August 30, 2010

Let's Discuss Ray Stevens, Part Four...

Is it Monday morning already?? The weekend always seems to fly by for some reason or another. The latest numbers for "God Save Arizona" is 152,279.

The Emmy awards were held last night...I would've given several belated Emmy awards to Ray Stevens. I would've created a category titled Best Documentary and awarded it to The Life and Times of Ray Stevens. This particular special aired on The Nashville Network in the late 1990's. I want to say 1998 but it could have easily been 1999...perhaps 1997? The second award I would've created is Best Summer Variety Show and of course I would've given it to The Ray Stevens Show, also known as Andy Williams Presents Ray Stevens???. The summer show aired in 1970 and unfortunately there have not been any VHS or DVD releases of this program. I have to believe that tapes of the shows still exist...some of the clips from the show aired on that Life and Times special. Someday I hope episodes of Ray's show make it to DVD...they'd really be a fun thing to see particularly for those like myself born later in the 1970's and have no recollection of seeing the show when it was on the air. I've only seen clips and still photographs...but from what I've seen it definitely deserves an Emmy.

The third award I'd give Ray would be the Best Guest Appearance for his appearance in a 1977 episode of Dolly Parton's television program. Afterward there would be several more awards handed out recognizing his guest appearances on Pop! Goes the Country as well as Hee-Haw throughout the late '70s and into the 1980's. His daytime appearance in 1981 on the soap opera, Texas, would certainly garner Best Guest Appearance on a Soap Opera by a Singer. His guest starring role in The Fall Guy would also be awarded Best Guest Role from a Singer playing a Singer. His direct-to-video movie, Get Serious, would've been awarded a special Emmy award in the category of Best of Both Worlds the Oscar and Emmy come Together. In the category of Best Current Events Appearance I'd give Ray the Emmy for his appearances on Bill O'Reilly's program as well as the appearance on Megyn Kelly's program. Each program airs on the Fox News Channel.

Unfortunately, though, I'm not the one who decides who gets awards and who doesn't. Ray has won plenty of awards through the years, though. Some out there assume he hasn't won any awards because you won't find his name in the winners lists of the CMA, ACM, or AMA organizations. Ray's awards are tied mostly to the fan-voted Music City News awards of the 1980's and 1990's. Ray was named the Music City News Comedian of the Year nine consecutive times: 1986-1994. This awards show was also a place where he performed quite a few times and he co-hosted the Songwriter's version of the awards several times as well. Music City News also put on a Top Hits of the Year program which would salute the biggest hits of the previous year. There were several times where Ray co-hosted this program with other country music acts. Those who watched The Nashville Network during the 1980's certainly got a big dose of Ray Stevens due to his frequent appearances on the variety of programs that the network aired. Ray was also the winner of two Grammy awards: 1970's "Everything Is Beautiful" and 1975's "Misty". I hadn't even began to mention the Gold and Platinum albums, singles, and home videos he's racked for those who assume Ray hadn't gotten his share of awards should take comfort in the fact that he's been awarded a lot of times down through the years.

August 29, 2010

Ray Stevens Fans Unite...

No, it's not what you're thinking. I don't officially have a Ray Stevens Appreciation Society up and running...but I do consider myself and a handful of others as members of this imaginary society. It's more or less an honorary kind of society in that there's no actual society of members who meet in person but instead it's a collective cyber-space group of like-minded Ray Stevens fans who until today had no idea I had selected them to my fictitious group. The imaginary group contains several real people who've demonstrated that they're just as crazy for Ray Stevens music as I am. Those people I'm referring to should already know who they are without my having to reveal who's who. A hint: Anyone who receives e-mails from me discussing Ray Stevens music and history. You're all members of this imaginary group of mine. I'm sure this made their day and they're excited beyond belief while jumping up and down.

Hmmm, I wonder how Ray was able to get that candy cane in one ear and out the other?

Seriously, though, I came across an article on Ray Stevens written several weeks ago...August 13th to be exact. The article was moderately didn't have any overly negative commentary but it wasn't a gushy article either. Obviously as Ray Stevens fans we prefer the gushy, positive articles and interviews featuring Ray Stevens. The article examined Ray's success with You Tube music videos...making reference to "Come to the USA" and "God Save Arizona". Focusing on those two songs, in particular, made sense because the article was written for an Arizona-based news organization. The actual article including a video of "God Save Arizona" can be found here. There are a lot of user comments at the bottom of the article and predictably there's a lot of bickering back and fourth but that's come to be expected given the intensity of the song's message. Personally I don't see why anyone would have a bad thing to say about the song but there are plenty who have problems with it.

147,374 hits have accumulated so far for "God Save Arizona". I feel that it still needs that big push to really send the video into the stratosphere and approach half a million status and higher. That big push will no doubt be a high profile interview or some sort of other high profile publicity on Fox News or elsewhere. It's only been available for almost three weeks so it's still relatively new...but if you're like I am you usually want the most latest offering from Ray Stevens to quickly gain a lot of notice...not saying that this video hasn't gained some notice...but it has some ways to go before it reaches that 500,000 and higher club.

August 27, 2010

Ray Stevens and Arizona...It's no Laughing Matter...

I happen to believe that a lot of things in the music business are cyclical. There is abundant proof currently on display when it comes to Ray Stevens. Ray burst onto the scene in the late '50s performing love ballads rooted in R&B and early rock music. However, he didn't get any mainstream attention until he joined Mercury Records in 1961...following a 1960 single on the NRC label entitled "Sgt. Preston of the Yukon", one of his very first comedy recordings. The comical approach told Ray that it would get him some attention...and during 1961-1963 Ray wrote and recorded a steady stream of comical songs and love ballads. The comical songs made the most impression on the various pop music charts of the era...and suddenly Ray found himself being labeled a novelty artist. This comical image was difficult to overcome no matter how many fine, serious recordings Ray made during the mid 1960's.

Then something 1968 Ray found himself gaining some momentum on the pop charts with a non-comical song for the first time in his career. "Unwind" would peak just below the doing so it became his most successful non-comical recording to date. The song was his fifth single release on Monument Records...and the sixth single release later in 1968 became his major breakthrough non-comical song. The song in question? It's none other than "Mr. Businessman". It was a social commentary song putting on trial the average businessman's reputation. Ray's album that year, Even Stevens, shown a much more serious overtone than his previous albums. Also, his voice had by this time deepened...causing him to sound completely different than he did throughout the bulk of the '60s. Ray would continue to issue comical material off and on during the 1969-1974 time frame but 90% of the material was non-comical. This serious approach to material enabled Ray to build a fan base that preferred the serious, non-comical recordings he was making in this era.

