage from this CD because after it's release he didn't issue another one until 1997, for MCA Records. Classic Ray Stevens was recorded for Curb Records and afterward he and the label parted ways...after 1994's hiatus, Ray emerged in 1995 with his home video movie, Get Serious. The songs that are featured on the 1993 CD are as follows...

1. If 10 Percent Is Good Enough For Jesus
2. The Higher Education of Ole Blue
3. The Bricklayer's Song
4. Little League
5. Meanwhile
6. Super Cop
7. If You and Yo' Folks Like Me and My Folks
8. The All-American Two Week Summer Family Vacation
9. The Ballad of Jake McCluskey
10. The Motel Song

Now, although some mistakenly refer to Classic Ray Stevens as a collection of hit songs, here's a real example of a hit song collection...

I decided to post an image of this particular 1987 album today because with football season heading into it's final weeks and the play-off's around the corner pretty soon it'll be Spring Training and baseball players will be warming up and playing exhibition games in anticipation of Opening Day 2010. I happen to like this album's picture...the baseball theme. I have both the cassette and vinyl fact, the cassette copy that I have was one of the very first Ray Stevens tapes that I had in my once modest collection in the early 1990's. I've never found out who the other three people are...I've often felt that the umpire was either Norro Wilson or Buddy Kalb...the catcher I have no idea. The bat-boy I have no clue, either. They're probably all friends or relatives of Ray or were people who happened to be from a talent agency of some kind. The allure of this particular compilation album at the time was the still popular/controversial single of Ray's called "Would Jesus Wear a Rolex?".

Imagine if there was a You Tube or the internet as we know it back in 1987 when that song was brand new...and although the song is on You Tube now the commentary in hindsight pales by comparison to the fiery emotions of a lot of people when it came to televangelists in 1987...particularly when religious scandals weren't something commonplace like they are now. Isn't that a sad truth? The audacity, according to some, of Ray to put out a song putting ridicule on so-called chosen ones from the Lord was as controversial as "We The People" is with some today. So, if anything, this shows those who've never even heard of Ray Stevens until this month that "We The People" isn't some song born to give this 'Ray Stevens guy' his fifteen minutes of fame...he's been there, done that, and is getting the chance to become discovered by a whole new audience yet again.

There are 10 songs on that compilation of the songs was brand-new and featured a touch of dark humor. "Mama's In The Sky With Elvis" is a wonderful salute to Elvis but at the same time there's irony and a touch of melancholy given that the song is about a death afterall. If you hadn't heard the song...track it down on-line and purchase it. It's a catchy song and one of my all-time favorites that he recorded. Here are the 10 songs from that album...

1. Would Jesus Wear a Rolex?; 1987
2. Can He Love You Half as Much as I?; 1986
3. The Blue Cyclone; 1985**
4. I Need Your Help, Barry Manilow; 1979
5. Mama's In The Sky With Elvis; 1987
6. Mr. Businessman; 1966
7. The Haircut Song; 1985
8. Jeremiah Peabody's Green and Purple Pills; 1962
9. Freddy Feelgood; 1969
10. In The Mood; 1976

**- "The Blue Cyclone" on this collection is the radio edit. The album version was broken into two parts and was never officially released as a single due to it's incredible running time of over 8 minutes total. Of course, 8 minutes is way too long for a commercial single...and so an edited version was furnished to radio and jukebox operators. The song spoofed wrestlers, for those who hadn't heard the song yet. It's a narrative where Ray recites a hilarious story about getting into trouble with a wrestler named Blue Cyclone. Anyway, the version of the song that appears on various compilation albums is the radio edit. Some prefer the full two-part version because each and every detail is necessary and vital. I don't have a preference...but yet I do find myself appreciating the two-part full length recording the most but the edited version is still highly entertaining.

December 24, 2009

Ray Stevens: We The People digital single

The commercial single for "We The People" by Ray Stevens is available for purchase at two of the biggest on-line stores. Amazon and the Itunes store each have the digital single available for purchase at the usual low price of 99 cents. I was surprised when I discovered that the single had been available for purchase since December 17...a week ago today. If I had known of it's availability I would have been hyping it up. The music video has long since become a smash hit on You Tube with 371,889 total plays so far. I for one feel that if you love what the song says and like the music video, support the song even more by purchasing the official single.

When you visit either on-line music store and search the MP3 department for the single, once you click the title you will discover that there is an image of Ray in front of the American flag with the song's title written in big letters. Although it's being sold as a digital single there's a picture sleeve on display. This causes me to draw the conclusion that a physical copy of a CD will soon be available, as well. I didn't want to post the image here because I'd rather people go to Amazon or Itunes and look the song up for themselves. I've already written a short and to the point review of "We The People" at Amazon, by the way.

