November 30, 2010

The Best of Ray Stevens...

Welcome one and all to the Ray Stevens Music Journey blog site. In a couple of days it'll be my birthday...I'll be reaching 34. I've been a fan of Ray Stevens for more than 20 of those 34 years as anyone can tell once you explore this fan-created blog page. The Best of Ray Stevens, a 1970 release from Mercury Records, introduced me to the early recordings of Ray. I have a copy of the cassette version which was issued in 1987. I don't have a vinyl version...but nevertheless these recordings were seemingly picked at random for the collection. "Ahab the Arab" kicks off the's a live performance featuring an introduction by Ralph Emery but I don't have a definitive year that it was captured on tape. Ralph once hosted a music program called 16th Avenue South and I assume this recording took place on that program. The back of the album features some liner notes and a list of the songs. Ray wrote each and every selection.

click on the thumbnail for a larger image

November 29, 2010

Let's Discuss Ray Stevens, Part 18...

I rarely make mention of the follower link but in case there are those who over-look this feature, due to all of the wonderful distraction of information and images contained on this blog page, let me introduce you to the "follow" link. It's located off to the right side of the page. Once anyone becomes a follower they will be updated whenever I post a new blog entry. It's a good thing to be a follower simply because I've been known to write 2 or 3 blog entries per day but then sometimes I take a break. As is the case now, I've been in the process of taking a break. Actually, this is my first entry on this specific blog in a span of 10 days. My last blog post was on November 19th. I've often found that when I do take a hiatus that whenever I return and publish a new blog entry it doesn't show up in the Google blog search right away...but if you're a follower you'll be alerted to the new entry automatically...and this would eliminate the potential problem that some may experience of not being aware that there's a new Ray Stevens blog entry that I've written.

As 2010 comes to a close...we're nearing December...but as 2010 comes to a close I thought I'd close this blog entry with an image of the comic strip that appears on the back of the 1980 Shriner's Convention album. Ray Stevens released the album in 1980 and it reached the Top-10 on the Country album chart. Depending on the running time of a concert or a TV appearance Ray often performs this song as a medley with other recordings or he omits parts of the song in favor of the first and last verse. "Shriner's Convention" runs well over five minutes and you can find various blogs of mine which give lengthy description of the song, album, and it's impact on his career. Media coverage of the song was healthy...and Ray found himself on the cover of Country Song Round-Up.

The magazine did a write-up of his career, to date, and like most write-up's of Ray during this time period it focused a lot on his over-shadowed and under-rated serious work amidst the success of a hit comedy single and album. The eye-grabbing sub-heading "More Than Meets the Ear" is a reference to the many different styles of music that Ray's recorded. Inside the magazine revealed the complexity of an artist known for having success with comical projects but longed to have the same commercial notoriety for serious work...not that he didn't take comedy's just that during much of Ray's career the comical image and reputation is what the public at large was mostly aware of and what most television programs wanted to highlight. In spite of the comical successes Ray enjoyed late in 1979 and into 1980 with his final Warner Brothers single, "I Need Your Help, Barry Manilow" and his RCA debut single, "Shriner's Convention", Ray would go on to record three consecutive non-comical albums: One More Last Chance and Don't Laugh Now in 1981 and 1982 for RCA and then Me in 1983 for the Mercury/Polygram label. After the release of the 1983 album...which went virtually unnoticed throughout the latter half of 1983 and into 1984...Ray went to MCA Records and became a country comedy performer and from that point forward the comedy direction was there to stay.

November 19, 2010

Ray Stevens: Nostalgia Valley, Part 16...

I decided to shine the light on these collections once again. Collectables Records, in 2005, issued 6 vintage Ray Stevens vinyl albums onto CD format. Even today there are some out there who aren't aware that these collections exist and so I like to highlight them from time to time. This particular release features the two 1970 Ray Stevens albums Everything Is Beautiful and Unreal. I've posted the front of the CD's before and so for a change of pace I decided to post what the back of the CD's look like. The picture of Ray seated at the piano comes from the back of the Unreal album while inside the fold-out cover there's a picture of Ray and Andy Williams which comes from the back of the Everything Is Beautiful album. Actually, the picture of Ray on the back of the CD is a computer generated reversal of the way he appears on the back of the Unreal LP. Also, the audience seated around the piano in the original picture is cropped out. Originally the picture was taken during a performance on Andy Williams' television show. In the fold-out cover you'll be able to see what appeared on the back of each original LP.