1970's "Everything Is Beautiful" was and continues to be his biggest non-comical hit song. It reached #1 and was a million seller...a year earlier he emerged with an all-comedy album, Gitarzan, featuring the million selling title track. He flip-flopped from comedy to serious material often and in early 1971 "Bridget the Midget, The Queen of the Blues" became a smash comedy single in England. Ray would continue to release the occasional comedy song or full length comedy album but the bulk of his commercial singles happened to be serious love ballads. Ray had his biggest selling hit single, "The Streak", during the streaking fad of was a million selling comedy song and hit #1 in a little over a month's time on the pop chart.

What all of this boils down to is Ray's career can be described as somewhat cyclical due to the flip-flopping of serious and comedy recordings...not to forget the flips from pop to country to R&B to gospel. Throughout the mid '80s and on through the next two decades of the '90s and 2000's Ray had firmly established himself as a country comedian...and it's that image and it's those comical recordings that typecast him once and for all as a singer of comedy songs. Also, several generations of audiences grew up on this comical version of Ray Stevens...and much like the audiences of the late '60s through the mid '70s preferred the much more serious Ray Stevens, the audiences of the '80s through the '90s were much more familiar with the zany and comical Ray Stevens and that's what the general public wanted to see. "God Save Arizona" and his recent video hits on You Tube carrying political overtones is something foreign to the generations who grew up with the image of Ray Stevens singing and prancing around a stage playing characters-in-song and joking around with the audience and his band members. This brings us back to that cyclical phrase once again. Anytime an artist chooses to shift gears it's bound to ruffle some feathers and make some uncomfortable. Ray Stevens "going political", as some refer to it, is something new and different from an artist who up until late last year rarely talked politics in such a public way.

The very idea of a "comedy singer" having anything "serious" to say, especially about politics, tickled a lot of people's funny bones and gained Ray a lot of attention. There were some who misunderstood "We The People" and took it to mean something completely out of context. Some thought Ray was spoofing the Tea Party, for example, but in reality he was supporting them through his style of humor. In "Come to the USA", you had people out there whining and crying and accusing Ray of being racist. "God Save Arizona", the latest hit video, created a similar misunderstanding when some accused Ray of being a borderline fascist who wishes to see the Federal Government over-thrown. I'm sure at some point Ray will return to the non-political songs...cyclical time indicates things often return again...but let none of you out there forget that it is a business after all. Ray's having some of the most talked-about songs of his career and they're finding audiences on You Tube...and the exposure translates into potential sales for the music. Like in time's past once something isn't successful anymore you move on to something else that'll hopefully grab people's attention. Meanwhile his political music videos of late are grabbing people's attention...and the idea of getting attention is what any singer hopes to do with everything they release.

Anyway...enjoy Ray's current You Tube video hit...

August 25, 2010

Ray Stevens...Gimme a B for Beard...

Hello all the Ray Stevens fans out there...those with and without facial hair! Obviously the name of this blog is based upon a mock cheer. I'm sure most people are aware of the standard cheer leading routines where the cheerleaders call out letters of the alphabet to spell out the name of the school or college. Well, just for today, Gimme a B for Beard! The appearance of the Ray Stevens beard popped up sporadically throughout the 1970's...never remaining a consistent facial feature until the late 1970's. Since that point in time it's become a distinctly visual trait...modern-day music consumers have a tough time visualizing contemporary Ray Stevens without a beard. I, too, have a difficult time picturing the present day Ray Stevens without the beard. It's been said that a beard makes a person look older and or you can see from these two pictures from 1975 the clean-shaven Ray looks much more younger, obviously, than the other picture from the same year but with the beard. The beard also makes him appear more recognizable. As I often say...what a difference a beard makes!

As you can see, this is not my typical blog. I decided to go in an extremely different direction just to see how it would come across. This is only an experimental blog entry! My next blog will be much more in the tradition of what you all have come to expect.

Be Your Own Best Friend, one of two Ray Stevens albums from 1978. This particular album features a treasure chest of country-pop songs. The sound is easy-listening for the most part. The only song to really kick up the volume is "Comeback" where Ray plays the part of a guilt-ridden man who gives a highly emotional plea to a former lover that in spite of everything that's gone on he'll welcome her back...but all she needs to do is simply come back. The song has a similar guitar solo to the one that's featured in "Cannonball", the song Ray wrote and performed for the Cannonball Run movie/soundtrack in 1980. I won't single any song out from the 1978 album and call it a favorite...I like all of them. "L'amour" may be the centerpiece of the whole album...but let's not forget "You're Magic". That song is quintessential adult-contemporary.

August 24, 2010

Listen with Me to Ray Stevens on WB...

Never mind the title of this blog. I was attempting to create something that would rhyme as I write about Ray Stevens' Warner Brothers material of the late 1970's. Well, part of the blog title is a wish of mine...I do hope people out there seek out the Ray Stevens music that I write about. This blog is no the picture I'm holding the 1995 collections that Warner Brothers issued giving long overdue spotlight to the material he recorded for them. The 1995 collections were not widely distributed, ironically enough...they were available in cassette and CD format originally. Cornball, Do You Wanna Dance, and The Serious Side of Ray Stevens are the names of the collections. Two of the collections feature ten recordings while one of them features nine. All of the songs were compiled by someone named Paige Levy...meaning that she was responsible for the material that made or didn't make the collections. All in all it's a great overview of his Warner Brothers material and, of course, there's quite a few recordings not found on the collections. As of now the vinyl albums are the only places to get what's not included on these three compilations.

The material on these three collections are picked from the following late '70s Ray Stevens albums: 1976's Just For the Record; 1977's Feel the Music; 1978's Be Your Own Best Friend; and 1978's There Is Something On Your Mind. Ray's 1979 album, The Feeling's Not Right Again, was a compilation album built around his only single that year, "I Need Your Help, Barry Manilow".

As I've mentioned in other blogs the material Ray recorded for Warner Brothers would be categorized today as smooth pop or easy-listening...even though at the time several of the singles were hitting the country music charts. The sound of the majority of singles marketed to country radio at this time were heavy on pop instrumentation. This pop flavor inspired the creation of the television show, Pop! Goes the Country.

