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.

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