December 23, 2009

Ray Stevens: There In Lays the Humor

I didn't highlight this particular album in the Album Discography blog that I posted the other day because it isn't one of the compilation releases that have become popular through the years. The album, however, is one of those marathon albums as I call them. Albums that have a lot of songs on it...and this one was released in 1979 on the Imperial House label. It features 20's a double album meaning that two vinyl albums were contained inside the album's sleeve. For those who want to know what the terminology is for albums, seek on-line reference guides. A dust sleeve is the paper that actually covers the vinyl LP, a picture sleeve is what people call the image that appears on the front side of an album, and the jacket is what people call the entire cardboard container which holds the vinyl album...but most consumers don't get that technical. To the consumers, the image that appears on the album isn't called a picture's simply called the picture of the artist. The cardboard isn't called a jacket by many consumers, they refer to the jacket by calling it the album itself. Sound confusing? This is why if anyone wants to know the terminology for LP's and all things vinyl should look up web-sites that specialize in it.

The 1979 album you see above was put together as a result of Ray's hit single that year, "I Need Your Help, Barry Manilow". How would I know? Well, through the process of elimination. It's the only song on the collection that at the time was current. The rest of the material dates from 1975 and prior. The single created quite a stir that year that even Warner Brothers, the label Ray was on at the time, issued a full-length album of previously released songs just to publicize the single. Here are the songs that appear on the 1979 album above...

Ahab The Arab; 1969
Indian Love Call; 1975
Harry The Hairy Ape; 1969
Unwind; 1968
Gitarzan; 1969
Mr. Businessman; 1968
Along Came Jones; 1969
Freddie Feelgood; 1966
Nashville; 1973
Turn Your Radio On; 1971
Everything Is Beautiful; 1970
America, Communicate With Me; 1970
Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down; 1969
The Moonlight Special; 1974
The Streak; 1974
Misty; 1975
Have A Little Talk With Myself; 1969
Isn't It Lonely Together; 1968
Bridget The Midget; 1970
I Need Your Help, Barry Manilow; 1979

One of the ironies of "I Need Your Help, Barry Manilow" is that it was a big hit with the Easy-Listening audiences, almost making the Top-10, peaking in the Top-15 on the various weekly music charts in publication in 1979. The reason I call it an irony that it became a hit with the Easy-Listening audience is because that's the format where Barry Manilow was king, pretty much, and you wouldn't think a song satirizing the sounds and moods conveyed in most Manilow hit songs would go over well with that audience but surprisingly it did.

Another song that uses satire and mockery for comedic effect is "Shriner's Convention", a Top-10 country hit from 1980. The song was written by Ray after an experience he had trying to get some sleep while a Shriner convention was going on. The actual events being depicted in the song didn't really happen...the story was made up for comedy effect...but the fact that the Shriner's were having a lot of fun and being loud helped Ray create the story that originated on this song. The story through the years took on a life of it's own as catch-phrases drifted into the public conversation. The most quoted phrase from the song is the demand from Bubba to the telephone operator to connect him to Coy's room. The absurdity of two members of a local Shrine bickering over the phone about all sorts of things is actually where the humor is at it's biggest. There In Lays the Humor...a one-sided phone conversation where we hear of the antics of Coy and his exploits at the motel with the waitresses and a motorcycle, etc etc.

I don't personally own this CD but I've did some research on it and listened to some sound clips and my recommendation is for anyone who comes across the CD to purchase it. The sound is clear and crisp and the picture of Ray on the cover, I think, comes from 1970. If it isn't 1970 then it's somewhere in the early 1970's...but my guess is 1970. There are 30 songs altogether...two CD's...15 on each disc. It's one of those rare CD releases that are available in limited quantity and once they vanish it's almost impossible to track it down. Although the material is readily available on countless other CD's, sometimes the allure of the picture or the over-all presentation of the material is attractive enough to make a purchase. Since I do not own this particular CD I can't say whether or not there are liner notes. This sort of a collection, you'd think, would have liner notes in it. The track list is heavily peppered with 1970 songs...obviously. There are songs on the CD from 1968, 1969, 1971, 1973, 1974, and 1975. It's much like a career-defining collection minus anything after 1975. When it comes to 1970, most of the album tracks from his two albums that year are spotlighted on this CD. One of the things that have become an annoyance of mine through the years are the lack of songs from his 1969 album called Have a Little Talk With Myself. The album tracks that weren't released as singles often get over-looked when record companies issue retrospective collections on Ray Stevens like this. Could it be that Ray recorded quite a few cover songs on that album? Maybe the rights to the songs are tied up and aren't available for re-issue? Whatever the case, judging from the sound clips and the look of the CD, this release on Pazzazz Records appears to be a good buy for those wanting vintage recordings of Ray Stevens.

Images such as this one have fallen into the public domain in the last 30 plus years. This is an advertisement from 1976 for the Ray Stevens album, Just For The Record. This was Ray's debut album for Warner Brothers and it contains two country hits: "You Are So Beautiful" and "Honky Tonk Waltz". I've been a fan of Ray's since the mid 1980's and I've yet to find out the significance of this album's winter image. Ray looks pretty well covered, complete with heavy scarf and a hat...and I've often wondered if it is just a photo shoot with no real extra meaning or if there's something about the winter clothes and the cold atmosphere of the picture that's suppose to carry a meaning of some kind. Perhaps it's to convey the cold, alone feelings of some of the lyrics contained within? The picture of smiling Ray from the advertisement doesn't really convey a cold atmosphere,'s the picture that appears on the album cover which gives off this lonesome and "searching for answers" expression across his face. The songs on the 1976 album aren't all sad and contrast several of the songs on the album are mid-tempo and in some cases sing-a-long's...but the ballads that are on this album carry a touch of heartbreak and sadness, particularly the first three songs and tracks eight and explanation to the cold picture on the album...