Cornball was the first collection issued. It's catalog number is 9 45890-4. In spite of the CD's title, there are only three recordings on here that could be classified as comedy songs...the other seven songs are love ballads. It featured the following songs:

1. In the Mood; 1976
2. I Need Your Help, Barry Manilow; 1979
3. You Are So Beautiful; 1976
4. Money Honey; 1978
5. Cornball; 1976
6. Dixie Hummingbird; 1977
7. One Mint Julep; 1978
8. Your Cash Ain't Nothin' But Trash; 1978
9. Save Me From Myself; 1977
10. Classical Cluck; 1976

The Serious Side of Ray Stevens came along second. It's catalog number is 9 45891-4 and it featured the following songs:

1. One and Only You; 1976
2. Talk To Me; 1978
3. Alone With You; 1977
4. Daydream Romance; 1977
5. Once in a While; 1976
6. Set The Children Free; 1977
7. The Feeling's Not Right Again; 1978
8. Two Wrongs Don't Make a Right; 1978
9. L'amour; 1978
10. Be Your Own Best Friend; 1978

Do You Wanna Dance was the third collection to be released in 1995. It's catalog number is 9 45892-4 and it features the following nine songs:

1. Feel the Music; 1977
2. Dance Trilogy; 1978
3. Blues Love Affair; 1977
4. Country Licks; 1976
5. Honky Tonk Waltz; 1976
6. One Man Band; 1976
7. Can't Stop Dancin; 1976
8. Old Faithful Trilogy; 1978
9. You've Got the Music Inside; 1978

In the credits for the material contained on all three collections the compiler indicates that quite a few of the songs are "previously unreleased". She makes note of this on all of the songs from Ray's There Is Something On Your Mind album. For whatever reason she didn't give credit to that particular album...she credited the other albums but not that one. I've never found out why.

In contemporary news...the latest Ray Stevens video hit, "God Save Arizona", is available for digital download at Amazon. The availability of the Mp3 began on August 12...yes...12 days ago!! Why didn't I know about this? The answer is simple...Amazon doesn't have the song listed among Ray's Mp3 singles which is where I'd been checking daily. Instead, Amazon has the digital single listed as an Mp3 album...even though it's a single!! reiterate...the "God Save Arizona" song is also available at Amazon and at Ray Stevens' web-site store. The music video has gotten 120,604 hits on You Tube so far.

August 23, 2010

Ray Stevens: Nostalgia Valley, Part 12...

In the 12th installment of the nostalgia valley we begin by taking a look at the early '60s material from Ray Stevens on this 1995 CD. The picture of Ray that the CD manufacturer used is obviously deceptive. This picture of Ray is from the early '80s but the material on the CD is from the early '60s. The illustrations that you see were lifted from Mercury's 1970 release, The Best of Ray Stevens. I don't have this particular CD so I can't say if the version of "Ahab the Arab" featured on here is the studio recording from 1962, the radio edited version cutting out the final verse, or the live recording from the mid '60s with an introduction from Ralph Emery. The live recording with the Ralph Emery introduction is on The Best of Ray Stevens from 1970. There isn't any new ground being covered on this CD that wasn't already covered on The Best of Ray Stevens or 1989's eight song compilation, Funny Man. The idea I guess was to keep Ray's earliest works for Mercury in print. There are at least eight recordings that Ray did for Mercury in the '60s that have never saw the light of day on commercial CD yet: 1961's "When You Wish Upon a Star", 1963's "It's Party Time", 1963's "Don't Say Anything", 1964's "Laughing Over My Grave", 1965's "Rockin' Teenage Mummies", "It Only Hurts When I Love", "Mr. Baker the Undertaker", and "The Old English Surfer". There's also no telling how many songs Ray recorded for Mercury that have never even been issued at all. It's common practice for all singers to perform a lot of songs during recording sessions...and then some are cut from album consideration and are put away "in the vaults" as the saying goes.

I came across a couple message boards/blogs late last week proclaiming that Ray Stevens "used to be a liberal". One of the people making this accusation cited this song, "America, Communicate With Me", as proof. "Everything is Beautiful" and "Mr. Businessman" are also brought up by those attempting to make comparisons between vintage Ray Stevens and contemporary Ray Stevens. In my opinion Ray was never a liberal...and certainly wasn't a progressive...but I feel that those political oriented songs he recorded in the past are rooted in middle of the road and Independent rationale...which is pretty much the same stance of contemporary Ray Stevens. A lot of the lyrics in "America, Communicate With Me" clearly show Ray's frustration with both political parties and the useless violence and rioting that was going on. Rioting, mind you, that for the most part was carried out by the liberal youth of the '60s and early '70s. I think some people need to re-listen to this song a few more times before proclaiming that Ray "used to be a liberal". This song attempts to make sense of a chaotic world circa no way, shape, or form is it a rallying cry for any political group.

Now, in a lot of the newspaper and magazine articles and interviews did on Ray Stevens during that early '70s time period it reveals Ray highly in tune with the social scene and the hot topics of the day. This doesn't necessarily translate into Ray being a liberal, though. I've never seen an interview where Ray explicitly stated that he's 100% in favor of any political party. In some of his interviews he speaks about the relationships between music and people and the communication aspects that artists attempt to convey through whatever it is that they do: sing, talk, act, etc etc. The interviews he gave in the early '70s, for example, indicate a restless musician constantly on the search for something to share with the public. This is something that continues to be a character trait with the contemporary Ray Stevens...the enthusiasm and excitement of performing new material for the audience which was evident in the '70s is still evident today.

You can see performances of Ray Stevens from the '70s in a couple of DVD's spotlighting the series, Pop! Goes the Country. I mentioned these DVD's back in March and I hope some of you have gone ahead and purchased them for yourselves. Ray appears on the following DVD's: Volume Four, Volume Nine, Volume Fifteen, and Volume Seventeen. You can see the entire 20 Volume collection here: Classic Country DVD. I don't have Volume Nine features the 1977 episode where Ray performs "Honky Tonk Waltz", "Get Crazy With Me", and a bit of "Feel the Music". Ralph Emery is the host of all the episodes from Volume One through Volume Fifteen and Volume Twenty. Tom T Hall hosts the episodes featured in Volume Sixteen through Volume Nineteen. Speaking of Ralph Emery...he'll be inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame this coming fall.

Let's Discuss Ray Stevens, Part Three...

A wonderful parody/spoof of the 1950's pop ballad, "Hey There", is served up in this 1980 single from Ray Stevens. As you can see Ray's image is on the face of an illustration of a radio...which goes right along with the plot of the song. It starts out with a twinkling piano, the tempo is slow, and then we're told by Ray that we're listening to a radio station that specializes in ballroom music. Ray plays the part of the soft-spoken radio broadcaster who sets the scene for the star of the show. The featured vocalist sings his way through "Hey There" in memorable fashion...surely making Rosemary Clooney and all others who've recorded the song very proud. The interpretation from Ray is made more memorable due to a minor case of lisping from the star vocalist. This lisping approach is heard throughout the performance and if you were to remove the lisps it would be a legitimate love ballad...given how serious the production comes across. Nevertheless, the lisps are what give the song it's comical feel. The song ends just as it started...a twinkling piano playing away among other instruments. This song was released as a single overseas...for whatever reason it wasn't released as a single in the United States. I think the song would've become a witty addition to Ray's list of comical hits had he issued it in the United States as well but it wasn't meant to be. The b-side, "You're Never Goin' To Tampa With Me", is a clever song using towns and scenery in Florida to tell the story of a man looking for love during Spring break...with the title of the song carrying a double meaning.