Meanwhile...there is some commentary floating around on-line surrounding these CD releases...I consider the commentary from some of the other consumers to be petty because the general public isn't going to care about the kind of detail that some of the consumers go into detail about. I'm not saying everyone's opinion is petty but there are quite a few who go into detail about stereo verses mono and go out of their way to mention that there's vinyl detection heard in a song or two, etc etc. All I ask is the sound quality be clear and my way of thinking bad sound quality is when a song sounds as if the singer is singing with a piece of cardboard over the microphone and the words sound muffled and unintelligible. Believe me...if I felt the sound quality of these CD's was as bad as some would have you believe I'd be the first to warn people. Nowhere on these collections is there a proclamation that the music is digitally remastered and so if you go into it thinking you're going to hear music that's crystal clean as if it was recorded today you'll obviously be disappointed. The bulk of the songs up until the time of the 2005 release had never been issued in CD format before and so there's going to be traces of vinyl origination.

This particular CD features the 1972 release, Turn Your Radio On, along side the Misty release of 1975. The only studio album that Ray recorded for Barnaby Records to not get re-issued on CD in 2005 is 1973's Losin' Streak. It's a mystery as to why the 1973 album was over-looked but in previous blog entries that I've written I've come to the conclusion that Collectables Records simply wanted a nice, even number...and with three CD releases that comes out to six LP's altogether. A seventh LP is the "odd man out". Excluding compilation releases, Barnaby issued seven albums on Ray Stevens between 1970 and 1975. The label would issue a couple of compilation projects on Ray during the same time period. One of the things that doesn't get a lot of coverage is that Barnaby Records was able to purchase the rights to the Monument recordings of Ray Stevens. This is why on the compilation albums that Barnaby and it's subsidiaries issued you'd find recordings that originated on the Monument label.

In this CD release we have the 1973 Nashville album and 1974's Boogity-Boogity. This was the third and final 2-LP on 1-CD release. It's catalog number is COL-CD-7688. Turn Your Radio On / Misty has a catalog number of COL-CD-7687. Everything Is Beautiful / Unreal has a catalog number of COL-CD-7686. One of the criticisms of these CD's, in addition to the intellectual debate over sound quality, is that the songs don't appear in the same order as they did on the LP's. As far as Nashville and Boogity-Boogity are concerned the tracks appear on the CD in the same order as they did on the LP. The other two CD releases all feature randomly placed songs out of order with their LP counterparts. For example...the LP version of Unreal opens up with "Sunset Strip" while the 2005 CD version opens up with "America, Communicate With Me". On the LP, "Talking" and "Islands" are the final two tracks. On the 2005 CD "Islands" is the 6th song while "Talking" is the 10th song among the Unreal selections. So, yeah, when it comes to the songs on four of the albums not being in the same sequence as they appear on the LP I can understand that kind of a criticism...but it shouldn't take away from the fact that the material is at long last available on CD and Mp3 format. "Losin' Streak", from 1973, still needs to get the CD re-issue treatment though!

I've since uploaded all of the songs onto my on-line music program and rarely play the physical CD's anymore...but as a collector of Ray Stevens items I won't discard the physical CD's that I own. Here is a list of the seven studio albums Ray recorded for Barnaby Records:

1. Everything Is Beautiful; 1970
2. Unreal; 1970
3. Turn Your Radio On; 1972
4. Nashville; 1973
5. Losin' Streak; 1973
6. Boogity-Boogity; 1974
7. Misty; 1975

November 18, 2010

Random Ray Stevens conversation...

While searching through eBay earlier I came across a seller offering an LP version of Shriner's Convention for an opening bid of ninety-nine cents. This price, of course, wouldn't include the shipping and handling for anyone who wins the album. Given that Ray's RCA material has yet to really be properly showcased in CD or Mp3 format it would be wise for those seeking out his 1980 album to seriously think about either purchasing the LP or keep track of it in your watch list. Those who are familiar with eBay will know what I'm referring to. I already have the LP version of Shriner's Convention and it was on eBay where I bought the equally scarce cassette version when it came up for sale a couple of years ago. The cassette version has a catalog number of AYK1-4253 while the LP's catalog number is AHK1-3574. 15 years later Ray made a music video of the song and included it in his direct-to-video movie, Get Serious!. Ray later uploaded the 1995 music video onto You Tube back in July of 2009. I've written about Ray's 1995 movie several times. It's available in home video format and can often be found on eBay. If you do an internet search for "Ray Stevens + Get Serious" you're bound to come across web-sites that give information about the movie.

