January 9, 2010

Ray Stevens: 45 at 25

One of the songs that is associated with Ray Stevens, as far as the 1980's are concerned, is this funny tale of two friends and their experiences with a wrestler named Blue Cyclone. Recorded in 1985 as a two-part ballad it originally appeared on I Have Returned, a comedy album from Ray that would eventually hit #1 and be certified Gold. "The Ballad of the Blue Cyclone" as it's officially titled in hindsight hasn't appeared on very many compilations. As far as I know it's only appeared on three collections: 1985's I Have Returned; 1987's Greatest Hits, Volume Two; and 1993's Collection release. The song also appeared on Get The Best of Ray Stevens which was in reality a combination of the two Greatest Hits albums that MCA had issued on Ray in 1987. Yet, other than that, the song hasn't really been widely distributed but it remains one of his popular recordings and a good reason for this is the sheer silliness of the situation at hand, Ray's delightful narration of it, and it's connection with the everyday man who may see himself as able to take on anyone if provoked...regardless of the reality of the situation.

As mentioned, the song was originally broken into two parts but because that kind of thing wasn't very likely to see airplay, MCA released a radio edit of the song which was also released commercially as a 45. This blue 45 wasn't a commercial copy single, though. It was a promo copy sent to radio stations and I don't even think the promo copy was for playing anyway...a lot of times color vinyl was released for their potential value amongst the public/collector's in the future. The thing about this 45 was that it was a promo copy...available only to radio stations. The blue vinyl obviously was a visual tie-in with the song's title. The promo copy singles of course have worked their way into the public domain and often show up on-line at auction sites.

The radio edit of the song is what appears on the 1987 and 1993 compilation releases as well as the 45 RPM. The full two-part version of the song appears only on I Have Returned.

In 2000, 15 years after the song had been recorded, Ray made a music video of it...broken into two parts. The music video appeared on a collection called Funniest Video Characters. The song was the focal point of the home video and Ray appeared in character along side the Blue Cyclone on the picture sleeve. The Cyclone was played by Ray's long-time songwriting and business partner, C.W. Kalb, Jr. The original 2000 release is not in print anymore. When the fan club was up and running they issued a catalog that year and naturally the picture that appears on the catalog's cover is the same one you see here of Ray in a headlock. I purchased the home video the year it was released and loved seeing all of the music videos. I didn't see any TV commercials promoting the collection as I had the previous home videos during the 1990's and so I assume that it wasn't advertised on television nationally. A CD was issued featuring the audio versions of the music videos. That collection was called Funniest Characters and it included two additional songs that weren't part of the music video companion series: "Erik the Awful" and "Power Tools".

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