This is not really a comical love song but it's definitely a departure from the way in which "Lady of Spain" was typically performed. The song dates back to 1931 and Ray included it on his 1975 Misty album of pop standards. The image of Ray seen on this single's picture sleeve matches the image on the Misty album. In Ray's hands "Lady of Spain" is turned into something of a rollicking party song...with a definite Spanish feel. There's a moment where the saxophone player lets loose and Ray references the player, Norman Ray, as the horn is honking away. Ray is at his energetic best on this performance where he vocally sounds like an out of control Fats Domino. It's a performance that clearly departs from what the public at large would come to expect...but yet it's one of those performances that us Ray Stevens fans have long been familiar with because we actually buy the albums. Those who only buy singles are in my opinion doing themselves a disservice when it came to Ray Stevens. Although the single releases are great...the songs that were put on his albums that weren't pushed as singles are just as great. His take on Deep Purple and Cow-Cow Boogie, both from the Misty album, are great. The b-side of "Lady of Spain" is his version of "Mockingbird Hill".

The reason I'm posting the song book for "Young Love" is simply to give a much more detailed look at the suit that Ray was wearing during the photo shoot for the Misty album. "Young Love" was a commercial single for Ray in late 1975...his next-to-last for the Barnaby Records label. The release of the song in the winter of 1975 meant that if it became a hit it would have a chart run at the beginning of the following year. "Young Love" entered the charts in January 1976. "Lady of Spain", the single I wrote about above, was Ray's final commercial single for Barnaby...also from early 1976. This is only a theory but "Lady of Spain" must have been released at some point in early spring of 1976 simply to complete his Barnaby contract because Ray's next commercial single entered the charts in May 1976 for a different label, Warner Brothers. My guess is "Lady of Spain" was purposely passed by as Ray made his way to Warner Brothers. Fortunately people can buy the 1975 Misty album in CD format or digital download at the various on-line music stores. Misty was re-issued in CD and Mp3 format a few years ago packaged with his gospel album, Turn Your Radio On. The re-issues were not heavily hyped and so there's still plenty of people unaware of their availability. All of Ray's Barnaby albums, except one, were released in CD and Mp3 format several years ago: Everything Is Beautiful, Unreal, Nashville, Boogity-Boogity, Turn Your Radio On, and Misty. All of those CD's are still available for sale...if you don't have them you oughta be checking Amazon and other places because there's no telling if the material will become unavailable at some point. The only Barnaby album not re-issued is Losin' Streak. That album contained no commercial hit singles {but it's still a great album} and my guess is the record company that re-issued the other Barnaby albums passed this one by because seven is an odd number and the series was a 3-CD set with two albums on each CD. Maybe one day Losin' Streak will become available in CD or Mp3 format.

Ray's latest single, "God Save Arizona", has risen to 112,604 hits on You Tube. There still hasn't been any announcement if this song will become part of a much larger project or if it's going to be a single-only release. There have been over a thousand comments so far and the like/dislike ratio is 579 give the song a thumbs up and 109 people rate it a thumbs down. What in the world are those 109 people thinking?

August 22, 2010

One of those comical love songs from Ray Stevens...

One of my favorite Ray Stevens songs is this one from's a comedy love ballad. "Can He Love You Half as Much as I?" is performed as a legitimate love ballad with a few comical twists added in. The verses of the song are pretty much straight forward while the chorus of the song allows some comedy to shine through. In the song Ray plays the part of a man wondering why his girlfriend has left him and questions if this new person in her life is able to show her the same affection. This all may sound kind of deep...but the mood is light thanks to the tempo of the song and Ray's performance. In case any of you can't read the small print on the single, Ray's long-time songwriting friend, C.W. Kalb, Jr., wrote the song. Long time fans of Ray are aware that C.W. is referred to as "Buddy". I saw Ray perform this song on television several times and when I saw him in concert he performed the song. It's one of the mainstays in his concerts...usually it's one of the first songs he performs. He made a music video of the song...twice! The first music video came along in 1995 as part of his direct-to-video movie, Get Serious! The second music video came along in was of the animated variety...and it can now be found on the Cartoon Carnival, Volume One DVD. The animated music video was originally released on the DVD collection titled Teenage Mutant Kung Fu Chickens. The song itself can be found on several compilations.

The original recording can be found on 1986's Surely You Joust album as well as 1987's Greatest Hits, Volume Two and Get The Best of Ray Stevens. On his 1993 home video, Ray Stevens Live!, he performs this song and the audio made it's way to the 1995 CD soundtrack. One of the peculiar things that has taken place throughout Ray's career are songs that appear on greatest hits albums that never actually appeared on the weekly music charts and therefore were never officially recognized as a 'hit song'. This is one of those examples. Although the song was commercially released as a single it didn't make the spite of the various television performances of the song Ray delivered during that 1986/1987 era. I believe there were two separate Hee-Haw episodes where he performed this addition to the performances on Nashville Now. That's how heavily he promoted it. The songs from Ray in 1986 that actually made the country music charts were a pair of long comedy recordings: "Southern Air" and "The People's Court". "Can He Love You Half as Much as I?" is definitely a crowd favorite, though, and it's one of the several songs in his career that come to define the phrase: un-charted hit. As you can see from reading the front of the cassette version of Surely You Joust, "Can He Love You Half as Much as I?" was definitely one of the songs considered a potential single when the album was released.

Let's Discuss Ray Stevens, Part Two...

I often love to celebrate the music of Ray Stevens...I shouldn't say most people have come to realize after having read just one of my blogs that I always celebrate the music of Ray Stevens. There is usually an era of his career that I find myself highlighting and spotlighting the most and it's typically the late '70s and early '80s. I do this because I feel that particular point in his career is woefully under-rated, under-appreciated, and under-reported. This is the time period between 1976 and 1983 where Ray recorded a wonderful series of albums for both Warner Brothers, 1976-1979, and RCA, 1980-1982...adding in one album from 1983 for Mercury. I happen to love the material he recorded during this era...but I also happen to love all the other material as well from the various time periods in his career. However, because this late '70s and early '80s period of Ray's career is marked by love ballads and mellow pop-country songs with an occasional comedy song thrown in, there are some who disregard this era. It's something I'll never understand, though. Those who have issues with Ray's material from this era must not be listening to the same songs because these songs are Grade A, U.S. choice material. I'll name off some of the songs from this era...chances are once you hear them, if you haven't already, you'll love them as much as I do: "Cornball", "One and Only You", "You Are So Beautiful", "Can't Stop Dancing", "Once in Awhile", "Honky Tonk Waltz", "Save Me From Myself", "Get Crazy With Me", "Road Widow", "Feel the Music", "Dixie Hummingbird", "Junkie For You", "Set The Children Free", "You're Magic", "L'amour", "Two Wrongs Don't Make a Right", and several more!! Anyway, this callous disregard for Ray's late '70s and early '80s work brings me to another point I want to bring up...