The movie's length is 1 hour, 50 minutes and the home video went on to become another sales success for Ray...charting in the Top-10 on Billboard's Video chart throughout much of 1997. It was released to retail stores late in 1996 following it's nearly year-long exclusive direct-mail offer as to why it didn't reach the Billboard charts until January 1997. One of the rules of Billboard magazine for the longest time was an item had to be available in retail stores in order for the product to appear on the weekly charts...those rules aren't currently in place given the on-line digital age we live in...but back in 1997 those rules were still enforced and so Ray's movie wasn't eligible to enter the charts until it became available at retail stores. This same chart policy about retail availability is what caused his 1992 and 1993 direct-mail home video releases to become chart eligible in 1993 and 1994 respectively. But anyway...enjoy the 1995 music video of "Shriner's Convention"...

As I mentioned in a previous blog entry this cassette version has two songs that appear in different sequence than how they appear on the LP version. In the cassette version "Coin Machine" appears as track number two while "The Last Laugh" appears as track number nine. On the LP version "The Last Laugh" is track number two and "Coin Machine" closes out the album as track number nine. Yes, you read that correctly, the comedy album only features 9 songs but a couple of the songs are rather lengthy and so it plays out like an 11 or 12 track collection as far as overall length of time is concerned. The title track, "Shriner's Convention", clocks in at around 5 minutes, 33 seconds while "The Dooright Family" clocks in at just over 5 minutes in length. "Rita's Letter", a comical love story, is easily 3 and a half minutes long but I don't know the official length of that particular recording. "You're Never Goin' To Tampa With Me" is 3 minutes, 50 seconds.

Ray Stevens and ObamaCare...One Year Later...

It was around this time one year ago that Ray Stevens emerged with the ObamaCare song, "We The People". The news of the song was released in November of 2009 and this ultimately led to an Mp3 availability not long afterward. The breakthrough came in December when a music video was released on You Tube and then a CD single and Mp3 became available on Amazon and other on-line music stores. The music video quickly obtained over a million hits by the end of December and during the next two months of early 2010 the video steadily continued to climb. The sensation crossed over into the blogs and cable TV...appearances on a variety of radio and TV programs followed. Given that the song has a political overtone...speaking out against's to nobody's surprise that the radio and TV programs requesting Ray as a guest were by and large conservative programs. The lone exception was The O'Reilly Factor on Fox News Channel which gives a forum to all opinions. Ray appeared on that particular program a second time, later in 2010, when "Come to the USA" hit.

The fact that Ray's song was embraced by various Tea Party groups and that it was publicized on various Fox News programs gave the political left-leaning blogs and pundits ammunition(?) to marginalize the music video's success and the song's message, too. Throughout the early half of 2010 the "We The People" music video, and Ray Stevens in particular, were vilified by the political left to such extremes that those who'd never even heard of Ray Stevens before were following the lead of various high-ranking liberal blog sites and taking pot-shots at him. The attacks and smear tactics were something new to this Ray Stevens fan. I had never experienced reading awful things being written about my favorite singer before.

I had always knew that not everyone's a fan of Ray but I hadn't really read anything too sinister from non-fans until I saw the comments on-line pertaining to "We The People". Prior to the release of this song the only times I had read anything borderline negative about Ray were by those hyper-sensitive political correct advocates...and given their position on life their criticisms weren't a surprise. But those criticisms pale in comparison to the vilification that came on the heels of "We The People"...and to a large extent that vilification from left-leaning bloggers continues.

Now, following the release of "We The People", Ray gave us a variety of songs aimed at specific aspects of the sociopolitical spectrum. "Caribou Barbie" is a Pro-Sarah Palin song which has fun with her public image; "Throw the Bums Out!" is a more pointed commentary on the heels of ObamaCare being signed into law; "Come to the USA" takes on illegal immigration; "The Global Warming Song" pokes fun at environmentalist extremists; and "God Save Arizona" takes on the Federal Government's stance on illegal immigration and it's lawsuit against the State of Arizona.

