September 30, 2010

Ray Stevens...Hot as an Arizona desert!!!

There's been a flurry of news/write-up's on Ray Stevens over the last day and a half it seems like. On September 29th Ray's web-site updated it's news section to provide information about the success in Branson, Missouri at the Welk Theater. Today they added a new article writing up the phenomenal success his music videos on You Tube have been experiencing. To date, all of his music videos have tallied over 10,000,000 hits. Two of those videos, "Come to the USA" and "We The People", account for a good chunk of that grand total which will always be ever changing. You can read those news articles from the 29th and 30th of September in the "What's New" section at his official web-site located here...

Ray Stevens News

A second write-up/interview with a local Missouri newspaper called The Joplin Globe was issued today...details in the link below...

Jopling Globe Ray Stevens write-up

By Dave Woods, New media and marketing manager

The Joplin Globe

Thursday Sep 30, 2010, 12:21 PM CDT


The full article/interview, as I mentioned, is located within in the URL link above. It's a lengthy article and one I didn't want to paste and copy in this blog so check it out for yourselves. Among other things, Ray gives his opinions about political correctness and the way the phrase politically incorrect is abused with reckless abandon. Although I'm sure Ray feels like he shouldn't have to defend any song that he's written and or recorded and I'm sure a lot of us fans also feel that Ray doesn't have to defend any of his songs...but it's still great to see Ray speak up for his songs, particularly those certain songs that get clobbered by the political correct advocates of today...advocates who I say instinctively look to stir up trouble and create hostility where there ordinarily wouldn't be any.

There's just a slight correction needed that I'd like to point out about the interview...a couple more gospel songs became hits as well: "A Mama and a Papa" and "All My Trials" became Top-10 hits on the Adult-Contemporary chart in the summer and fall of 1971 but since the chart isn't considered what they call a "main chart" and instead is seen as secondary, it's long been common practice to quote the chart placings on the main charts instead of the secondary ones. "Turn Your Radio On" reached the Country Top-20 in early 1972.

The latest music video released a month ago, "God Save Arizona", is sitting at 416,041 hits. A month generally breaks down to 4 or 4 and a half weeks...on country radio, for example, 4 weeks is considered relatively brand new because music charts are published weekly. On You Tube, though, 4 weeks can be considered quite lengthy depending on who you ask due to the fact that a music video gets hits at all times of the day and night and the hits that music videos or any video upload obtains are generated by hundreds of people on their computer day after day after day, etc. etc.

Just like in the old days where sales of singles pretty much dictated which songs got the most airplay on radio this same kind of thing is happening on You Tube where the more hits a video gets in a relatively short amount of time dictates just how popular the video is with video watchers. His previous music video, "The Global Warming Song", was issued 3 months ago and it's gotten 55,699 hits so far. Now, compare that to the 416,041 hits of "God Save Arizona" issued just a month ago. The timing, of course, means a whole lot as well. Global warming really isn't a high priority or a hot topic in the news even though it's a subject matter a lot of people have an opinion on. The music video most surely will get more hits as time goes by particularly if global warming becomes some sort of rabid obsession with people. Still, it's a funny music video and it skewers global warming as only Ray Stevens check the music video out if you hadn't seen it yet. The news banner that runs along the screen is hilarious.

Personal commentary...

I wish that "We Are the Government" were to be made into a music video! The song is on Ray's current We The People CD. Even if the song never becomes a music video I'll continue to champion it and hype it because it's very, very funny. The mid-term elections are coming up in November and with this being the last day of September that leaves just one month, October, before election day rolls around. The song, I think, would strike a chord with the mid-term elections being right around the corner. No matter what happens in November we'll still have the Obama administration at least until January 2013 when I predict he'll have been voted out of office in November 2012. However, even though he'll continue to remain in office through 2012, if the Republicans and conservatives and Tea Party candidates all pull big victories this November the Obama administration will not have the influence as it currently has with a majority of Democrats in Congress. This is why this upcoming mid-term election is crucial at stopping the direction that the Obama policies want to take the country into.

September 28, 2010

Ray Stevens: Nostalgia Valley, Part 14...

Looking down in the nostalgia valley today I see a burning car...this most certainly has to be a car that Charlene MacKenzie totaled; or, it might be a car that was left in a will prior to it being pushed off a cliff...a sort of thank-you from a man whose companion left him. Of course my opening thoughts are tied to a couple of Ray Stevens songs with the first being 1988's "The Day I Tried To Teach Charlene MacKenzie How To Drive". The other song is 1980's "The Last Laugh" where there's a mention in the song depicting the act of shoving a car off a hill. A third song revolving around vehicles is "This Is Your Daddy's Oldsmobile" which is a father-son type of song dealing with a teenager's attempt and desire to borrow the car keys for the weekend. The father's strict, though, and constantly warns his son that the car doesn't belong to him. A fourth song from Ray Stevens depicting activity in a car is "Butterfly Inside a Coupe DeVille" from 1989 but seven years before that "Country Boy, Country Club Girl" told of what Ray wished to do in the back of his car with the country club woman.

A similar fantasy comes calling again toward the end of 1988's "Booger Man" where Ray suggests to his girlfriend that she better snuggle up real close so he can protect her from the demon outside. In "Happy Hour" from 1984 there's a mention of a jealous woman setting Ray's car on fire while "Blood and Suede" tells the story of a Mercedes Benz and a Porsche crashing on Mulholland Drive. "Used Cars" arrived in 1990...a comical tale about the trials and tribulations of buying used cars.

"God Save Arizona" is still of now it's sitting at 407,886 You Tube hits. "Come to the USA" is this close to going past 4,000,000 hits!! How close you may ask? The hit count as of now is 3,991,263!!

I'd like to close this blog entry remembering the birthday of Jerry Clower. A lot of Ray's fans may be aware that Clower was one of the most celebrated country comedians enjoying a long, successful run mainly in the southern half of the United States but he performed all over the country during his more than 25 years in the country music business. His journey from growing up in the depression in the deep south and making his way through grade school, high school, military experiences, college life playing football at Mississippi State, his association with 4-H, and on into the business of selling chemicals and fertilizer is well documented in the hundreds of comical stories that collectively populated his albums. His run-in's with celebrities of all walks of life once he became a country music entertainer were also recounted in his own unique style. Clower was born September 28, 1926 and died August 24, you can tell it was almost a month shy of his turning 72. Clower was a guest vocalist, along with Minnie Pearl, on Ray's 1986 comedy single, "Southern Air". The comical story is only available on Ray's 1986 album, Surely You Joust. The single charted modestly on the country music charts and it's perhaps only familiar to those who follow Ray's career...although I realize that the performance is probably unknown to those who don't even have that 1986 album! Clower co-starred on Ray's 1995 direct-to-home video movie, Get Serious! Clower played the part of Ray's manager, The Colonel.

September 26, 2010

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

I sure I speak for a vast majority of Ray Stevens fans when I say we don't particularly appreciate those who spew hatred toward him...specifically now that he's become much more vocal about politics. There's just something petty and small that comes off when someone, for example, wants to write off a singer who they've "been a fan of for years" simply because that singer is being politically vocal all of the sudden. Another scenario that's contrived, in my opinion at least, is when people who obviously hadn't paid much attention to Ray Stevens in years or probably decades but yet they're the first ones in line to complain about his political views. There's just something contrived about those kinds of "complaints". You can see it all over the left-leaning blogs and on some Twitter messages from time to time where so-called disgruntled Ray Stevens fans "unite" to share their "frustration" over the political direction of his career. 90% of Ray's fans I believe share his political feelings. There may be some fans who aren't as strongly set in their views as he is but chances are those fans have no issue at all with the message Ray sends out in his string of political music videos.