A lot of modern-day critics and even some from the past always collectively accuse those such as myself, for example, as being "revisionists" or they say that we're unwilling to bring up any negative or seemingly negative aspect of whatever it happens to be that we're discussing. The bottom line is when you're a fan of a singer chances are you're going to support that person...meaning that whatever it is that comes along in their career you're more or less going to be an ardent supporter. In my opinion that's the definition of being a doesn't mean that you're being a revisionist or purposely ignoring any criticisms that the singer may get from others. As a fan you learn to zero in on the positives and shrug off the negatives. It's not that you ignore the criticisms...some of the critics are brutal and go over the top in their harsh remarks...but shrugging them off is the best way to go.

August 21, 2010

Let's discuss Ray Stevens...

Several days ago word got out through a social networking site that Ray Stevens had appeared at the Fraternal Order of Eagles in Louisville, Kentucky and put on a concert for the group. This appearance went under the radar and the reason behind it was perhaps the venue where Ray performed wasn't open to the public...that wasn't your typical concert where anyone can walk-up to a box office and buy a ticket. My guess is had this appearance been more widely known there would have been hundreds of people showing up becoming members of the Eagles organization just to have the chance to see the concert. In my opinion that is why the appearance was kept quiet...because of the Eagles being a members-only organization it wouldn't have made any sense to announce his appearance "to the public at large". I wonder if he performed "Shriner's Convention"...given that the song is all about a convention of Shriners, a members-only organization, and at one point in the song Ray mentions the Knights of Columbus.

In the world of You Tube music videos Ray has officially gone beyond the hundred thousand mark with his latest song/video, "God Save Arizona". The music video has obtained 103,605 hits since being uploaded almost two weeks ago. This kind of pace usually means that Ray is in for another hugely successful video. As of this writing the song is only available for purchase at Ray's web-site store. I had been wondering if the Mp3 would become available elsewhere but for now it's still exclusively available at Ray's web-site. You can get an Mp3 digital download at Ray's web-site store. It's a wonderful song and I'm sure most of you who frequent this blog have watched the video already as I've embedded it in a couple of my previous blogs. To find those you can search the archives on the right side of the screen. Also there's a visual time-line that stretches from 1957 up through the current year that runs along the right side of the blog as well. I spent a lot of time on that time-line when I was putting this blog page together two years ago and I often add images from time to time.

"God Save Arizona" is NOT available on this CD. This collection is Ray's most recent CD release and it does feature "We The People", "Thank You", "Caribou Barbie", "Throw the Bums Out!", "Come to the USA", "The Global Warming Song", and a lot of other political and patriotic songs...however, "God Save Arizona" came along several months after this CD was released as to why you won't be able to find the song on the CD. As mentioned earlier the only way to get "God Save Arizona" as of this writing is through Ray's web-site store. The We The People CD is still a must-have purchase because it features all of the songs that have become major hits on You Tube during the last half a year. Yes, it's hard to believe that this coming December marks the first year anniversary of "We The People" becoming a You Tube sensation. The video was uploaded on December 11, 2009! As of this writing that music video has obtained 3.4 million hits. The actual total is 3,483,817 hits. "Come to the USA", uploaded on You Tube not too long ago on May 13, 2010 has enjoyed 3,346,220 hits.

August 17, 2010

Ray Stevens: Video Single success...

Tuesday morning! There's not much happening at the moment as far as Ray Stevens activity is concerned. The current video single, "God Save Arizona", has reached 75,437 hits on You Tube and the CD and Mp3 are still available for sale at Ray's web-site store. As of this writing the song isn't available on Amazon or any other on-line music store. I assume the single will become more widely available if and when it shoots beyond a hundred thousand hits. This is just my guess, though. Who knows...the single may become more widely available next week!? I came across another back-handed commentary about Ray's latest string of video singles...I won't quote it but I'm curious why the writer felt the need to describe Ray as "an aging pop novelty singer". Why should someone's age even be put front and center? I could understand it if Ray were literally 100 years old or 90, in the tradition of the late George Burns, where his age was always being a conversation piece...but I don't feel writers/bloggers/critics need to single out a performer's age. Why do I feel that way? It's because of bias...some use age discrimination, directly or indirectly, to cheer or jeer someone in the performing arts. By using the phrase "aging" it makes the blogger appear to be disrespectful to the performer, in this case the performer is Ray Stevens. Why do I say that? It's because other words could have been used such as "legend", "veteran country comic", or "legendary novelty singer"...see, by using those particular descriptive words it shows some respect toward the performer. But instead what we got from the writer/blogger is a description of the performer as "aging". There were some so-called hip music critics who called Ray Stevens "aging" back in 1992 when Comedy Video Classics was released. As a fan I was offended then and I still get offended when he's not shown any respect.

I tend to get beside myself whenever I try to figure out angry critics. There's nothing angry about this album, though. It was released in 1989 on the MCA label and it showcased the two sides of Ray Stevens the public at large is familiar with: the comedian and the serious singer. In fact...this album marked the first time since 1983 that brand new non-comical material was featured. His previous albums for MCA starting in 1984 and running through 1988 contained nothing but comedy material...with the lone exception being a song called "Furthermore" on his 1984 album. The song was a bluesy performance telling the story of a man coming to grips with losing his girlfriend. Some may have found the song comical simply because it was performed by Ray Stevens. Did you all know that there are some people out there who laugh at almost everything Ray sings...disregarding whether or not a song is meant to be comical or if it's meant to be taken seriously. Beside Myself contains 10 songs...five comical and five non-comical. "Another Fine Mess" is one of my favorites. It has a saxophone as it's main instrument...a slow tempo saxophone at that...and most people who hear the saxophone being played that way will no doubt be drawn into the song. The song is about a couple falling in love...and going by the lyrics it's something of an awkward relationship but nevertheless the two grow closer.