1. Cornball
2. Gimme A Smile
3. Once In Awhile
4. One and Only You
5. You Are So Beautiful
6. Can't Stop Dancin'
7. OM
8. One Man Band
9. Country Licks
10. Honky Tonk Waltz

In case those reading are new fans of Ray Stevens, most of the songs from this album can be purchased as MP3 downloads at most of the on-line music stores. Amazon and Itunes have a digital music section at their web-site's where you can search Ray Stevens songs for purchase.

December 22, 2009

Ray Stevens: The Complete Video Discography

When I come across web-pages on-line and I see people wonder if this was the only video collection that Ray Stevens released, if there's an option for replies, I often make replies about Ray's secondary career as a video artist. Yes, Comedy Video Classics is by far his most popular and biggest seller, and it's accomplishments in the field of home video and direct marketing can't be over-looked...but it wasn't the only video project he released. The image here is of the DVD re-issue...the re-issue came along in 2002 during the 10th anniversary of it's groundbreaking release on VHS in 1992. The title was re-released again in 2007 with a few bonus additions and behind-the-scenes can be distinguished from the original release by the new title of Comedy Video Classics: Collector's Edition. There is no menu direction on the DVD re-release...a consumer will have to watch all eight of the music videos before he or she has a chance of getting to the bonus material.


The release of the original Comedy Video Classics set and or broke all sorts of records for home video that it naturally made sense to delve further into the home video area and see how far one was capable of going. The television commercials were cleverly put together with split-second editing and not too much overkill in terms of selling the product. The commercials for the first home video aired pretty much on most television networks and cable...exposing it's existence to anyone watching television in the spring and summer months of 1992. It achieved Triple-Platinum status through mail orders, sales indicative of 300,000 or more copies sold. When the home video was released to retail stores soon afterward, throughout much of 1993 and into early 1994 this home video was a top seller...reaching Multi-Platinum through retail purchases at stores. The sales were so high that Billboard named it the Home Video of the Year for all of 1993.

All the while the 1992 home video was selling briskly in stores in 1993, a new home video was being sold on television, Ray Stevens Live. This home video was a popular sales hit as well...repeating the same multi-platinum sales success of it's predecessor. It was released to shopping stores in 1994 and achieved Platinum status. It remained charted for nearly a year and was often in the Top-10 along side Comedy Video Classics. After a year's absence from television marketing, he returned in 1995 with what critics say was his ultimate goal: a direct-to-video movie. Get Serious is an hour and fifteen minute movie featuring ten music videos interwoven into the story. It co-stars Connie Freeman and a cast of dozens. Long-time songwriting partner, C.W. "Buddy" Kalb, is another co-star in the movie along with Tim Hubbard, playing the part of Coy. After the release and Double-Platinum success of Get Serious throughout 1995 and half of 1996, music video projects became routine and much of the next decade would feature animated music video projects. So here's a list of home video/DVD projects released by Ray through the years...all projects released on his own label, Clyde Records, unless otherwise stated...

1991: Ray Stevens Video Hits- this home video was available only at his theater in Branson, Missouri but it's word-of-mouth popularity caused Ray and company to lift some of the music videos from the collection and combine them with new music videos and release it on television as...

1992: Comedy Video Classics- #1 Home Video; Home Video of the Year; Multi-Platinum certification; released for the first time on DVD in 2002 and a collector's edition was released on DVD in 2007.

1992: Amazing Rolling Revue- This was released to fan-club members and those who shopped at his theater in Missouri; it's a pilot for a proposed television show; The gimmick of the show was that the venue was mobile...meaning that it was being hauled around on a tour bus; Race car driver, Darrell Waltrip, played the part of the over-zealous driver who hauled the show around from coast to coast.

1993: Ray Stevens Live- #1 Home Video; Multi-Platinum certification.

1993: More Ray Stevens Live- This was not released and sold on television; It was available to fan club members and shoppers at his theater in Branson.

1995: Get Serious- Multi-Platinum certification

1995: Ray Stevens Made a Movie...Get Serious!!- This was a fan-club only release and sold at his concert appearances; it's a behind-the-scenes look at making the Get Serious movie.

1996: Latest and Greatest- This best-of collection features music videos from 1992 and 1995.

2000: Funniest Video Characters- This collection of music videos is in the style of Comedy Video Classics; It features the long-awaited music video for his 1985 comedy hit single, "The Blue Cyclone". The wrestler, played by Buddy Kalb, appears on the home video's cover with Ray.