What does that leave us with? It leaves us with something like 10% of fans who are bitter or disappointed that Ray's political views don't match their own and they can't bring themselves to buy anything from him from now on. These same people shudder at the thought that "this is the same man who gave us Everything Is Beautiful". This last scenario is a ploy by liberals who have no real idea who Ray Stevens is other than he sang a song called "Everything Is Beautiful" and that it sits in contrast, in their opinion anyway, to his views of today. Apparently they want to make the argument that Ray's hypocritical by writing a song like "Everything Is Beautiful" in 1970 but yet 40 years later he's "changed his tune". This sort of thing does nothing but bait people into arguing which is something liberals and progressives enjoy doing a lot judging by their intolerance when it comes to what they consider political incorrectness. Is there anything out there more stupid than political correctness? That's a topic for another day, though. While the progressive liberals want to argue and call people names all day long how about us Ray Stevens fans continue to ignore those kind of people and enjoy all the music that he's given us for decades.

September 24, 2010

Ray Stevens...Back in Branson!!

Hello all the Ray Stevens fans! By now some of you have made your way to watch Ray's concert series in Branson, Missouri at the Welk Theatre. I've read some commentary from those who've seen the show and as I imagined early on it's a runaway success. Those who've seen the show have said that the first half is devoted pretty much to political and patriotic publicity and exposure to his We The People collection while the second half features the Ray Stevens classics. By the way, there's a new item issued in Ray's web-site's a T-shirt which features the picture of Ray from the We The People CD and the new t-shirts being offered include the phrase Great Awakening Tour 2010. The other T-shirt features Ray in front of the flag in Founding Father costume with We The People Have Awakened on the front and Throw the Bums Out! on the back. That is the shirt that I have...I may send off for the newer T-shirt at some point. Ray's web-site store is located at his web-site...of course!! Ray Stevens Web-Store.

As most people are aware, Ray Stevens is often credited with putting Branson, Missouri on the map in the early '90s with his consistent string of sold-out concerts at his own theater. There were theater's in Branson well before Ray built his in 1991...Roy Clark as well as Boxcar Willie were among the very first entertainers to open theater's down there. However, the timing was right in the early '90s and Ray just happened to be in the right place at the right time. It was at a point in country music's history where a lot of established (though still popular) acts were being pushed off the radio...and quite a few of them went to Branson either to open up a theater or to become featured acts in the variety of theaters already in business. Ray built his theater upon a suggestion from an associate who realized that in each of Ray's previous engagements in Branson that the tickets sold out rather quickly. Armed with knowledge like that it didn't take long for Ray to decide to have his own theater. Ray's theater was in business during 1991, 1992, and 1993. He shut down the theater afterward and decided to go back out on the road...the sheer exhaustion of doing two shows a day six days a week throughout the bulk of each calendar year, he said, was a big reason that he needed to take a break. He also remarked that he wanted a break from the business side of running a theater...and so...he shut down the theater and it was leased to other productions. He returned to the theater a decade later and did a couple more seasons in Branson before shutting it down for good. As I commented in previous blogs the theater was bought by RFD-TV at some point in 2007 or 2008. The image you see is of Ray making one of his grand entrances in 1993...riding a Harley-Davidson as a visual tie-in with his 1980 song, "Shriner's Convention"...complete with Hawaiian flower shirt.

You all can click on the image for a bigger look, of course. One of the things that I'm sure a lot of you visitors are aware of by now is I re-size images so that they don't take up a lot of space. A lot of blogs post huge images to where a lot of their words are shoved off to the left or right margins but I prefer to have my blog looking somewhat organized and neat. The image is of "Indian Love Call", a single that Ray Stevens released in 1975. Those of you who want to see video of Ray performing this song from the year it was released need to purchase a DVD of Pop! Goes the Country. The performance will be featured on Volume Four, Chapter Three of the disc. There are a five more episodes of the program on that release but Ray's portion is Chapter Three. I consider it one of the best volumes because not only is Ray Stevens featured in one of the episodes but you also get episodes starring the likes of Faron Young, Carl Smith, Ronnie Milsap, Charlie Daniels, Johnny and June Carter Cash, Bobby Bare, The Statler Brothers, and others. You can find the DVD's at their web-site store Classic Country DVD.

September 20, 2010

Ray Stevens...There's Something On Your Mind...

A few blogs ago I spotlighted an obscure Ray Stevens album titled There Is Something On Your Mind from 1978. The album contains eight tracks and it features Ray's versions of R&B songs of the '50s. I had a request to transcribe the commentary that appears on the album given how obscure the project happens to be. On eBay there's an 8-track copy of this album...I purchased my copy on-line several years ago. It's a vinyl copy as you can see...I don't believe it's ever been issued on cassette and it definitely hasn't been issued on CD...

Ray provides commentary about each and every track. This commentary appears on the back of the album which I'll post an image of later. Above the picture on the front of the album there's more commentary...but this is more or less a greeting than an actual commentary about the material contained within the album. Some may wonder who the woman standing behind Ray is...I have no idea. Perhaps it's a model that Warner Brothers found? The image appears as if they're looking through a window. The album's title may be a bit misleading for those who've never heard the song before. Some may think it's a romantic song going by the title...but it's not exactly a romantic song...oh, there's romance within the context of the story but as far as it being a lush, softly sung performance it's nowhere near that!

The following is a copy of what appears on the front of the album...

"I'm not a nostalgia nut but I guess, along with everyone else, I'm a little tired of hearing, with rare exception, nothing but parodies of the '50s music. True, a few of the hits deserve nothing but a tongue in cheek treatment, but then maybe every era is vulnerable to ridicule from somebody's point of view. Be that as it may, I have had the desire to record some of the old '50s songs for some time now minus the "grease" and "doo-wop"! A lot of the lyrics are still relevant and the ideas expressed poignant and communicative to any generation. I have tried to present this collection of 'oldies' with as much sincere appreciation for merit as reality will allow. I grew up with these songs and they played in the background of my formative years as a singer and musician. I like these songs. Some of the lyrics are not what you could call 'heavy' but they translate into a feeling that reads between the me, anyway. I recorded this album in my little studio in Nashville on 24 tracks, using a few musicians that I have known and worked with for years."

-Ray Stevens

Ray mentioned in the greeting that he used a few musicians and this isn't an exaggeration! He really did use just a few musicians on this album. Excluding himself, he used just six musicians...and not all of them played on every song. Jerry Carrigan played the drums on six of the eight tracks. Jerry Kroon played drums on "Money Honey" and "Old Faithful Trilogy". Jack Williams played the bass on every song while Reggie Young played the electric guitar on all the songs. Johnny Christopher played the acoustic guitar on six of the eight tracks...while Mark Casstevens played acoustic guitar on "Money Honey" and "Old Faithful Trilogy". Ray played the keyboards, synthesizer, percussion, and did all of the background vocals. By percussion I assume they mean a vibraphone or other related instruments given that Jerry Carrigan and Jerry Kroon were already credited as the drummers. On the back of the album, as you can see, Ray's picture appears on the top left side while his commentary on all the songs fills up the back of the album.

The following is Ray's commentary for all the songs he recorded for the album...this is what appears on the back of the 1978 album...

Dance Trilogy is a medley of three songs beginning with Do You Wanna Dance which was first recorded by Bobby Freeman. The dominant sounds on his record were bongos and a pounding piano lick. My concept is a little softer while using conga, tumba and quinto instead of bongos and Wurlitzer electric piano (heavy on the vibrato). This segues into one of my favorites, When You Dance, recorded originally by a little known R&B group called The Turbans. This was one of the first records I ever heard where the lead singer broke into falsetto (long before Frankie Valli). When I first heard this record, I remember I ran out and bought it immediately. The last song of this threesome is the old Drifters classic, Save the Last Dance For Me, which came along a little later than the other two but is, I think, a fitting finale.

Talk To Me is, in my opinion, a classic! It was originally recorded by Little Willie John. The lyric is timeless in it's simple direct language and expresses a sincere desire for the ultimate communication of feeling and insights between two people.