I wrote about this double album recently. This particular collection was sold on television and in newspaper print ads throughout the late 1980's. I'd seen the TV commercial a couple of times so I can barely recall how it played out. It was one of those kind of commercials where the names of the songs scroll up the TV screen as snippets of the songs are played. In this commercial Ray dressed up in various costumes acting out the lyrics in several of the songs. This could have been a foreshadowing of his highly successful music video career in the 1990's. The official title is Get The Best of Ray Stevens...which sounds like something you'd hear at the start of a the album's name very likely was given it's title simply because the people buying the album were getting the best of Ray Stevens. Now, of course, this album came along in 1987...and he's recorded a lot more songs since then...and so it's the best Ray Stevens recordings up until that time period. A lot of the songs were featured on the Greatest Hits and Greatest Hits, Volume Two collections...both 1987 releases.

August 15, 2010

Ray Stevens: Nostalgia Valley, Part 11...

Isn't this a great album cover? Ray Stevens as Will Rogers...performing a rope trick while informing us that he's never made a record that he didn't like. This comedy album was released by MCA in 1988 and I've written about it at various times throughout the blog archives. The name of the album is loosely based on a phrase made famous by Will Rogers, "I have never yet met a man that I didn't like". The comedy album features a few songs that have become well-known among Ray Stevens fans: "Surfin' U.S.S.R" as one example. "The Day I Tried To Teach Charlene MacKenzie How To Drive" is another example. This was the album that followed the successful Crackin' Up album that Ray issued in 1987. In my theory the main reason why this particular 1988 album didn't achieve the same kind of success was basically due to the on-going popularity of several 1987 albums. Greatest Hits, Crackin' Up, Greatest Hits Volume Two, and a direct-mail offer called Get The Best of Ray Stevens were still being pushed and promoted by the marketing department well into 1988. Greatest Hits became a Top-50 country album...almost reaching Top-40 status while Crackin' Up became a Top-30 album on the country charts in 1987...the following year I Never Made a Record I Didn't Like became a Top-60 country album in 1988.

I don't particularly care for this picture of myself from 2008 but the focus is on Ray's 1988 album that I'm gleefully showing off. A lot of the vinyl albums that I have of Ray Stevens were purchased on eBay around 5 to 6 years ago. I also bought some at local flea markets...and amazingly they still play quite well on my record player. I didn't have a Ray Stevens hat at the time...or else I would've been wearing it. I rarely wear hats in the hot months, though. I've played the actual vinyl album a couple of times. I find that I don't have to play my vinyl albums hardly at all because the material is readily available on CD and Mp3 now. This allows the vinyl albums to continue to have such great sound. The label design that MCA used for years was the light blue rainbow logo. That design originated at some point in the late '70s and MCA continued with that design throughout the remainder of the 45 RPM period. I believe 1993 or 1994 may have been the final year that MCA manufactured actual copies of vinyl singles on a semi-regular basis.

As you can see in the image on the right side of the of the singles from Ray Stevens on MCA...clearly showing that light blue rainbow label design. This particular single wasn't one of the releases that became popular...even though it's a cute break-up song. The song originated on Ray's debut MCA album in 1984, He Thinks He's Ray Stevens. The b-side is a comedy song titled "Joggin" which pokes fun at the health and fitness crowd. The song focuses on a jogging nut who equips himself with every brand-name product on the market...all in the name of losing weight. It features a rocked-up arrangement with prominent electric guitar...and the humor comes from the day to day encounters that the jogger has while jogging. Although jogging itself wasn't anything new it was becoming something of a fad during this time period and another artist, Bobby Bare, recorded a jogging song as well. Bobby's recording, "The Jogger", became one of the last major novelty hits on country radio. Jerry Clower even got into the act when he performed a comedy routine called "Joggers" on his 1984 album, Starke Raving!

In-print Ray Stevens classics...

Good Sunday morning all the Ray Stevens fans out there. I'm sure you're aware of this particular 1991 collection? In case some are not familiar with it then read the following sentences and learn something about it. The collection, as mentioned, came along in 1991 and was released on the Curb Records label. This was something of a series of greatest hits packages that the label issued on several artists that year. Each of the collections featured pretty much the same art decoration and graphics. The collection contains ten songs and out of those 10, eight of them are non-comical. This continues to be one of the few greatest hits collections issued on Ray Stevens to focus almost exclusively on the non-comedy recordings that he had commercial success with. The collection is notable among Ray Stevens fans for including an alternate version of "There's a Star Spangled Banner". The song made it's debut on Ray's 1989 album, Beside Myself. However, on this collection, you'll hear different lyrics...although it retains the same chorus as before. Naturally, since 1991, there have been an abundance of CD releases of his 1970's recordings when he was primarily recording nothing but non-comedy songs...but this 1991 collection is still a good addition to anyone's Ray Stevens collection. I know people still buy vinyl and cassette through on-line flea markets so those who come across this collection and might not be familiar with some of the lesser-known mainstream recordings featured on here...go ahead and think about purchasing it. It's also an obscure release. Liner notes are provided by a writer named Don Ovens. The picture of Ray as most are aware was a widely used publicity photo during this era.

Speaking of CD releases of Ray's 1970's material...Warner Brothers in 1995 released a three CD collection of songs which enabled long out of print material Ray recorded in the late '70s to emerge in the CD age. Those songs were pulled from the following albums: 1976's Just For the Record; 1977's Feel the Music; 1978's There Is Something On Your Mind and Be Your Own Best Friend. A single-only release from 1979 was also spotlighted in the three CD collection. The single, "I Need Your Help, Barry Manilow", inspired his 1979 album of previously recorded material, The Feeling's Not Right Again. Varese Sarabande was responsible for the release of several CD's in the late '90s concentrating on Ray's late '60s recordings on Monument Records. Two of Ray's albums for Monument: Even Stevens and Gitarzan were both issued in CD format during the late '90s. He recorded those albums in 1968 and 1969 respectively.

The Warner Brothers and Monument material has since been issued digitally as well. Ray's work on Barnaby Records, 1970-1975, finally became in-print on CD and in Mp3 format in the middle of last decade thanks in large part to a company known as Collectables Records. They issued all of his Barnaby albums except one onto CD and Mp3 format in 2005. The one album on Barnaby Records that Collectables didn't release was Losin' Streak. It's anyone's guess why that particular album wasn't issued on CD/Mp3...but the other albums he recorded for the label became available: Everything Is Beautiful and Unreal both from 1970; Nashville from 1973; Boogity-Boogity and Turn Your Radio On from 1974; and Misty from 1975.

Fast-forwarding 35 years to 2010 we take a look at Ray's contemporary successes. His You Tube music video, "God Save Arizona", after having been passed around Twitter and the blogs during the last several days, has racked up the hits significantly since my last blog entry. In my previous blog entry I remarked that the video had obtained more than 50,000 hits. As of right now the hit count rests at 65,615. I'd say the music video easily hits the 100,000 mark in a week's time or maybe sooner...depending on how many more people discover the video. Some are just now discovering "Come to the USA" even after the video had gone beyond three million hits a couple of months ago. Lost in the shuffle is "The Global Warming Song" which was released on You Tube last month and as of now it's gotten 41,267 that to the 65,615 hits "God Save Arizona" has gotten in a week's time. I hadn't did a complete update in are the up to date hit counts for Ray's last series of music videos going back to December 2009's release of "We The People"...