2001: Greatest Video Hits- Ray appears in person introducing each of the music videos and giving background information on each of the songs; This collection was re-issued late in 2003 and it included the then brand-new music video, "Thank You", which was lacking in the original 2001 release.

2003: Cartoon Video Collection- In this experimental collection of music videos, live-action Ray uses the magic of the blue screen effects and appears along side animated characters and backgrounds. The animation is limited and almost Hee-Haw style. The focal point was the music video for "Osama Yo' Mama".

2004: Complete Comedy Video Collection- This mammoth collection features 21 music videos on two DVD's. The first DVD is a re-release of 2001's Greatest Video Hits. The music video for "Thank You" is available as a bonus. DVD #2 is a re-issue of 2000's Funniest Video Characters and there's two bonus music videos: "Hello Mama" and "Osama Yo' Mama".

2006: Gourmet Restaurant- Curb Records released this DVD; it features five animated music videos of Ray Stevens recordings.

2006: Teenage Mutant Kung Fu Chickens- Curb Records released this DVD; it features five animated music videos of Ray Stevens recordings.

2009: Cartoon Carnival, Volume One**- This DVD features 10 animated music videos.

2009: Cartoon Carnival, Volume Two**- This DVD featured 10 animated music videos.

**- The Cartoon Carnival series was a re-packaging of the 2006 DVD releases from Curb Records with all-new music videos added in. In addition to all ten animated music videos from 2006, the Carnival series also featured music videos that were all-new and a few from earlier in the decade. The all-new animated music videos were: "The Moonlight Special", "Hugo the Human Cannonball", "Smoky Mountain Rattlesnake Retreat", and "The Camping Trip". The 10 from 2006 plus the 4 brand-new releases from 2009 plus 6 chosen at random equals the 20 music videos found on both Carnival Collection releases.

Ray Stevens: The Complete Albums Discography

As a response to my previous blog entry where I wrote out the commercial singles that have been released in Ray's career, I'm now going to list the official release albums. Now, much like the list of singles, the album list is quite lengthy. However, I'm only going to cite official release albums or special releases of note from independent labels. Ray Stevens official web-site is still the perfect place to find out all you want about the albums that have been released on him...his site lists all the albums by every kind of record label imaginable. In my previous blog entry, for those who don't know how to read a singles discography, the chart information that I supplied is meant for the A-side of each single. The chart information isn't meant to be applied to both the A and B side, unless a B-side also reached the charts. As I did with the singles, I'll also indicate which albums made the charts and if any have been certified Gold or Platinum. Albums that charted below #40 on either the pop or country list will be noted as a Pop or Country Album hit.

1962: 1,837 Seconds of Humor- Mercury Records Pop Album hit

1963: This Is Ray Stevens- Mercury Records

1968: Even Stevens- Monument Records

1969: Gitarzan- Monument Records Pop Album hit

1969: Have a Little Talk With Myself- Monument Records

1970: Everything Is Beautiful- Barnaby Records Top-40 Pop Album

1970: Unreal- Barnaby Records Pop Album hit

1970: The Best of Ray Stevens- Mercury Records

1972: Turn Your Radio On- Barnaby Records Pop Album hit; Top-20 Country Album

1973: Losin' Streak- Barnaby Records

1973: Nashville- Barnaby Records Top-40 Country Album

1974: Boogity-Boogity- Barnaby Records Pop Album hit; Top-10 Country Album; this is the album that features "The Streak".

1974: Greatest Hits- Barnaby Records Top-20 Country Album

1975: Misty- Barnaby Records Pop Album hit; Top-5 Country Album

1976: The Very Best of Ray Stevens- Barnaby Records Pop Album hit; Top-20 Country album

1976: Just For The Record- Warner Brothers Top-40 Country album

1977: Feel The Music- Warner Brothers Country Album hit

1978: There Is Something On Your Mind- Warner Brothers

1978: Be Your Own Best Friend- Warner Brothers

1979: The Feeling's Not Right Again- Warner Brothers album's picture and letter design is a spoof of a popular Barry Manilow album; this is a compilation album that featured "I Need Your Help, Barry Manilow" as it's only new song.

1980: Shriner's Convention- RCA Records Top-5 Country album; Pop Album hit

1981: One More Last Chance- RCA Records

1982: Don't Laugh Now- RCA Records

1983: Greatest Hits- RCA Records Country Album hit

1983: Me- Mercury Records

1984: He Thinks He's Ray Stevens- MCA Records Top-5 Country Album; Pop Album hit; Platinum album

1985: I Have Returned- MCA Records; #1 Country Album; Gold album

1985: Collector's Series- RCA Records

1986: Surely You Joust- MCA Records Top-15 Country Album

1987: Greatest Hits- MCA Records; Country Album hit; Platinum album

1987: Crackin' Up- MCA Records; Top-30 Country album

1987: Greatest Hits, Volume Two- MCA Records; Country Album hit; Gold album

1987: Get The Best of Ray Stevens- MCA Records Double album advertised on television; It combines Greatest Hits and Greatest Hits, Volume Two with the addition of a few songs.