Following the November 2010 mid-term elections there was a seismic power shift in the House of Representatives and a modest power shift in the Senate. Republicans gained even more seats in the Senate while in the House they gained a large majority. I don't have the official numbers in front of me. The sentiments/views expressed in the series of topical Ray Stevens music videos proved to the naysayers that Ray really is speaking to the majority of the general public. We, the fans, never really needed any convincing, though...but it's wonderful to see a national midterm election turn out the way we all had hoped and anticipated.

November 17, 2010

Ray Stevens...The One and Only...

One of the items that was an exclusive to the Ray Stevens fan club was the 1992 compilation gospel album, A Brighter Day. The fan club shut down in 2002. The collection, as you can see, was issued in two volumes. Each volume features 10 recordings ranging from 1968 through 1977. Much of the material, in fact all of the material on Volume One, was lifted from his 1972 gospel album, Turn Your Radio On, while the songs on Volume Two originated elsewhere. Looking at the collection of songs I can see that Volume One features pretty much standard gospel recordings while Volume Two is more inspirational in tone...with a few songs delving into societal commentary. Ray penned four of the twenty songs on this collection and he produced and arranged every recording. The four songs that were written by Ray appear on Volume Two.

The album's title references an inspirational song that Ray recorded in 1970. "A Brighter Day" was written by Ray and it originally appeared as the B-side of another Ray Stevens composition, "Everything Is Beautiful". These two songs were the only original recordings featured on his 1970 album, Everything Is Beautiful, and they both make an appearance on the Volume Two collection. The rest of the material on Volume Two feature more inspirational recordings like "One and Only You", "Set The Children Free", and "Everybody Needs a Rainbow". Social commentary blended in with inspirational overtones is the goal of "Mr. Businessman", "Walk a Mile In My Shoes", "Come Around", and "Get Together". I was really surprised to see the inclusion of "One and Only You" and "Set The Children Free" given that the two songs originated on Warner Brothers, 1976 and 1977 respectively. Typically the songs associated with Warner Brothers that Ray recorded hardly ever show up in any collection.

The track list for this collection is below. I've included the year that Ray originally recorded the songs. Given that the Turn Your Radio On album was issued in 1972 it's safe to say that most of the songs were recorded at some point in 1972 while other songs from the album, which were released as singles, show a copyright year of 1971. The songs with the three stars indicate those written by Ray Stevens:

Turn Your Radio On; 1971
I'll Fly Away; 1972
Will There Be Any Stars?; 1972
Glory Special; 1972
A Mama And A Papa; 1971
Love Lifted Me; 1972
Yes, Jesus Loves Me; 1972
Why Don't You Lead Me To That Rock; 1972
Let Our Love Be A Light Unto the People; 1972
All My Trials; 1971

Everybody Needs A Rainbow; 1974
Walk A Mile In My Shoes; 1970
One And Only You; 1976
Set The Children Free; 1977
Mr. Businessman; 1968***
A Brighter Day; 1970***
Have A Little Talk With Myself; 1969***
Get Together; 1970
Come Around; 1970
Everything Is Beautiful; 1970***

CD singles never really caught on, in my opinion, as compared to the vinyl 45 single. A CD single would include two or three songs on one disc...with the first song being the "A-side" and the next song or two being the "B-side". This CD single is of "Power Tools", a comedy song that Ray recorded in 1991 for his album #1 With a Bullet. There wasn't any "B-side" as this was considered a promo single available at radio stations. As is the case with many vinyl singles, the CD singles are also in abundant supply in various on-line marketplaces. This CD single from Ray was issued early in 1992...and "Power Tools" reached the country charts as well! Although it charted well below the Top-40 it became the last single to reach the country charts for Ray until a decade later, in 2002, when "Osama Yo' Mama" reached the Top-50. Those who follow Ray's career, as I do, know that he shifted focus from audio to music video during the 1990's and as a result had his biggest successes with music video projects during the '90s decade.