One Mint Julep is a song a lot of people not into '50s R&B don't realize was a vocal hit by The Clovers before Ray Charles' organ instrumental version popularized it to a larger pop audience. This song was one of the first songs to 'cross-over' to a teenage audience in 1952.

Old Faithful Trilogy is three songs that pledge devotion and give off good vibes. You may not remember Shake a Hand by Faye Adams until it gets to the chorus but then something in the back of your mind will say... "oh yeah! I've always known that...". Ivory Joe Hunter's Since I Met You Baby with the down-home church piano lick has always been one of my favorites and everybody knows Always.

Money Honey was first recorded by my friend, the late Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters. Clyde, as most people know, was a pioneer in bringing R&B vocal styling to a larger audience. Most of the singers of today who use melismata at all in their vocal delivery owe a debt of thanks to people like Clyde McPhatter. I had the privilege of working with Clyde in a small way in Nashville when I was working for Mercury Records and he came down to record for Mercury in 1963. I saw Clyde again in London years later.

Banned in Boston Trilogy - I believe that these songs were the first to cross-over to the white audience in the early '50s. Sixy Minute Man by The Dominoes was the first R&B song I ever heard. It was banned on several radio stations as being too suggestive to program at that time. This only increased the demand from the teens. Work With Me Annie is the second song of the trilogy. The classic hit by The Midnighters was also banned on most radio stations across the country, and the follow-up, Annie Had a Baby (which is the closing song of the trilogy) was so taboo that I don't believe I ever heard it on the air. This, I'm sure, promoted sales to a certain element of avid record buyers. I decided that Annie Had a Baby should be done more as a lullaby with a straight 8th's feel, breaking into a harder rockier sound from the sheer energy created by the melody and lyric, and coming back down abruptly at the end with the celeste and background vocals creating a sweet sound.

Your Cash Ain't Nothin' But Trash by The Clovers in 1954 is one of the first songs I heard where the lyric was cleverly worded to sound like a comedy play set to music.

There Is Something On Your Mind- Bobby Marchan created such an atmosphere with the recitation sections of this song that I almost didn't do it. However, I decided that if an audience reacted to the delivery, it might bring a new dimension to the material and be welcomed as a fresh recording. I couldn't pass it up!

September 18, 2010

Ray Stevens: Nostalgia Valley, Part 13...

This hour the We The People digital album is ranked #39 among comedy Mp3's at Amazon. I typically don't keep track of the album anymore due to the fact that it's been available for a number of months now. I realize now that even after this many months that there may be some who have no idea that the collection is available and therefore have no idea that politics has become a part of Ray's career at the moment. The CD became available nationwide in June of this year. It had previously been available exclusively to Ray's web-site store during the months of April and May of this month will mark half a year since it's release. It's actual release day was April 1, 2010. The CD version of the collection which includes a bonus DVD of four music videos is ranked more modestly and I guess the reason for that is because it's a bit more expensive than the digital version. Obviously with a digital album there's no added cost for the physical CD and a DVD and so those added expenses don't show up in the price. Also, digital albums are way more convenient to a consumer...a few clicks of the mouse and the music's downloaded onto your computer's music program. A physical CD of course would require mail order due to Ray's music not being available in shopping stores.

I like Ray's comical twist on "Hey There" so much that I find myself returning to the subject matter often. I'm assuming it was Ray's idea to perform the song half-serious and it a soft, easy-listening feel and blending it with a bizarre vocal performance that comically clashes with the arrangement. You'll never have a straight face while listening to the original "Hey There" again once you hear Ray's version. It mocks radio programs that play soft dance music...shifting 30 years to 2010 it's the kind of program you may hear on any number of NPR stations. The connection to radio is why Ray's image appears on the picture of a radio. I'm sure there was NPR back in 1980 but I don't think it was in the mainstream as often as it is today. I listen to a few NPR programs that play classic country music...but I'm not what you could call an NPR backer. I don't give money to public radio or public TV...and I'm not part of the political make-up of most NPR listeners...but as I mentioned I listen to local NPR on certain days when the classic country music programs air.

Ray Stevens lookin' mighty serious in this picture. As you can tell this picture was used on the 1980 "Hey There" single. That particular single was released wasn't released commercially here in America. I have no information about the actual picture...I'd seen a photo credit indicate the picture was taken in Canada but it didn't give a year...for all I know the image could have originated in 1980, 1979, or 1978. Given that the image shown up on a picture sleeve for a 1980 single obviously indicates it's from somewhere prior to 1981. I'd say anywhere between 1978 and 1980. The image appears on the BMG/RCA collection titled The Last Laugh from 1999 and that particular collection was re-released in 2004 with what appears to be a painted replica of Ray's image. I know computer special effects are at play but it's the same image. The non-computer enhanced image appears on an RCA compilation from 1990 titled Everything Is Beautiful and Other Hits. Seeing that the picture has only appeared on RCA-released material it's safe to say 1979 or 1980 is the year the picture was taken. Ray signed with RCA in late 1979. Here's a look at the 2004 re-release of The Last Laugh with that painted look...the ironic thing is Ray recorded a song called "The Last Laugh" while at RCA but that song doesn't appear on the CD of the same fact, only one song that Ray recorded while at RCA appears on the compilation.

I think what happened is someone brightened the picture a bit too much or they colorized a black and white image of Ray and this was the result. The full-size image of Ray that you see was actually a publicity picture by RCA...and it was black and white...and so my guess is those who put together the 2004 re-release of 1999's The Last Laugh colorized the picture for dramatic effect. 1999's release was handled by BMG while the 2004 re-release was handled by Collectables. There are 10 songs on the collection ranging from the 1968-1970 time frame with a few songs from 1974 and one from 1980. The obvious songs are here...songs like "Along Came Jones", "The Streak", "Everything Is Beautiful", "Gitarzan", "Shriner's Convention" etc etc. The label also includes a 1968 single, "Unwind", plus a 1966 comedy song, "Bagpipes, That's My Bag", and 1970's "America, Communicate With Me".

September 17, 2010

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

"God Save Arizona" is moving right along. As of now it's resting at 336,500 hits. Doing the math that means that it'll need 163,500 more hits to reach half a million. The pattern of late are increases of 5,000 to 10,000 hits per day and so it could vault past the half a million mark in a week or two if it keeps up this pace. Ray is currently appearing in Branson, Missouri for a 6 week run and so no doubt the song/video will be one of the centerpieces of his concerts at the Welk Theater. This could translate into more exposure and more You Tube hits.

I also wish this 1978 album were to get a lot of exposure as well!! It's among the albums that Ray recorded while at Warner Brothers. I've written about this album numerous times and mentioned where some of the songs originated from that Ray covers. It's an R&B tribute album where Ray does wonderful renditions of classic early R&B hits. A lot of the emphasis is on the R&B groups of the '50s...a few of the groups were not widely known among the mainstream according to Ray's own commentary. Although you can't really see it that well Ray offers his commentary above his picture...ending his thoughts with a copy of his signature. On the back of the album there's a song by song breakdown where Ray gives his thoughts and opinions about the material and why he chose to cover each song. If you can find this album on eBay or anywhere else on-line my advice is to buy it! It's an album that you won't hear much about and some may deny it even's titled There Is Something On Your Mind.

Curious minds want to know is Happy Hour really the saddest time of the day? This question relates to a very funny song that Ray Stevens recorded back in 1984. The song's title is "Happy Hour Is the Saddest Time of the Day". I typically just refer to it as "Happy Hour" for short. That's me with a glass of Cream Soda...I don't drink or smoke. For those who hadn't heard the song it's about an alcoholic couple that's broken up and now happy hour just doesn't feel the same anymore. I'm certain those who oppose drinking or those who oppose making light of alcoholism won't find the song funny and will most surely consider it offensive or outrageous...but what's new when it comes to Ray Stevens? His humor isn't for everyone...even though, in my opinion, a lot of people that may take offense to his brand of comedy aren't really being reasonable toward him anyhow. "Happy Hour" can be found on Ray's Platinum album, He Thinks He's Ray Stevens.