1987: Collector's Series- RCA Records; RCA re-issued the 1985 compilation but omitted the 1981 hit single, "One More Last Chance" and replaced it with the novelty song, "Put It In Your Ear" from 1980.

1988: I Never Made a Record I Didn't Like- MCA Records; Country Album hit

1989: Beside Myself- MCA Records Country Album hit

1990: All-Time Greatest Comic Hits- Curb Records Gold album

1990: Lend Me Your Ears- Curb Records

1991: #1 With a Bullet- Curb Records Country Album hit

1991: Greatest Hits- 1991 Curb Records This compilation features an alternate take on "There's a Star Spangled Banner"; the first take appears on his 1989 Beside Myself album.

1992: A Brighter Day- 1992 Clyde Records This title was only available to fan-club members; it's a mammoth collection of religious and inspirational recordings lifted mostly from 1969-1972 but also includes a couple of songs from the mid '70s.

1993: Classic Ray Stevens- 1993 Curb Records In spite of the title, all ten songs on this album were brand-new; the title is a reference to the "classical" scene being depicted on the album's cover; some people, even today, think this is a greatest hits collection. .

1995: Cornball- Warner Brothers

1995: The Serious Side of Ray Stevens- Warner Brothers

1995: Do You Wanna Dance?- Warner Brothers These 3 titles on Warner Brothers were obscure during their original release and for a long time were out of print until the digital download age in music became popular; the three titles shine the light on his under-rated Warner Brothers material.

1996: Great Gospel Songs- Curb Records This is a compilation album of religious and inspirational songs recorded by Ray during the 1969-1972 time frame.

1997: Hum It- MCA Records

1997: Christmas Through a Different Window- MCA Records Country Album hit

1998: The Country Hits Collection- Varese Sarabande This collection features random songs recorded by Ray Stevens during the 1969-1975 time frame with heavier emphasis on album tracks and love ballads.

2001: All-Time Greatest Hits- Varese Sarabande This collection of songs is notable for the inclusion of Ray's 1960 recording of "Sgt. Preston of the Yukon", 1974's "Everybody Needs a Rainbow", and impressive liner notes.

2002: Osama Yo' Mama- Curb Records Top-30 Country Album; 7 of the songs on this collection had been released 2 years earlier on a CD titled 'Ear Candy'; The 3 songs that had been added to complete this 10 song project are: "Osama Yo' Mama", "Freudian Slip", and "United we Stand"; The 3 songs from 'Ear Candy' that didn't appear on this CD: "King of Christmas", "The Dog Song", and "No Lawyers in Heaven".

2004: Thank You- Clyde Records

2005: Turn Your Radio On / Misty- Varese Sarabande Two albums on One CD

2005: Nashville / Boogity Boogity- Varese Sarabande Two albums on One CD

2005: Everything Is Beautiful / Unreal- Varese Sarabande Two albums on One CD

2006: Box Set- Curb Records Country Album hit; Top-5 Comedy Album chart; Originally issued on his own Clyde Records label in 2005 and Curb distributed it the next year, 2006; These are all mostly re-recordings of hit songs from Ray...some of the songs had been recorded in the early '90s and most of the rest re-recorded at various moments throughout the late '90s and into the 2000's; The recordings for Curb Records in the early '90s that are contained on here, along with songs from his 1997 return to MCA, are the originals. There are too many songs to dissect.

2007: New Orleans Moon- Clyde Records

2008: Hurricane- Clyde Records This collection features mostly original recordings but it does feature several re-recordings of songs that originated in the mid 1980's; Tracks 1-6 and track 11 are originals while tracks 7-10 and track 12 are re-recordings of earlier songs.

2008: Ray Stevens Sings Sinatra...Say What???- Clyde Records

2008: The 50th Anniversary Collection- Curb Records Top-10 Comedy Album chart; this is a low-budget release focusing on select songs from the Box Set project from 2005.

2009: One For The Road- Clyde Records There are 15 songs on this collection with 6 being re-recordings: "Jack Daniels, You Lied To Me Again", "Oh, Lonesome Me", "Mary Lou Nights", "Mississippi Squirrel Revival", "The Streak", and "It's Me Again, Margaret"; The rest of the tracks are original recordings.

2009: Only The Best of Ray Stevens- Varese Sarabande This project contains the three 2005 Two Album on One CD releases plus a greatest hits CD. Four CD's in all accompany the project.