"Power Tools", for those who've never heard the song, was written perhaps due to the increase of the macho do-it-yourself kind of men that were becoming something of a growing trend during this time period. A lot of it more than likely had to do with the Tim Allen comedy program, Home Improvement, which focused on a do-it-yourself type who happened to be the host of a local TV show which celebrated the glory of power tools and all the fun you can have with them. The humor of Ray's comedy song was aimed at the very audience who watched fix-it shows and home restoration programs...most notably the PBS programs This Old House and The New Yankee Workshop as well as the comical Home Improvement. It isn't surprising that during the '90s we saw the launches of Home and Garden Television (HGTV) as well as the Do It Yourself Network (DIY).

November 15, 2010

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

A little-known comedy song, "Hello Mama", should be more well known. It's a sequel to "Osama Yo' Mama", a song Ray had a hit with late in 2001 and into mid 2002. In "Hello Mama", the story of bin Laden on the run, we hear the various phone conversations between a soft-spoken bin Laden and the screechy-voiced mother. The mother's voice was also a big part of "Osama Yo' Mama". Ray plays both roles of course. In addition to Osama and his Mama we also have another person featured prominently, George W. Bush, known as "Dubyah" in both recordings. "Hello Mama" purposely carries the same melody as "Osama Yo' Mama" and so if you hear the two songs back to back it'll be like one big comedy song.

"Osama Yo' Mama" debuted late in 2001 as a single-only with the much more serious "United We Stand" as it's B-side. This was in the months following 9/11 when there was a patriotic mood in the air. Some people, though, were puzzled why Ray would put out a comical recording during a time of national mourning and reflection...but Ray justified his decision by paraphrasing what the President said in the hours following the 9/11 terrorist attacks: go about your lives as normally as possible in an effort to show that terrorism doesn't win. This mantra was highlighted by Ray in his commentary about the single...this commentary appears on the fold-out cover of the Osama Yo' Mama album.

The single hit the country airplay chart...and then it hit the Single Sales chart and it remained there throughout the early half of 2002. It was typically one of the Top-3 selling singles every week, often in the runner-up position, for much of early 2002. A music video was made of "Osama Yo' Mama" as well as the later release, "Hello Mama". This Fun Pack EP is a rather obscure features the title track, "Hello Mama", in addition to a couple of other comedy songs found on the Osama Yo' Mama album: "Hang Up and Drive", "Deerslayer", and "Freudian Slip".

For those curious and want to watch the music video of "Hello Mama" should seek out the mammoth 2-DVD collection entitled The Complete Comedy Video Collection that Ray issued in 2004. The collection contains practically all of his live-action music videos and "Hello Mama" is a featured bonus video on DVD #2. You can find the collection here.

Consumer alert is in order because there are two slightly different versions of this DVD collection. Each version features the same layout, design, title, and cover art but there are a few omissions in the version being sold at Ray's web-site. The version released by Curb Records in 2004 contains the "Power Tools" animated music video plus "Osama Yo' Mama". In the version offered at Ray's store those two songs aren't featured in the collection. "Osama Yo' Mama" is removed from DVD #2 while "Santa Claus Is Watching You" replaces "Power Tools" on DVD #1. Never fear, though...the "Power Tools" music video later appeared on the Cartoon Carnival, Volume One compilation DVD located here while 2001's "Osama Yo' Mama" can be seen on You Tube. The music video's gotten 727,558 hits so far...Ray uploaded it onto You Tube on July 15, 2009.

I've written about this particular collection in a couple of my older blog entries. It's considered a secondary compilation album due to it being a volume two release and the fact that what the industry would call a 'monster hit' are all included in volume one. However, this volume two release isn't chopped liver by any stretch of the imagination. While it doesn't feature an abundance of signature hits it nonetheless features material that eventually became just as synonymous with Ray. The album spotlights two songs from 1985, one from 1986, and two from of those songs from 1987 being the then brand new "Mama's in the Sky With Elvis". The other 5 recordings were considered vintage Ray Stevens in 1987...they're considered classics in his career now. Ray's current hit at the time was "Would Jesus Wear a Rolex?" and what better way to issue a hits album than to have the lead-off track be among the most-talked about country songs of the year. The song crossed over into the mainstream as newspaper columnists from across the country wrote about even ended up being nominated for a Grammy. The televangelist scandal was so huge and prolonged that Ray's single was still being referenced nearly a year after it hit...research shows that a few columnists in 1988 were name dropping the song anytime the topic of televangelists arose. It was one of those national hit songs that pop audiences knew about but it never even made an appearance on the Hot 100 pop chart believe it or not. It did, however, make the country music charts. The song was written by Chet Atkins and Margaret Archer.