The album was re-issued as The Mississippi Squirrel Revival in 1992. It was re-issued under a new name given how popular that song happens to be. The CD re-issue also came with a different picture sleeve as well. Amazon has the CD for sale but they say it was re-issued in 1995 even though my CD copy clearly states 1992 as the year the 1984 album was re-released onto CD. I have He Thinks He's Ray Stevens in cassette format but at the time I didn't have it in CD format and so when this re-issue became available to me I bought it. I bought my copy at some point in 1995 or 1996 simply because, as I mentioned, I didn't have that album in CD format. Today, though, with digital downloading the practice by so many you can easily buy each song from this album for ninety-nine cents and have the music downloaded onto your computer. I buy music on-line but it's only if there's no CD version available. I still like having a physical CD with the artist's picture and the songwriter and musician credits, etc etc. and so I prefer buying physical CD's but if there's none available I'll go the digital route.

Ray Stevens is on the verge of reaching 4,000,000 hits on You Tube with "Come to the USA". This particular music video has pulled in more hits (3,828,239 to be exact!) than "We The People", which currently sits at 3,597,780. In an interview right when "Come to the USA" had just been uploaded Ray remarked that a lot of his associates and friends felt that the video may top or exceed the phenomenal success of "We The People" and as you can see they were onto something. "Come to the USA" needs 171,761 additional hits to reach 4,000,000 exactly. I feel that the video will indeed reach that 4 million mark and it may reach that total by year's end...perhaps even by the November mid-terms.

September 16, 2010

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

It's me again all you Ray Stevens fans! You all know who you are...I'm one of the biggest. A few days ago Ray was mentioned on The O'Reilly Factor once again. This marks the third time this year that one of Ray's music videos has graced the top-rated Fox News program. This time around "God Save Arizona" was highlighted. Previously "Come to the USA" and "We The People" were highlighted. If you all recall, the first time Ray was mentioned on O'Reilly's program it resulted in Ray's web-site crashing. The highlight of "God Save Arizona" worked wonders because over the course of the last several days the music video jumped to 320,017 hits on You Tube. Prior to the O'Reilly highlight the video was in the mid 260,000 range which is still respectable but it goes to show you what exposure on a nationwide television program can do. There was probably hundreds of thousands of people unaware of the video's existence...but not anymore judging by the spike in hits.

The song is still only available as a digital download and physical CD single...there hasn't been any announcements made of any upcoming album that "God Save Arizona" will be part of.

Ray started his month long stay at the Welk Theatre in Branson, Missouri this week. The opening night was yesterday, September 15th. I should say opening day and night since he did two shows show at 2pm and another at 8pm. He'll be doing several dates with two shows a day and other dates with just one show. I posted the concert days and times in a previous blog. You can see the schedule at Ray's web-site in the Tour section or at the Welk Resort web-page in the Theatre section.

September 12, 2010

Ray Stevens and the Armchair Quarterback...

I may have did a blog like this last year and the year before about this particular subject but it's a national holiday that rivals all holidays in the minds of millions of people. However, this holiday isn't recognized on any calendar and if companies are in business on this particular day they won't close down for it. What is the holiday?? Why, it's none other than "opening day" of the 2010 NFL season. Yes...the NFL season kicks off today...technically the first game was played the previous Thursday night...but for all intents and purposes Sunday is football day from now until early 2011 and so let the games begin!!

"Armchair Quarterback" to my knowledge is the only song Ray Stevens has recorded dealing with the subject of football. In that song the subject matter is college football...but the scenario and exaggerated situations heard about in the song can apply to NFL games just as well. The song starts off with a referee's whistle and the kind of music one might hear from a college band as the players come onto the field. It's one of my favorite Ray Stevens songs...even though it wasn't released as a single and it has never been made into a music video. The song originates from the 1985 album, I Have Returned. The song was written by Bobby Russell...a name that appears on another song Ray recorded, 1986's "Camp Werthahekahwee".

I mention this because a lot of people automatically assume Ray writes every song he performs which he doesn't. The songs that Ray doesn't write end up sounding as if he wrote them because of the personality that he puts into the songs. There have been a lot of songs written by others that Ray has recorded but since he puts so much of his arranging and production skills behind the songs he sings it's easy for some to think he writes all of them. As of this writing I Have Returned has yet to be released in digital form. You can always check eBay for cassette or vinyl versions of that 1985 album. The album is a Gold seller and hit #1 on the Country album chart in the spring of 1986.

How many out there consider themselves "Armchair Quarterback" types? I can't exactly say that I'm one of them. I happen to watch Pro-football all afternoon and evening during NFL season but I don't sit there and holler or scream at the TV screen. I simply love watching the games. I do find myself uttering bad words if a referee is whistle happy and calls obscure penalties. It's a lot like baseball umpire's having a small or wide strike zone. It's a little bit past 11:30am in the East and so it's 90 minutes from kick-off. The final month of baseball is also favorite team is play-off bound!

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

Welcome one and all to the Ray Stevens Music Journey. Whenever I write a greeting like that I imagine myself standing in the center ring at a circus. The music of Ray Stevens sometimes can parallel a's filled with thrills, spills, chills, and frolic. Sometimes the music can keep one on the edge of their seats and at other times there's high drama within the lyrics. In more recent years there's been less high drama in the lyrics and more high drama in his career...thanks in part to a string of politically aware songs.

I feel as if it's an accurate thing to say that everything's still beautiful in Ray Stevens' career right now. A lot of bloggers and those in the media have often taken the title, "Everything is Beautiful", and re-worded it or played around with it's message in an attempt to describe what their piece would be about. Typically the critics/bloggers want to draw comparisons of 1970 and 2010 and complain how "awful, terrible..." it is that the man who gave us "Everything is Beautiful" can now suddenly be a "right-winger...". This sort of complaining shows the political leanings of the blogger/critic and the funny part is they don't hide or conceal that their anger stems from a political difference.

The funny thing is the 5 or 10 percent of those who oppose Ray's political opinions in song would be falling all over him if his opinions matched theirs. This is why I don't take his opposition seriously. He's clearly speaking to a majority of people which is who Ray was speaking to when he performed "Everything is Beautiful" in 1970. If you truly analyze Ray's 1970 single you'd find out that Ray was delivering social commentary to the public as a whole. The song questions why the majority, himself included, are caught up in religious, racial, and political differences and if we could stop that kind of thing everyone would realize how similar everyone else is to one another regardless of social or physical differences. Certainly a single like that was in step with the majority of the country in 1970...the funny thing is a lot of people who hear that song today, for whatever reason, get embarrassed by how happy and optimistic it sounds.

Could this be a reflection on how society today operates? Is optimism and happiness now in the minority replaced by pessimism and anger? See, if one looks at it like that, you can clearly see how Ray was speaking to the majority of people in 1970 and you can see how he's speaking to the majority in 2010. Obviously the majority point of view in 2010 doesn't necessarily match 1970...and so that's where this current divide comes from. The 1970 majority is no longer in the's as simple as that.

During my self-imposed break from writing this particular blog "God Save Arizona" has risen to 241,711 hits on You Tube.

Yesterday was the 9th anniversary of 9/11 and I was tempted to write a blog and feature Ray's 9/11 song, "Osama Yo' Mama", but I held off doing so. I figured that with all of the 9/11 blogs and news stories that would be written that mine would get lost among the more serious blogs. This isn't to say mine would've been full of laughs but anytime people see the name, Ray Stevens, they automatically think laughter and comedy. I remember back in late 2001, a few months after 9/11, when Ray debuted "Osama Yo' Mama". I thought back then and still think today that the song and music video are funny. This isn't to say everyone appreciated a light-hearted look at the tragedy. A particular music critic, whose name I forget, attacked Ray for not taking 9/11 seriously by choosing to deliver a novelty song when the country "needed and wanted something serious". Is that so? In case that critic forgot...Ray is known for singing novelty songs...what did this critic actually expect? I also recall a slightly negative review of Ray's early 2002 album, Osama Yo' Mama: The Album. This was titled in that manner to differentiate between the CD single and the full-length CD which featured the same picture sleeve.