We The People: 3,459,410

Thank You: 214,002

Caribou Barbie: 210,576

Throw the Bums Out!: 406,123

Come to the USA: 3,211,204

The Global Warming Song: 41,267

God Save Arizona: 65,615

"God Save Arizona" is available as a CD single and as an Mp3 digital single. This is the first offer of an actual CD single since "We The People". I purchased the Mp3 download but haven't purchased a physical copy of the single...yet. I may or may not. I purchased both the physical CD single and the Mp3 single of "We The People", though...but I may just wait and see if "God Save Arizona" is part of a much larger collection of newly recorded material before I decide if I want to buy the CD single. The song isn't on the We The People album so the only place to find it is on You Tube and the only place to purchase the song is at Ray Stevens' store located at his web-site. You can also watch the official music video here. I always embed or post URL links to the official music videos at some point...why? Well, it's because I want the hits going toward the official uploads from Ray Stevens. There are some people on You Tube that upload Ray's music videos for the sole purpose of trashing the video...and so I always embed the official music video's from Ray Stevens. In other words...any video upload from a Ray Stevens hater isn't going to appear on my blog page.

August 12, 2010

Ray Stevens...God Save Arizona

Congratulations are in order as Ray Stevens' latest music video, "God Save Arizona", is nearing 50,000 hits on You Tube. The song has struck a chord with the pros and cons as his previous string of songs all have. In other's shaping up to be another polarizing music video. You'd think by now the liberal left in this country would get over the whole racism argument but yet that's apparently all they know how to do is call people racists. The latest silliness from the left-wing is to charge this video with being racially motivated...once again, as they did with Ray's illegal immigration video, "Come To the USA", they've resorted to their tried and true formula of deflecting the real message by labeling it racist. The real message in this latest song, "God Save Arizona", is a genuine concern from a large majority of people who oppose the amnesty-driven, passive stance on illegal immigration that's been adopted by both political parties to a large extent until recently. The song comes right out and asks God to help save Arizona from the federal Government.

The use of World War Two and the U.S.S. Arizona as a metaphor in describing the war-like atmosphere on the Arizona border is the hook of the song...there's nothing racist about the song or the video...but without fail because Mexico borders Arizona you have all these left-wing nuts crying "racism" and all kinds of other nonsense. It seems like to me that they cry racism at the first opportunity. I won't hold my breath expecting the far left liberals out there to change their tune or pass up the opportunity to play the race's in their blood, I think.

Of course, you all don't need me to warn you of the on-coming attacks and name calling being passed Ray Stevens' way. One of the things that the race baiting liberals like to do is zero in on the ethnicity of a person...because Mexico borders Arizona chances are 99.9% of the illegals are going to be Mexican. Liberals need to wake up and thicken their skin a little bit and accept the fact that Mexico borders Arizona...and they need to stop accusing everyone of being racists simply because we wish the illegal immigration madness would end. YES, the Mexican illegal immigrants...they illegally cross the border from Mexico into Arizona. YES, they're Mexican...they're doesn't get anymore crystal clear than that. But, again, you have these liberals who want to deflect the real problem and dress it up as some sort of backhanded racism. In a liberal's mind we're all anti-Mexican. They fail to see the difference between crossing the border legally and illegally. Don't even get me started on those who use emotion to trump common sense...there are people out there who take the attitude "oh those poor immigrants...they just want a better life". BALONEY!! If they want a better life they should go through the proper channels instead of slipping across the border illegally.

Lastly...amidst all of the race talk and race baiting that seems to take place in the liberal blogs let's not forget what "God Save Arizona" is all about. In the lyrics we hear that Arizona can handle the illegals and all of the protests from the progressives but the state needs help from some higher place to save it from the wrath of the federal Government. That's the whole song in a nut-shell.

August 10, 2010

God Save Arizona...Mp3 from Ray Stevens...

Hello all the Ray Stevens fans out there...I suppose many of you out there are already aware of this but I hadn't written a blog about it yet...until now! Those out there wanting their own personal copy of "God Save Arizona" can purchase an Mp3 digital single at Ray's music store. The store, for those unaware, is located at his web-site. Once you visit his web-site it's very easy to find the store. You go all the way over to the right side of the page and click "Buy" and then "official store". Once inside you can search for the product. I've bought things from there before...once you purchase the Mp3 it'll automatically download onto whatever music program you have on your computer. I'll more than likely make my purchase this coming Friday. In the meantime I'd like to say how disappointed I was a few weekend's ago when Ray Stevens didn't appear on the Crook and Chase television program on RFD-TV. The program guide on my television clearly shown that the evening's scheduled guests were Ray Stevens and a couple of other artists. The episode originally aired in 2008 and I was looking forward to seeing it...finally!! However, the program guide was wrong and the 2008 episode with Ray Stevens didn't air. Who knows when I'll be able to see that 2008 episode!?

Ray Stevens requests God to Save Arizona...

As long time fans of Ray Stevens are well aware of we're always being surprised...this time around it's the out of the blue music video release of "God Save Arizona". The reason I say it's out of the blue is because there wasn't much advanced alert of a video in the works...the song itself is brand new and not something on his We The People collection. The song combines the attack of the U.S.S. Arizona during World War Two and relates this to the modern-day illegal immigration war currently going on. The song isn't comical and as of right now it has over 45,000 hits on You Tube. It was uploaded a few days ago but then it became unavailable for some reason. I originally had a blog posted about the music video but when the video was removed from You Tube, for whatever reason, I deleted my original blog because the video of course would no longer play but now I'm re-posting a more concise version of my original blog with "God Save Arizona" at the bottom of the entry.

Time will tell how many hits this particular music video receives but considering we're heading into the mid-term election cycle and Arizona being one of the top items of discussion politically I'd not be surprised if this music video easily reaches hundreds of thousands of hits in two weeks time...perhaps more. The message is is the musical arrangement. As I mentioned...this song is not available on his We The People collection and so chances are much of the inspiration for this song is tied to the latest round of court battles where a judge blocked several aspects of the SB 1070 immigration law from going into effect. To illustrate just how strong this video is's gotten more hits in just a few days time than his previous music video, "The Global Warming Song", has received in a little over a month.

Here's the video...hopefully it'll remain uploaded this time...

August 2, 2010

Ray Stevens: 45 at 41...