2009: Ray Stevens Christmas- Clyde Records

December 20, 2009

Ray Stevens: The Complete Singles Discography

Is everyone ready? I've come across some sites on-line that have listed the singles that Ray Stevens has released through the years. While they're few and far between over the course of 4 or 5 years I always seem to come across discographies that just don't look too professionally put together. It's as if it was a rush job of some kind, on the part of the web master. While it's not a walk in the park putting one of them together, some sense of professionalism should still be in order. I'll get this out of the way first and foremost...I won't be supplying catalog numbers. I'll list the singles and provide label information. The quantity of singles began to dry up by the late 1980's as consumers were buying full length albums instead of the "hit" recording. I'll add any information about the singles such as gold or platinum certification and whether or not a single reached the Hot 100 pop chart or the country charts. So, it'll be a dizzying list of songs because as most people know, pop and country artists at one time released more singles than albums. Another warning...the list is as complete as I know...I'm sure there are obscure releases that even nut-cases like myself aren't aware of. If a single reached the Top-40 I'll make a note of it. If a single charted below the Top-40 I'll simply refer to it as a Hot 100 entry, or a "chart hit" when we reach the country music era. As we get into the late 1980's and early 1990's the 45 RPM single had become less and less a feature in Ray's career. After 1990 his main focus shifted to music video's and his theater in Branson, Missouri {1991-1993}. Ray would continue to sing and promote songs from the albums he would release throughout the 1990's but they were never released commercially as 45 RPM's. After the demise of the 45 RPM as a commercially popular item, radio stations began to play songs from albums/CD's based upon what the record label promoted as a "single" even though there wasn't an actual commercial single in stores for consumers to purchase. This era began at some point in the early 1990's, perhaps 1992-1993. By the end of the decade a "45" in the mind's of most radio listeners meant a handgun instead of an item containing music. After 1989 I start to list songs that Ray promoted from his albums as "singles"...

1. Silver Bracelet / Rang Tang Ding Dong; 1957 Prep Records

2. Five More Steps / Tingle; 1957 Prep Records

3. Chickie Chickie Wah Wah / Crying Goodbye; 1958 Capitol Records

4. Cat Pants / Love Goes On Forever; 1958 Capitol Records

5. The School / The Clown; 1958 Capitol Records

6. High School Yearbook / Truly True; 1959 NRC Records

7. What Would I Do Without You / My Heart Cries For You; 1959 NRC Records

8. Sgt. Preston of the Yukon / Who Do You Love; 1960 NRC Records

9. Happy Blue Year / White Christmas; 1960 NRC Records {instrumentals}

10. Jeremiah Peabody / Teen Years; 1961 Mercury Records Top-40 pop

11. Scratch My Back / When You Wish Upon a Star; 1961 Mercury Records

12. Ahab the Arab / It's Been So Long; 1962 Mercury Records Top-5 pop; Top-10 R&B; Gold single

13. Furthermore / Saturday Night at the Movies; 1962 Mercury Records Hot 100 entry

14. Santa Claus Is Watching You / Loved and Lost; 1963 Mercury Records Hot 100 entry

15. Funny Man / Just One of Life's Little Tragedies; 1963 Mercury Records Hot 100 entry

16. Harry the Hairy Ape / Little Stone Statue; 1963 Mercury Records Top-20 pop; Top-20 R&B

17. Speed Ball / It's Party Time; 1963 Mercury Records Hot 100 entry; Top-30 R&B

18. Butch Babarian / Don't Say Anything; 1963 Mercury Records

19. Bubble Gum The Bubble Dancer / Laughing Over My Grave; 1964 Mercury Records

20. Rockin' Teenage Mummies / It Only Hurts When I Love; 1965 Mercury Records

21. Mr. Baker The Undertaker / Old English Surfer; 1965 Mercury Records

22. A-B-C / Party People; 1966 Monument Records

23. Devil May Care / Make a Few Memories; 1966 Monument Records

24. Freddy Feelgood / There's One In Every Crowd; 1966 Monument Records Hot 100 entry

25. Mary, My Secretary / Answer Me, My Love; 1967 Monument Records

26. Unwind / For He's A Jolly Good Fellow; 1968 Monument Records Hot 100 entry

27. Mr. Businessman / Face The Music; 1968 Monument Records Top-30 pop

28. The Great Escape / Isn't It Lonely Together; 1968 Monument Records B-side charted R&B; A-side Bubbled Under the Hot 100

29. Gitarzan / Bagpipes, That's My Bag; 1969 Monument Records Top-10 pop; Gold single

30. Along Came Jones / Yakety Yak; 1969 Monument Records Top-30 pop

31. Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down / The Minority; 1969 Monument Records Hot 100 entry; Country chart hit

32. Have a Little Talk With Myself / Little Woman; 1969 Monument Records Country chart hit

33. I'll Be Your Baby Tonight / The Fool On the Hill; 1970 Monument Records

34. Everything Is Beautiful / A Brighter Day; 1970 Barnaby Records #1 pop for 2 weeks; #1 Easy-Listening; Top-40 country; Gold single; Grammy winner