Anyway, a critic who reviewed the album lamented that "novelty albums don't hold up over the course of time; they overstay their welcome and while mildly amusing at the start become annoying mid-way through". Of course I'm paraphrasing the review...if there was something positive said I missed it. Perhaps the critic may have given Ray a backhanded compliment of some kind but I only remember the harsh criticism. One critic made the comment that topical humor doesn't have much durability. No kidding...this is news to me!!

September 6, 2010

Some more Ray Stevens discussion...

Not a lot of people realize that Ray Stevens had great success with his Turn Your Radio On album. In compilation after compilation usually the songs people hear are "Turn Your Radio On" and or "All My Trials". The two other hit singles from that album rarely got much inclusion: "A Mama and a Papa" and "Love Lifted Me". The album reached the country Top-20 in 1972. As far as chart statistics go "Turn Your Radio On" hit the country Top-20 while "All My Trials" and "A Mama and a Papa" both hit the Easy-Listening Top-10. That format is now known as Adult-Contemporary. The fourth hit, "Love Lifted Me", ironically enough became a Top-5 hit in Bangkok of all completely missed the charts in America. In fact, it was in mid September of 1972 that the single debuted over there and it reached it's Top-5 peak by month's end during the song's third week on the chart. It started to fall back down the chart in the first week of October.

Keeping with the religious/gospel overtones we move on to a single that Ray released on RCA in 1982 with the peculiar title of "Where The Sun Don't Shine". The song comes complete with a church style organ, hand-claps, and bouncy sing-a-long lyrics. The story of the song is about a man and a woman who've broken-up. The man wants to be a gentleman about everything and offers to give the woman just about everything he has, even going so far as to say he'd help her put everything in a U-haul, but then among all this gentleman behavior he offers her some advice of where she can take her love and put it as well. It's a novelty song, of course, but it's performed so serious which makes it funnier...especially toward the end where Ray really gets into the spirit of the song and like a gospel shouter continues to tell the woman where she can stick her love. The song is much better than the actual peak performance on the country charts would I pointed out in some of my earlier blogs this was at a time when country radio was starting to shun the comedy song in general no matter who the artist happened to be.

I saw Ray perform the song on television only was during a clip-filled program that used to air on The Nashville Network. The program was called Country Standard Time and it spotlighted classic performances from country artists through the one episode they shown Ray performing "Where The Sun Don't Shine" on an episode of That Nashville Music. The song comes from Ray's 1982 album, Don't Laugh Now. In the mid '80s it was included on the RCA Collector's Series album which is where the picture of Ray comes from. I scanned the image from my personal collection. The album was re-issued in cassette form in 1987 and then it was re-issued in CD form in 1992. Since that time the vinyl version, obviously, has gone out of print as did the cassette and CD versions. RCA has not re-issued the collection digitally yet. As Ray Stevens fans we're all hoping RCA will release all of Ray's material in Mp3 format at some point...even CD format would be great as well! My advice is check eBay or some other on-line music store for Collector's Series. Sometimes the actual vinyl copy of Don't Laugh Now comes up for sale.

After doing my daily check of Amazon I discovered that Ray's current single, "God Save Arizona", is among the best-selling Mp3 singles in the Alternative Country-Americana category. This is the first time I'd seen the single ranked in a best-seller list and so my guess is it debuted at some point today and has risen each hour. As of this writing it's ranked at #33. It's anyone's guess why Amazon decided to put the single in that category instead of in the country format as they did his previous releases. Perhaps the overall feel of the song being so tied to America enabled it to be tagged in that category? Whatever the long as it's listed as a best-seller is all we fans care about because it shows those who criticize him that there is a great number of people who agree with his points of view. Two of his You Tube music videos have combined to total over 6,000,000 hits...with this kind of track record what more proof do the skeptics and naysayers need?? Ray really does speak to a large majority of people...and I'm sure you all, like myself, get annoyed whenever you read a blogger try and make Ray out to be a representative for a small group of people.

September 5, 2010

Ray Stevens Fall Concerts...Get Ready!!

Alright all you Ray Stevens fans out there...Lend Me Your Ears...Ray Stevens is kicking off his fall concert series on September 11th in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The show starts at 7pm Eastern time. He'll be appearing at the Alabama Theatre for one show and then on September 15th he'll kick off his lengthy stay at the Welk Resort in Branson, Missouri. Well, lengthy as in September 15th through October 23rd. Those able to attend any of his concerts should cherish them...there's no telling if Ray will do any concerts in 2011...only time will tell. He's been semi-retired from the road and any appearance he gives usually turns into a big event among his fan base. Ray's concert series in Branson will feature gaps between show dates. A link to two promo pages for his Branson concerts is featured in this blog but I'll manually write out the concert dates:

September 15th and 16th: Two shows each day; 2pm and 8pm
September 17th and 18th: One show; 8pm
September 22nd and 23rd: Two shows each day; 2pm and 8pm
September 24th and 25th: One show; 8pm
September 29th and 30th: Two shows each day; 2pm and 8pm
October 1st and 2nd: One show; 8pm
October 6th and 7th: Two shows each day; 2pm and 8pm
October 8th and 9th: One show; 8pm
October 13th and 14th: Two shows each day; 2pm and 8pm
October 15th and 16th: One show; 8pm
October 20th and 21st: Two shows each day; 2pm and 8pm
October 22nd and 23rd: One show; 8pm

In the second link you'll see a couple of short video commercials for Ray's upcoming concerts in Branson.

The Welk Resort

Ray Stevens Welk Resort Advertisements

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

This particular compilation album was released in 1984 and it showcased 11 songs from Ray Stevens. The emphasis was on the non-comedy songs as of the 11 featured, 7 were serious. This collection was one of many compilation albums issued on Ray Stevens...something I've written about before. The material that Ray recorded, especially for Monument and Barnaby, became widely distributed by a whole host of record labels throughout the late 1970's but specifically throughout the 1980's and into the early 1990's. The many compilations that seemed to be routine slowly came to a halt by the mid '90s. Ever since the late '90s and into the 2000's there hadn't been as many compilations released on Ray Stevens. A lot of it has to do with changes in the marketing of music where you don't have hardly any Independent labels anymore specializing in vintage material and you rarely, if ever, see labels attempt to make a quick buck from their current roster of artists or former roster members. Artists today have much more control over their music...remember, this is an era where a singer can sue their record company if the company releases material against the singer's wishes. Even though, technically, the music an artist records for a label is owned by that label. Years ago that kind of thing where an artist takes their label to court was unheard may have gone on in private but with the invention of the internet and all sorts of other cyber-media resources it's almost impossible to keep anything private anymore particularly when you have people who seem to specialize in leaking controversial elements of any story to the media.

This 1984 compilation as you can see features 11 can always click the images for a bigger picture. The material is taken from the 1968-1975 era. The abundance of Ray Stevens compilations truly shows just how popular he wouldn't have so many labels putting out Ray Stevens material if it wasn't profitable. Today, though, the lack of compilations isn't a reflection on his popularity I mentioned it's just a sign of the times. The four comedy songs found on this compilation are "Ahab the Arab", "Along Came Jones", "Bridget the Midget", and "The Streak".