Later this year a certain 45 single from Ray Stevens hits 41. The image of the single is off to the left...this particular image is the United Kingdom release of "Have a Little Talk With Myself". The single was released late in 1969 and it serves as a title track to one of Ray's most under-rated albums. The single in fact hit the country chart during the final week of 1969 and it reached it's peak during the first week of 1970. Yes, you read that correctly...this majestic, exquisite single about self-reflection, ego, and introspection was on the country music charts for just two weeks. The fact that it was on the country music chart in 1969 was a foreshadowing of Ray's eventual switch to the country music market. Prior to this single's release he had made his debut earlier in 1969 on the country chart with "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down". It's just my opinion but I feel as if those two appearances on the country charts were a fluke...none of my research indicates that Monument Records sought out country radio support. The telling thing about Ray's future singles, though, were the cross genre flip-flopping that would occur. In a period of about 5 and a half to 6 years Ray Stevens singles would consistently chart pop, country, and Adult-Contemporary. Some of his singles would even cross the oceans and chart internationally during this 1969-1975 time period. Adult-Contemporary at the time was referred to as Easy-Listening or Middle of the Road. It was music aimed at adults who considered themselves fans of "pop music" but weren't necessarily fans of the younger, teenage-driven "Top-40" pop music.

As a Ray Stevens fan and nostalgia nut, looking back, I noticed that Ray's success relied almost entirely on the older, adult-driven market...but some of his songs would appeal to the mostly younger Top-40 set. A single released by Ray 40 years ago, namely "America, Communicate With Me", is a perfect example of the discrepancy between the various age groups and what one age group thought was great and what one age group didn't embrace as much. Among the Top-40 listeners the single did moderately well...almost reaching Top-40 status...but over in the radio formats aimed at the adults 35 and older the single reached the Top-15. Going by that statistic it goes a long way at explaining Ray's long-standing appeal and why it wasn't so difficult to market him as a country singer as time went on.

The Have a Little Talk With Myself album featured a couple of new songs but the bulk of the material was Ray's versions of contemporary pop hits by other artists. I wrote about this album in a previous blog entry called Have a Little Talk...about Ray!. You all can find it by exploring the archives on the right hand side of the screen.

A couple years ago Ray issued a CD where he covered the songs of Frank Sinatra. The CD was originally released in 2008 on his own label and sold exclusively through his own web-site and during concert stops. The actual title is Ray Stevens Sings Sinatra...Say What??. I purchased by copy at a merchandise table at one of his concerts. When I saw the CD I was stunned because at the time it wasn't being sold on his web-site and I'd wondered why...I then assumed that it must be an exclusive to concert goers but then it became available at his web-site store. Anyway, in 2009 the CD was released nationally but without any fanfare or promotion...I think it's a great CD salute. In an attempt, perhaps, to create a mood or an ambiance, Ray has the music come off like it's from a small, intimate session at some all-night lounge...complete with audience cheers and applause. Ray doesn't keep the same arrangements on every song, though, and the musical accompaniment is more along the jazz/R&B side than big band and swing. A couple of the songs are shortened, as well. The CD contains the following songs made famous by Sinatra...

I’ve Got You Under My Skin
Night and Day
I Get A Kick Out Of You
All The Way
High Hopes
The Tender Trap
Young At Heart
Strangers In The Night
That’s Life

August 1, 2010

A great Ray Stevens weekend!!

It's been a great Ray Stevens weekend so far for a lot of us fans. Yesterday night we had the opportunity to hear Ray on the Grand Ole Opry. I enjoyed the performances and my earlier assumptions were proven correct...Ray did in fact sing more than 2 songs last night. He sang a total of 4 songs altogether. In her introduction Jeannie Seeley remarked how she and Ray were once label mates on Monument Records. She also commented on how Ray is largely popular for his comical material but reminded the audience that he can be serious in recordings, too. In my opinion the performances from Ray were high-energy and indicated that Ray continues to thrive on a concert stage when he's playing to an audience. Audience reaction was loud and the cheers were exceptional as he came out on stage. Obviously since the performance was on radio I have no idea what he wore but he did use his own band and back-up singers during his segment...I know as much because Jeannie Seeley commented on how great he and his group performed.

What did he sing? He kicked off his segment with "Such a Night", a song from his 1982 album, Don't Laugh Now. The picture above is from the flip-side of the album. I'm sure all of you Ray Stevens fans are well aware of what the front of that album looks like...but from time to time I like to post the album's flip-side image. Afterward Ray talked very briefly about his latest album, We The People, and about his recent new-found career of making music videos for You Tube...but instead of performing one of those music video songs he was referring to he decided to perform a non-music video song from the collection called "If 10% Is Good Enough For Jesus". This particular song was a great performance as well and very political which is why it's included on the We The People collection...but the song doesn't single out any specific political party or that's probably one of the reasons it was picked...another reason being the time constraints. Two fast, up-tempo songs to kick off the segment meant there would be enough time for a couple of longer songs...which is what we got.

The third song of the set was "Mississippi Squirrel Revival"...which for a lot of the middle age general public is the song identified with Ray Stevens the most. He apparently didn't have what he calls his Gabby Hayes hat or he would've perhaps performed "It's Me Again, Margaret". He's often said that he won't perform that song unless he has one of those hats that he can wear during the performance. I forget what that style of acting's as if one can't perform a particular role unless they're "in costume" and completely consumed in the character. Maybe it's called method acting? Anyway...the fourth song of the set was "The Streak". Ray was called back by Jeannie Seeley to sing one more time and so Ray's portion of the Opry closed with that song. In performance the song can run anywhere from three and a half minutes to over four minutes depending how much ad-libbing Ray happens to do with the lyrics. All in all it was an up-beat energetic performance.

In addition to the Opry appearance Saturday night there was also the airing of the PBS special from Marvin Hamlisch. This special was taped during the spring of 2010 and it finally aired in my area Saturday night. The special was played as part of the recurring pledge breaks as I commented on in my last blog entry. A DVD of the un-cut special as well as a CD was being offered during the pledge breaks...the allure being that viewers would get something like 20 additional minutes of performances that weren't shown on television. Ray's participation in the show included a performance of "Misty", his Grammy winning song from 1975. He introduced the Peaches and Herb duo and later was brought out to perform his 1970 #1 hit, "Everything Is Beautiful", which included a cast sing-a-long. I loved the started with him at the piano before he made his way to center stage. By the time he got to the chorus all of the artists that took part in the special were standing in the background singing along. It's been recorded by hundreds of other artists through the years. Meanwhile, the special is called Marvin Hamlisch Presents the 1970's: The Way We Were, and as I mentioned in a previous blog entry, it will air multiple times on PBS stations across the country so keep checking local PBS schedules for the air dates in your area.