January 4, 2010

Ray Stevens: Standing on the Curb 20 years ago...

Expanding on one of my previous blog entries from quite awhile ago I think it's time to re-visit 1990, the first year that Ray Stevens was associated with Curb Records. The ironic thing about the situation is that anyone who was paying close attention could tell that Ray was envisioning music video production as a secondary career due to the fact that in 1990 two music videos surfaced centered around a couple of songs found on Lend Me Your Ears, his first studio album for Curb. Obviously, for some who weren't paying much attention they could easily say that this was simply a reflection of the changing trend in country music where the music video became one of the biggest promotional tools for an artist. I happen to feel that as early as 1990, Ray was picturing music video's as a creative outlet more than a promotional item. The two songs that were made into music videos were "Sittin' Up With the Dead" and his comical parody of Kristofferson's "Help Me Make It Through the Night". Ray's version of the Kris Kristofferson penned classic features a manic Spike Jones-like production sandwiched between a somber opening and closing portion. If I remember correctly, Ray debuted the music video on an episode of Nashville Now on The Nashville Network. However, this may not have been it's debut but it's where I saw the music video for the first time. Ralph Emery in fact played the part of the southern-speaking sheriff as an in-studio tie in with the video even though in the actual music video Ray plays that role. On the album cover Ray is dressed as Marc Antony.

A second collection of material was issued by Curb Records in 1990. It was the popular His All-Time Greatest Comic Hits which was certified Gold several years after it's release. The half a million sales that the album achieved was even more amazing considering how much of a limited release it had. I found my cassette copy in a big city shopping mall...none of the smaller stores carried it. This collection of comical songs is where I first heard "Bridget the Midget the Queen of the Blues" for the first time. The picture is an obvious reference to "It's Me Again, Margaret". The song is a perfect example of one that didn't have a lot of airplay support and yet it became extremely popular and is considered a classic among his large stash of recordings. A large reason for this collection being a Gold seller is the inclusion of what music historians consider Ray's signature comical songs. In a lot of ways the collection is a much more scaled back version of his 1987 double-album, Get The Best of Ray Stevens.

Stepping off the Curb for a minute or two we find a collection that I wrote about recently, Collector's Series. I don't have the vinyl version but I do have the 1985 and 1987 cassette copies and I have the 1992 CD release. Consumers should note that the 1987 re-release has a slightly different song selection. In the 1987 re-release, the song "Put It In Your Ear" from 1980 is featured in place of "One More Last Chance". The 1987 re-release is what became available on CD in 1992 and most people who have this collection don't have the 1985 original release with the love ballad, "One More Last Chance" among the selections.

Looking at the album design, I suspect the vinyl version had much more statistical information on the back of the album!? This album cover is not too creative because it only shows a picture of Ray and you have a lot of that blank space beneath and to the sides of the picture. The picture should have been enlarged as it is on the cassette copy from 1985. Doing the math this collection on RCA was issued 25 years ago and in case one doesn't want to go digging through my blog archives I'll re-post the song selections for the 1985 release of the album:

1. Shriner's Convention; 1980
2. You're Never Goin' To Tampa With Me; 1980
3. Country Boy, Country Club Girl; 1982
4. Where The Sun Don't Shine; 1982
5. The Dooright Family; 1980
6. Let's Do It Right This Time; 1981
7. One More Last Chance; 1981
8. Why Don't We Go Somewhere and Make Love; 1982

Speaking of 25 years ago this 1985 album hit #1 and achieved Gold status but this feat wasn't accomplished until early in 1986 given the fact that the album was released late in 1985. I'll more than likely do a Silver Anniversary blog about this album later this year. The album is called I Have Returned as you can see and it features the original recordings of "Hugo the Human Cannonball", "The Pirate Song", "The Haircut Song", and "The Ballad of the Blue Cyclone". Ray has re-recorded many of his songs for their use either in animated music videos or live-action music videos. Most if not all of the re-recordings have been issued on compilation CD's at some point throughout the past decade. Some find this practice annoying because the recordings aren't the originals but others don't seem to mind.

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