Losin' Streak was one of two albums released by Ray Stevens in 1973. The other album, Nashville, is the one that was more commercially successful by comparison. Losin' Streak features 11 songs as well...all of the songs are non-comical. One of the recordings, "Laid Back", is an instrumental. Ray included an instrumental on Nashville as well...on that album "Float" is the instrumental. On Losin' Streak we get to hear Ray do some studio experimentation with microphone techniques and overall sound quality...according to reports I've read this was his first album recorded at his own studio which had the name of The Ray Stevens Sound Laboratory. His voice is crisp and clear...and he belts out a lot of songs on this particular collection. "This Is Your Life" demonstrates the experimental efforts during the post-production. "Bye Bye Love" is his take on the bouncy Everly Brothers pop hit...and in Ray's hands the song is transformed from a bouncy sing-a-long to a melancholy ballad.

"Inside" is a motivational song and one of my favorites...and then there's the clever "Idaho Wine" which tells the story of a mismatched couple. Ray offers another cover song, "Easy Loving", which was a gigantic hit for Freddie Hart in 1971. Hart had also written the song. The title track, "Losin' Streak", is a song about a man with a gambling problem and how it interferes with his personal life. It's a song with some rather unusual phrasing that's for was written by a writer by the name of Nick Van Maarth. It's on this album that Ray does a wonderful re-recording of an earlier song he wrote and recorded while at Mercury, "Just One of Life's Little Tragedies". A few words about "What Do You Know?"...I've never known of any songs that seriously examine the inner psyche or ponder the human mind's abilities and weaknesses as this song does. It's a song that comes off as if it was written by Sigmund Freud. Losin' Streak remains the only album that Ray recorded for Barnaby Records to not get a re-issue of some kind. Several years ago all of Ray's studio albums on Barnaby got re-issued except this one...and it continues to remain a mystery as to why this album is overlooked and hasn't had a proper re-issue yet.

A few words about Ray Stevens...

The second album from Ray Stevens, This is Ray Stevens, came along in 1963. The album features quite a few tracks...a couple of them became hit singles for Ray and there was more non-comedy featured in this collection, too, in spite of the comical album cover of Ray sitting in the bathtub. The hit singles on this album included "Harry the Hairy Ape", which hit the Top-20 on both the Pop and R&B charts. "Speed Ball" reached the Top-50 on the pop chart and the Top-30 on the R&B chart. "Funny Man" was also issued as a commercial single as well. It charted in the lower portion of the Hot 100 even though it's considered by many fans of Ray's to be one of his best vocal performances from that era. This is Ray Stevens was re-issued several years later and much of the material on this album was lifted for the 1970 compilation, The Best of Ray Stevens. It's my guess that Mercury Records issued that 1970 album to showcase the material he recorded for them due to how hugely successful he had become by 1970. In a way it was as if Mercury was saying "hey, folks, Ray used to make records for us...take a listen!!". They had previously released a similar compilation album on Ray in 1968 featuring a few more songs from 1962...while the 1970 release focused largely on his 1963 recordings. The liner notes for the 1970 compilation mentioned the then-recent job Ray had of hosting Andy Williams' summer television program. This role took place during the summer months of The Best of Ray Stevens was rush released apparently given how up to date the liner notes were. Typically liner notes are written months in some case a year in advance.

The 1970 compilation features several single-only releases: "Santa Claus Is Watching You" was originally a hit single for Ray during the holiday season of 1962. It features entirely different lyrics and marketed specifically for children...years later in 1985 he re-wrote the song but kept the same title, obviously, and kept the same catch-phrase of "he's everywhere!". "Butch Babarian", a single telling the story of a mountain climber who liked to yodel, and then "Bubble Gum the Bubble Dancer" about a burlesque star, rounded out the three single-only releases found on the 1970 compilation album. The b-side of "Butch Babarian" is a love ballad called "Don't Say Anything" which is a variation of the I'm in love with you even though you may not feel the same way theme. The single was released in 1963...the following year saw "Bubble Gum the Bubble Dancer" make it's commercial debut. Although the single was issued in 1964 it was recorded at some point during 1963. The song combines the innocence of bubble gum with the exotics of a bubble dancer who goes by name Bubble Gum. It's b-side is "Laughing Over My Grave" which has a Halloween style arrangement and the song deals with a man coming to grips with the vindictive possibilities of an enraged lover. Neither b-side have made their way onto any LP, cassette, or CD.

Ray, in the meantime, joined Monument Records by late 1963 but Mercury continued to issue singles on Ray through 1965. Ray's first-ever single on Monument didn't come until three years into the contract in 1966...a mid-tempo single titled "A-B-C". The arrangement and overall feel of the song was much different than the sound of his Mercury recordings and it set the stage for the eventual image make-over which reached it's desired effect in 1968. Ray Stevens fans, such as myself, are generally insulted by the fact that Ray's Monument era in only remembered for it's final two years, 1968 and 1969, while the 1966 and 1967 recordings go under the radar. Those 1966 and 1967 recordings are scarce...a few of them made their way onto CD when Varese Sarabande re-issued Ray's 1968 album, Even Stevens.

Next year we'll be coming up on the Golden Anniversary of Ray Stevens' first national hit, "Jeremiah Peabody's Green and Purple Pills". 2011 will mark 50 years since the release of that single...originating back in 1961 on the Mercury label. It was the first single from Ray to make the national music charts...reaching the Top-40 of the Hot 100. Earlier singles from Ray, dating back to 1957, didn't chart nationally and were not widely distributed. As you can see from the back of 1987's Greatest Hits, Volume Two the single's full title is rather lengthy. Instead of shortening the song's title for single releases Mercury actually wrote the full title on the 45's that they released. The print type, of course, was much smaller to get the full title on the single. It's my guess the full title was always used either because it was the actual title of the song or it was deliberately used for comic effect. "Jeremiah Peabody's Polyunsaturated Quick Dissolving Fast Acting Pleasant Tasting Green and Purple Pills" as you can see is the song's complete title. The 1987 collection marked the debut of "Mama's in the Sky with Elvis"...this was at the time an exclusive, newly recorded song available only on the Volume Two hits collection. A year later, though, it was added to his 1988 album, I Never Made a Record I Didn't Like.

The next few years, 2011-2012, will especially be golden for "Ahab the Arab" as well. That particular single debuted in 1962...meaning that during the next election cycle in America "Ahab the Arab" will turn 50. The single reached it's 40th anniversary in 2002...ironically taking a back seat to Ray's current hit single at the time, "Osama Yo' Mama". It was purely coincidental though that during Ahab's 40th anniversary in 2002 Ray would be lyrically exploring the middle east once more but this time with a real, non-fictional target brought about by the September 11th terror attacks in 2001. 2012 being the 50th anniversary of "Ahab the Arab" I'd assume there will be some commentary of some sort about the song in blogs and other information sources.

I won't say all the commentary will be nice and positive given how the song's ethnic humor is in sharp contrast to the politically correct advocates who seem to have a stranglehold on society. If I'm still writing this Ray Stevens fan-created blog two years from now you all can rest assured that I'll probably be one of the very few bloggers who'll spotlight the song in a positive light. As most of you know I'm not a fan of political correctness. While I don't advocate the idea of being mean-spirited and hateful just for the sake of being mean and hateful I do recognize that the super-sensitive need to grow thicker skin and realize that just because they may have an accent or may have some kind of ethnic and cultural difference it doesn't mean that they're exempt from being satirized or mocked. Everyone should be fair game if the situation calls for it. The idea that accents, social or political opinions, personal appearance, sexual preference, and whatever else should be off-limits because of the potential that someone will be offended is, and always will be, ridiculous in my opinion.

The latest from Ray Stevens, "God Save Arizona", is sitting at 191,256 hits on You Tube. I hope you all don't get tired of seeing these updates...I do them because this blog is all about Ray Stevens and even though I write a lot about his past hits and the things he recorded awhile ago I of course want to highlight the current material as well. Some people unfairly want to focus exclusively on Ray's earliest recordings and ignore anything else after a certain point in time...and then there's some who want to shrug off the comedy songs and only applaud the more serious recordings...and then there's those who embrace the comedy and shrug off the serious recordings. Here's a few questions I'd like to put out to all those who are familiar with Ray Stevens but maybe aren't as dedicated to his music as I am. How about appreciating all of Ray Stevens? Why draw lines around his career and only focus on one aspect of it? Why not appreciate it all?

