February 18, 2010

Ray Stevens: Nostalgia Valley, Part 6

Walking through Nostalgia Valley today I decided to take a look at this CD once again. The collection was released back in 1996 as a cassette and a CD. The cassette copy featured 8 songs while the CD featured 11. The label in charge of it's release was Polygram Records, a division of Mercury. This meant, for those who are serious Ray Stevens fans, that the bulk of the material would be lifted from the early 1960's. This is one of the few collections released during this time period to feature original recordings and not the more widely distributed collections of re-recordings that are still floating around. 9 of the 11 songs featured on here were recorded for Mercury Records. There are 2 songs that come from the RCA label**.

1. Ahab the Arab; 1962
2. Butch Babarian; 1964
3. Funny Man; 1963
4. Harry the Hairy Ape; 1963
5. Jeremiah Peabody; 1961
6. My Dad; 1983
7. Santa Claus Is Watching You; 1962
8. Speed Ball; 1963
9. One More Last Chance; 1981**
10. Furthermore; 1962
11. Shriner's Convention; 1980**

"Funny Man" is one of my favorite Ray Stevens songs...when it comes to the non-comical songs from this era. It was issued as a single in 1963 and it peaked below the Top-60 on the Hot 100. In spite of it's lack of commercial success, it's still a great recording. As I've touched upon time and again throughout the many entries of this blog, Ray has often remarked that he rarely made recordings that he thought would sell hundreds of thousands or millions of copies. His goal, according to vintage newspaper clippings and interviews I've uncovered, was to make the best recordings he could. This is why there was a lot of production in his later recordings in the '60s and beyond...he wanted his songs to sound as great to the ear as possible. Fortunately for us a lot of his singles became chart hits and they had just enough appeal, commercially, to allow him to continue to make the kinds of records he wanted to make. His Mercury recordings of the early '60s, several of which appear on this CD, serve as an introduction to the manic, zany recordings that were the epitome of early '60s novelty music. As most of you know, Ray's non-comical side went hand in hand with the funny songs, and "Funny Man" is one of those non-comical songs that tells the story of a man known for being a comic who hides his depression and sadness in an effort to please those who expect him to be a funny man.

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