35. America, Communicate With Me / Monkey See, Monkey Do; 1970 Barnaby Records Hot 100 entry; Top-20 Easy-Listening

36. Sunset Strip / Islands; 1970 Barnaby Hot 100 entry; Top-20 Easy-Listening

37. Bridget The Midget / Night People; 1970 Barnaby Records Hot 100 entry; Top-5 United Kingdom

38. A Mama and a Papa / Melt; 1971 Barnaby Records Hot 100 entry; Top-10 Easy-Listening

39. All My Trials / Have a Little Talk With Myself; 1971 Barnaby Records Hot 100 entry; Top-10 Easy-Listening

40. Turn Your Radio On / Loving You On Paper; 1971 Barnaby Records Hot 100 entry; Top-30 Easy-Listening; Top-20 Country

41. Love Lifted Me / Glory Special; 1972 Barnaby Records Top-10 Bangkok

42. Losin' Streak / Inside; 1973 Barnaby Records

43. Nashville / Golden Age; 1973 Barnaby Records Top-40 Country

44. Love Me Longer / Float; 1973 Barnaby Records

45. The Streak / You've Got the Music Inside; 1974 Barnaby Records #1 pop for 3 weeks; #1 United Kingdom; Top-5 Country; Gold single

46. The Moonlight Special / Just So Proud To Be Here; 1974 Barnaby Records Hot 100 entry

47. Everybody Needs a Rainbow / Inside; 1974 Barnaby Records Top-20 Easy-Listening; Top-40 Country

48. Misty / Sunshine; 1975 Barnaby Records Top-20 pop; Top-10 Easy-Listening; Top-5 Country; Grammy winner

49. Indian Love Call / Piece of Paradise; 1975 Barnaby Records Hot 100 entry; Top-40 Country

50. Young Love / Deep Purple; 1975 Barnaby Records Hot 100 entry; Country chart hit

51. Lady of Spain / Mockingbird Hill; 1976 Barnaby Records

52. You Are So Beautiful / One Man Band; 1976 Warner Brothers Top-20 Country

53. Honky Tonk Waltz / OM; 1976 Warner Brothers Top-30 Country

54. In The Mood / Classical Cluck; 1976 Warner Brothers Top-40 pop; Top-40 Easy-Listening; Top-40 United Kingdom; Top-40 Country; released as the Hen House Five Plus Too

55. Get Crazy With Me / Dixie Hummingbird; 1977 Warner Brothers Country chart hit

56. Dixie Hummingbird / Feel the Music; 1977 Warner Brothers Country chart hit

57. Be Your Own Best Friend / With a Smile; 1978 Warner Brothers Top-40 Country

58. I Need Your Help, Barry Manilow / Daydream Romance; 1979 Warner Brothers Hot 100 entry; Country chart hit; Top-20 Easy-Listening

59. The Feeling's Not Right Again / Get Crazy With Me; 1979 Warner Brothers

60. Shriner's Convention / You're Never Goin' To Tampa With Me; 1980 RCA Records Top-10 Country

61. Night Games / Let's Do It Right This Time; 1980 RCA Records Top-20 Country

62. One More Last Chance / I Believe You Love Me; 1981 RCA Records Top-40 Country

63. Written Down In My Heart / Country Boy, Country Club Girl; 1982 RCA Records Top-40 Country

64. Where The Sun Don't Shine / Why Don't We Go Somewhere and Make Love; 1982 RCA Records Country chart hit

65. Piece of Paradise Called Tennessee / Mary Lou Nights; 1983 Mercury Records

66. Game Show Love / My Dad; 1983 Mercury Records

67. Love Will Beat Your Brains Out / Game Show Love; 1983 Mercury Records

68. My Dad / Me; 1984 Mercury Records Country chart hit

69. I'm Kissin' You Goodbye / Joggin'; 1984 MCA Records

70. Mississippi Squirrel Revival / Ned Nostril; 1984 MCA Records Top-20 Country; Top-20 Sales

71. It's Me Again, Margaret / Joggin'; 1985 MCA Records Country chart hit

72. The Haircut Song / Punk Country Love; 1985 MCA Records Country chart hit

73. Santa Claus Is Watching You / Armchair Quarterback; 1985 MCA Records

74. The Ballad of the Blue Cyclone / Vacation Bible School; 1986 MCA Records Country chart hit; Top-30 Sales

75. Southern Air / The Camping Trip; 1986 MCA Records Country chart hit; Top-30 Sales; A-side a collaboration with Jerry Clower and Minnie Pearl

76. The People's Court / Dudley Dorite of the Highway Patrol; 1986 MCA Records Country chart hit

77. Can He Love You Half as Much as I / Dudley Dorite; 1987 MCA Records

78. Would Jesus Wear a Rolex / Cool Down, Willard; 1987 MCA Records Country chart hit; Top-20 Sales

79. Three Legged Man / Doctor, Doctor; 1987 MCA Records

80. Sex Symbols / The Ballad of Cactus Pete and Lefty; 1987 MCA Records

81. Surfin' USSR / Language, Nudity, Violence, and Sex; 1988 MCA Records

82. Charlene MacKenzie / I Don't Need None of That; 1988 MCA Records

83. I Saw Elvis In a UFO / I Used To Be Crazy; 1989 MCA Records

84. Sittin' Up With The Dead; 1990 Curb Records

85. Help Me Make It Through The Night / Help Me Make It Through The Night; 1991 Curb Records

Note: At this time Ray Stevens opens up his theater in Branson, Missouri. Ray would perform at his theater during the 1991, 1992, and 1993 seasons. He would do 2 shows a day, 6 days a week.