September 4, 2010

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

Although not noted as a balladeer or a crooner, Ray Stevens has recorded his share of love songs through the years. His material was at it's most's most romantic, depending on how you look at it, while recording for RCA in the early '80s. This isn't to say he hadn't recorded love songs before...but a good look at his RCA material shows just how reliant he was on the love song. Although his first RCA album in 1980 was all-comedy he followed it in 1981 and 1982 with two back-to-back albums crammed with love ballads. "Written Down In My Heart" came along in 1982...I happen to love the became a Top-40 country hit that year and it's taken from his Don't Laugh Now album. As I've written about before, Ray was hell-bent on recording serious songs, and that is why not much time was given to the Shriners Convention album in 1980...after the title track quickly became a hit early in 1980 he found himself shifting focus toward serious material just as quickly. This is why nothing else was issued as a single from that 1980 shown how eager Ray was at getting back to non-comedy songs. This desire was made more evident late in 1980 when "Night Games", a single from a forthcoming album, was released. The forthcoming album turned out to be One More Last Chance. In fact, "Shriner's Convention" hit in early February of 1980 and "Night Games" was issued in September 1980. This didn't allow for much attention for further comedy singles as you can see. The 1980 album hit in February of 1980 as well...and remained on the country charts for more than 20 weeks.

Tragically, though, neither the 1981 or 1982 albums that Ray recorded for RCA entered the country album chart. Again...this is either because the label didn't accurately promote the albums or the very nature of the albums being romantic and in contrast with Ray's public image ultimately told the story. Ray's reputation was cemented on novelty songs...and the non-comedy songs that he recorded were considered off-beat as well due to their distinct presentation vocally and musically...the 1981 and 1982 albums represent Ray tackling straight-forward love songs with a mainstream approach. However, his cover of "Pretend" showcases what some would consider his off-beat/unconventional approach as the arrangement is full-blown Mexican/Spanish. I feel it rather bizarre that Ray's 1981 album would feature two Top-40 hit singles and yet fail to reach the album chart. The art deco was uniquely early '80s country music...urban cowboy imagery...and ten songs that ran the gamut of emotions.

1. One More Last Chance {Top-40 country hit}
2. Just About Love
3. Certain Songs
4. Melissa
5. I Believe You Love Me
6. Pretend
7. It's Not All Over
8. Let's Do It Right This Time
9. Take Your Love
10. Night Games {Top-20 country hit}

Hum It...yes, that's a comedy album Ray Stevens released in 1997 on the MCA label. His return to MCA was not necessarily a carbon copy of his original MCA era, 1984-1989, but it did spawn two new music videos in the form of "Virgil and the Moonshot" and "Too Drunk To Fish". Ray uploaded the music video of this song to You Tube 9 months ago...the video was taped/filmed in 1997. The video isn't uploaded on his main page at You Tube, though. It's instead located at a secondary profile page called RayStevensVEVO which features just this one music video and nothing else. The video features his songwriting friend, Buddy Kalb, periodically. Those familiar with Ray's career and his music videos will certainly recognize Buddy from the many different music videos Ray has starred in.

By the time Ray joined MCA again at some point in late 1996 the music industry had changed so much...not only in marketing strategies and demographics but also in content. MCA in hindsight perhaps didn't know how to market Ray Stevens as successfully as they had in the past. Also, the on-coming reliance on cyberspace and the internet severely crippled traditional methods of marketing...magazine publications were either going out of business or switching to on-line, text-driven resources with little to no place for visual publicity. In traditional music magazines you could skim through the pages and see advertisements for many CD's from newer acts and current superstars. In an on-line version of a magazine this form of marketing/advertising is scarce. MCA's first release on Ray was the retail distribution of his 1995 home video movie, Get Serious!. Ray had initially sold over a hundred thousand copies of the home video through television commercials. Ray would also launch the promotion campaign of the home video on an episode of the national prime-time program, Music City Tonight. The program aired on The Nashville Network and was hosted by Crook and Chase. The episode was billed as Get Serious Night and it featured Ray and quite a few guests that made cameo appearances in the movie. The home video would ultimately reach the Top-5 on Billboard's Video chart in early 1997. Ray released just two audio albums for MCA and both of them came in 1997. Hum It was first and then by year's end he issued a much-anticipated holiday album, Christmas Through a Different Window.

This album got a bit more publicity thanks in part to a series of Christmas concerts that Ray addition to publicity generated the following Christmas seasons when he did several concerts at the Acuff Theater. These concerts were heavily promoted on the Grand Ole Opry...I can still remember hearing Opry announcers like Eddie Stubbs and former announcer, Hairl Hensley, reading the commercials for Ray's holiday concerts. Ray appeared on The Statler Brothers Show and performed a couple of songs from the album: "The Annual Office Christmas Party" and "Bad Little Boy". In the performance of that song Ray was seated on a gigantic rocking chair in an attempt to make him look small. Ray performs the song in a little boy voice.

RCA and Ray Stevens...Brief but Beautiful...

I have a singles price guide in my possession. Now, granted the price guide I have is 14 years old, but there's a certain price guide for commercial singles that I have in my book collection. There's a singles discography for Ray Stevens...listing all commercial singles released on him by various record labels. The data also comes complete with catalog numbers! There's a glaring gap in the RCA material that Ray recorded. He recorded for the label from 1980 through 1982...and aside from a couple of 1981 special releases under the Gold Standard banner all other singles issued by RCA have no money value listed for them. Of course, in my mind, and in the minds of Ray Stevens fans all over, Ray's singles are priceless but it does look rather odd to see all of his singles rate some sort of value and yet the RCA material is left financially blank.

Excluding the Gold Standard Series, there were six commercial singles released on Ray Stevens by RCA Records altogether:

1980: Shriners Convention/You're Never Goin' To Tampa With Me
1980: Hey There/You're Never Goin' To Tampa With Me**
1980: Night Games/Let's Do It Right This Time
1981: One More Last Chance/I Believe You Love Me
1982: Written Down In My Heart/Country Boy, Country Club Girl
1982: Where The Sun Don't Shine/Why Don't We Go Somewhere and Love

**-"Hey There" was issued as a single overseas and in wasn't a commercial single in America. "Night Games" became a hit late in 1980 as the first single issued from his 1981-released album.

Those singles listed above were pulled from three top-notch albums...

Shriner's Convention; 1980
One More Last Chance; 1981
Don't Laugh Now; 1982

It may never happen but I've long since been an advocate, in my own kind of way, for the re-issue of Ray's RCA albums. This is the only material not readily available. Now, of course, there's always the reality of songs being owned by multiple labels in this era of conglomeration and there's always a risk of re-issuing material and it doesn't turn some kind of profit...but looking at this situation from a different perspective all I see as a consumer is Ray's material for other labels widely available in Mp3 form but strangely enough the RCA material remains out of circulation. My guess is RCA and Ray had a brief but beautiful relationship...but major record labels just don't have much patience or have the willingness to be experimental or daring.

I've often felt that Ray's career has reached so many different crossroads over the's like Ray gets enthused with a particular sound or particular song style and he adopts this until it runs it's course. Then he latches onto another style shift and goes as far as he can and then the cycle repeats itself over and over...constantly changing...currently his career is mostly tied up in music video uploads on You Tube and chances are he'll continue this for as long as it's a successful avenue for him. His latest music video has over 180,000 hits and fans can purchase the song at Ray's web-site store...the link to the page is below...

God Save Arizona

Ray Stevens and those Music Video Hits...

"God Save Arizona" is currently sitting at 183,920 hits on You Tube. The video has officially been available for 1 month...except for several days when it was off-line. It looks to top the 200,000 mark relatively's 16,080 hits away from reaching that milestone. Currently this video is the 9th most popular among the music video uploads that Ray has issued on You Tube. I suspect the ranking will go higher as it gets more hits. Here's an overview of his music video hit list along with their most up to date hit bold print are the music videos released on You Tube within the last 9 months...

1. Come to the USA: 3,598,135 hits
2. We The People: 3,531,156 hits
3. Osama Yo' Mama: 529,077 hits
4. Throw the Bums Out!: 451,234 hits
5. The Mississippi Squirrel Revival: 421,579 hits
6. The Streak: 321,879 hits
7. Caribou Barbie: 231,333 hits
8. Thank You: 229,296 hits
9. God Save Arizona: 183,920 hits
10. Jeremiah Peabody's Green and Purple Pills: 135,987 hits
11. Everything Is Beautiful: 131,018 hits
12. Teenage Mutant Kung Fu Chickens: 95,412 hits
13. Shriner's Convention: 63,217 hits
14. Ahab the Arab: 58,983 hits
15. The Global Warming Song: 46,253 hits
16. It's Me Again, Margaret: 42,663 hits
17. Santa Claus Is Watching You: 41,559 hits
18. Sittin' Up With the Dead: 36,534 hits
19. Misty: 31,302 hits

A 20th upload is the television commercial for Ray's We The People collection. The commercial has 44,843 hits so far.

September 3, 2010

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

Varese Sarabande issued this collection in 1998...using the same picture of Ray that graces his 1973 album, Nashville. That particular album hit in November of 1973 and reached the country did the title track, "Nashville". In a lot of ways this was Ray's experiment with a distinctly country feel...of course during this era the mainstream country feel was pop-driven lyrically with a few country and bluegrass instruments thrown in like a banjo, fiddle, steel guitar, and or the mandolin. The added instrumentation was more or less an attempt by Music Row to embrace traditional country music while at the same time broaden it's appeal. This sort of thing has existed for decades even though some modern-day critics proclaim the 1990's as being the decade traditional country music died. This Country Hits Collection, issued in 1998, features an almost at random sampling of a lot of songs Ray Stevens recorded between 1969 and 1975. There's 16 songs altogether. The thing that this collection was notable for at the time was the almost exclusive album song track list. What I mean by that is the CD featured way more album songs from various Ray Stevens albums than actual commercial singles. Also, this collection was of importance to those who didn't have the actual vinyl albums from Ray...and therefore hadn't heard these songs until 1998. This collection marked the first time eleven of the sixteen songs were available on CD. Nowadays these songs are available as digital downloads thanks to Mp3 availability...but back in 1998 this material was still largely "out of print" and highly coveted among Ray Stevens fans. The CD features great liner notes and obscure pictures of Ray taken during the era in which these songs were recorded.

The liner notes were written by an author named Mike Ragogna in the early part of 1998. This collection is still the only one to feature a 1975 single-only track, "Piece of Paradise". The song was originally released as the b-side of "Indian Love Call" but wasn't featured on the Misty album or any other album for that matter until this 1998 collection came along. "Piece of Paradise" isn't the same song as "Piece of Paradise Called Tennessee" which Ray recorded in 1983...they're two totally different songs with similar titles. Ray's version of "Young Love" is featured on this, too, comes from the Misty album. The thing about "Young Love" was it became the final single to reach the charts during Ray's tenure with Barnaby Records. It hit the country music charts in January of 1976...typically not the month new singles become available...but given that Ray's version of the song was deliberately a slow ballad it stood a chance to become a commercial, if not an airplay, hit. There's long been the belief that ballads do well in cold months while up-tempo songs do well in warm and hot months. Ray's version of the song did moderately well on the country didn't crack the country Top-40...but it managed to come close. The 16 songs on this CD are as follows...

1. Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down; 1969
2. Turn Your Radio On; 1972
3. Nashville; 1973
4. Misty; 1975
5. Young Love; 1976
6. She Belongs To Me; 1970
7. Losin' Streak; 1973***
8. Just One Of Life's Little Tragedies; 1973***
9. Easy Lovin'; 1973***
10. Sunshine; 1975
11. Take Care of Business; 1975
12. Undivided Attention; 1973
13. Destroyed; 1973
14. Loving You On Paper; 1970
15. Piece of Paradise; 1975
16. Deep Purple; 1975

***- These 1973 songs come from Losin' Streak, one of Ray's most under-rated and little known albums. The album featured no commercial hit singles even though the material is all top-notch and standard Ray Stevens perfection.

September 2, 2010

In Defense of Ray Stevens...

Good mid-morning all you Ray Stevens fans! I've got a more serious in nature blog entry today and it's all about dissecting the blogosphere and coming to the defense of Ray Stevens. I'm certain that most of you are like I am and feel that Ray doesn't really need any defending...his political music videos speak for themselves with the millions of hits they've acquired on You Tube. However, there's a thing called disrespect and then there's a thing called complete and utter rudeness which are two glaring character traits by those who profess to be the spokespeople for the liberal left and progressives. The absolute egotism at play is quite evident if one were to look at blogs as well as news articles derived from an opinionated blog and passed along as legitimate news. I'll never really come to any understanding as to why some people out there take it upon themselves to bash Ray Stevens in more ways than one. First off there's the sarcastic bloggers out there who play up Ray's career in a sort of glib way before turning the mood almost 100% to the opposite and bashing the artist. Secondly there's the blogs that take no prisoners and are in your face with hatred and contempt for those who pose some sort of social and political threat. Ray Stevens over the course of the last year and a half has found his way into those kinds of blogs, too.

The bottom line with those kinds of blogs is simply to get some readers riled up...which in turn strokes the ego of whoever wrote the bashing article. There's also the smug blogs...those that dress their blog up as if it's all-knowing only to unknowingly let their ignorance shine through within the context of the blog. I've come across several of these smug blogs that take delight in ripping apart Ray Stevens but not know much about him...only that he's recorded material that the Tea Party and the conservatives appreciate. Some actually want to give their smug blogs some credibility and name drop a few Ray Stevens songs to make it look as if they've did their homework...but we can see right through it. Also, smug blogs tend to go for the jugular and ridicule not only the subject matter, Ray Stevens in this case, but also condemn and make fun of those who agree with his political material...a common tactic for smug bloggers is to marginalize the majority opinion and write it off as "rantings of extremists". If truth be known the smug blogger holds an opinion which isn't in the majority...and the smug blogger knows this...but that doesn't stop the blogger from trying their hardest to convince the readers otherwise.

A perfect example of smug bloggers are those who question the mental state of those who want smaller Government and question the mental state of those who'd give Ray Stevens music videos on You Tube the time of day. Numerous times you'll come across smug bloggers question why "We The People" or "Come to the USA" have both exceeded three million hits on You Tube. In the mind of a smug blogger, and in the minds of those the blogger hopes to find common ground with, they think it's a travesty that so many people love those music videos...more importantly they think it horrible that a majority of the people love the view points expressed in those videos. When liberals and progressives see a majority trending conservative and Tea Party it freaks them out...and instead of accepting the reality of the situation the liberals and their allies want to create an alternate reality of blaming former Republican Presidents and current Republicans in Congress for the problems facing the country...when the Democrats are who control Congress and the White House. It doesn't get any more clearer than that. We The People know who's to isn't a former's the ones currently in power.

Lastly, another style of blogger is what I call the parrot blogger. These kinds of bloggers don't actually have anything original to say...more or less they swipe commentary written elsewhere and doctor it up as if it's their own idea...some even have the audacity to use the name of the blog they swiped the material from. What are parrot bloggers thinking? Don't they know or care that they come across as copycats? There's some people who say something they feel is cute on Twitter only for it to be picked up and taken over by many others. You all have probably came across commentary on Twitter where the person who wrote the message comes off as God's gift to music critiques. Time and again you'll often see people out of the blue trash talk Ray Stevens...and for what reason? I guess it's because they feel it's the hip thing to do since Ray's "a tea bagger" as they like to put it.