86. Workin' For The Japanese; 1991 Curb Records Country chart hit

87. You Gotta Have a Hat; 1991 Curb Records

88. Power Tools; 1992 Curb Records Country chart hit

Note: It was around this point in time that Ray Stevens released Comedy Video Classics and sold it through television commercials and print advertisements. The home video would eventually sell more than 2,000,000 copies throughout 1992 and into 1993. Once it was released to retail stores in 1993 it sold more than half a million copies. The success led Ray into becoming a home video megastar throughout the 1990's as Comedy Video Classics and it's two follow-up releases, Ray Stevens Live! and Get Serious!, each had lengthy lifespans on the weekly home video sales chart. In fact, Get Serious! was on the weekly sales chart from January to July 1997 reaching a peak inside the Top-5.

89. If Ten Percent Is Good Enough For Jesus; 1993 Curb Records

90. The Motel Song; 1993 Curb Records

91. Super Cop; 1993 Curb Records

92. Virgil and the Moonshot; 1997 MCA Records

93. Too Drunk To Fish; 1997 MCA Records

94. The Little Drummer Boy...Next Door; 1997 MCA Records

95. Bad Little Boy; 1997 MCA Records

96. Osama Yo' Mama / United We Stand; 2002 Curb Records Country chart hit; Top-5 Sales; Gold single

97. Hello Mama; 2002 Curb Records

98. Thank You; 2004 Clyde Records

99. The New Battle of New Orleans; 2006 Curb Records

100. Ruby Falls; 2007 Clyde Records MP3 single

101. Hurricane; 2008 Clyde Records

102. Concrete Sailor; 2009 Clyde Records

103. Cooter Brown; 2009 Clyde Records

104. If Ten Percent Is Good Enough For Jesus; 2009 Clyde Records MP3 single

105. We The People; 2009 Clyde Records

Whew! As I mentioned at the top of this blog's a dizzying list of singles! I probably missed some obscure singles that I'm not aware of but for the most part the above singles list is about as thorough as it can be. Do not let the lapses in single releases fool you, though, during the decade of the '90s. Throughout the 1990's and this decade Ray has focused a lot of his energy into music video's and DVD's as well as occasional tour dates. His latest, "We The People", is an on-line hit. To date it's received over 20,000 plays on You Tube. It is his biggest hit since "Osama Yo' Mama" in 2002.

December 19, 2009

Ray Stevens: Blue Christmas novelty, Part 2!

Several blogs ago I was promoting the comical version of "Blue Christmas" that Ray Stevens recorded. At the time, the recording was available as an EP at Ray's web-site store. I still suggest those who just want a sampling of his holiday songs to purchase the EP. If you're like me and already have three of the four songs that are available on the EP single and are just wanting a copy of "Blue Christmas", as of now look no further than Itunes. If you are a member of that web-site/music store all you'll need to do is search for the EP and then it gives you the option to buy the EP or buy each individual song for 99 cents. The EP consists of four songs: "White Christmas", "Deck The Halls With Teardrops", "Nightmare Before Christmas", and this comical version of "Blue Christmas". As you can probably guess, I went ahead and purchased the comical version of "Blue Christmas" and I listened to it a few hours ago. It's certainly one of his more bizarre ranks right up there with his lisping version of the romantic ballad "Hey There" from 1980 and the chicken-clucking instrumentals released as the Hen House Five Plus Too.

If you're familiar with the Seymour Swine and the Squealers name then you'll no doubt be very familiar with the original stuttering version of "Blue Christmas". Some credit the song to the Warner Brothers character, Porky Pig, by mistake. Prior to purchase I had assumed that Ray would have done a carbon copy of the original but this is not the case. The music sounds lush and traditionally Christmas and then we hear Ray begin to stutter the lyrics. If you're not familiar at all with Seymour Swine, you won't have anything to compare and contrast Ray's rendition to. Ray doesn't speed up his voice, he uses his natural voice, in case anyone's wondering if he used any studio tricks or vocal gimmicks.

Shedding the spotlight on a compilation CD that isn't widely known is "A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to Church". This CD features religious-oriented songs that Ray has recorded through the years. The picture of Ray on the CD's cover comes straight from his 1992 music video of 1984's "Mississippi Squirrel Revival". You can find the collection in his on-line music store at his official web-site.

The Mississippi Squirrel Revival

Sittin' Up With The Dead

Smokey Mountain Rattlesnake Retreat

Sunday Morning

The Dooright Family

Right Reverend Roadhog McGraw; 2009 from "One for
the Road

Turn Your Radio On

Everything Is Beautiful

Mama Sang Bass

When The Saints Go Marching In; 2007 from "New Orleans Moon"

St James Infirmary/Just A Closer Walk With Thee; 2007 from "New Orleans Moon"

If Ten Percent Is Good Enough For Jesus

In closing I'll leave you with an image of the promo copy of "Can He Love You Half as Much as I?", a comical love ballad from 1986...