Of course, this is the flip-side of the CD version. It lists the 10 tracks that appear on the hits album including their running time. As you all can see it keeps with the color theme of red and green...the cassette version also retains this color pattern as well. The cassette version of this release was one of the first Ray Stevens tapes that I got for Christmas. There was a local shopping store in the town where I lived and they had a modest cassette tape section on the other side of the vinyl album racks. The cassette tapes back then were kept behind locked glass cases due to the fact that they were sold without any security plastic as became the custom at some point in the early '90s. The downside to those security cases was a lot of times it hid the titles of several songs...and it wasn't until the cassette was bought and the plastic case removed that I saw the complete title of "Freddie Feelgood" and "In the Mood". Remember, at that time, I was still relatively new to Ray's career and didn't yet have hardly any of his albums or know the names of a lot of his songs and so it was a big deal having that plastic security case finally removed so I could finally see the names of those songs. When I saw "In the Mood" listed as a song I assumed it was going to be an instrumental of some kind...and then I heard it...and heard all of those chickens for the first time!! I've preferred Ray's version ever since.

One of my favorite Ray Stevens comedy albums is 1988's I Never Made a Record I Didn't Like, a phrase which spoofed a quote from Will Rogers...which is why Ray appears on the album cover in cowboy attire performing a rope trick. For the trivia people out there: This marked Ray's first comedy album to not feature any recordings with an audience background. At the time of it's release it featured 9 brand-new songs and 1 song from his 1987 Greatest Hits, Volume Two album. That song, "Mama's in the Sky With Elvis", is track three on the 1988 release. On the volume two hits album of 1987, as you can see from the image above, it was track number five. The topics that are spoofed, satirized, or given a gentle slap across the face include cable television, hippies, monsters, and Michael Jackson...what a combination!! The track list for this particular comedy album is located below...

1. Surfin' U.S.S.R.
2. The Booger Man
3. Mama's in the Sky With Elvis
4. Language, Nudity, Violence and Sex
5. Bad
6. The Day I Tried To Teach Charlene MacKenzie How To Drive
7. Blood and Suede
8. Ethelene the Truck Stop Queen
9. I Don't Need None of That
10. Old Hippie Class Reunion

The opening track, "Surfin' U.S.S.R.", is a very clever and satiric song that blends two distinctly different sounds in rock music history: The Beatles and The Beach Boys. The vocalization from Ray is reminiscent of Mike Love and Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys...while the subject matter deals with a Soviet sub crashing in Malibu. The song's title combines The Beach Boys' "Surfin' U.S.A" with The Beatles' "Back in the U.S.S.R.". A music video of "Surfin' U.S.S.R." was released in 1988 and it became one of the videos showcased on Ray's Comedy Video Classics release in 1992. The music video features additional footage not heard on the audio version as Ray does vocal impressions of a newscaster in addition to Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev.

November 14, 2010

Ray Stevens...Critical Reaction...

One of the things that I'll never understand is the broad brush approach when it comes to criticism of early vs. contemporary. That kind of thing is rampant for any singer or TV show or anything else that has some longevity and I've never understood why there's a need for consumers, fans, the public in general to feel as if they have to compare/contrast to a fault. Some people go out of their way to point out that so and so isn't "as good as they once were" or "that TV show's still on?? I quit watching years ago!" or how about this one "why doesn't he/she just retire?? Nobody likes them!!". If you're like I am and you see commentary like that you automatically assume that those who make statements like that are, quite simply, full of themselves. This kind of thing is what I often speak out against on-line because it plays into the stereotype that critics are nothing more than elitist snobs. Whenever you come across blogs or message boards and the authors are rambling away about how better they are compared to the song, singer, or TV show they happened to come across I hope you tune out that kind of elitist expression. As far as music goes it's generally considered music snobbery.

If I were an elitist critic I'd feel compelled to quote myself all the would be something along the lines of this:

"Admittedly, I don't feel negative criticism of Ray Stevens is useful simply because Ray has never deserved any negative criticism as far as I'm concerned."

Now, of course, you all know I actually hold that opinion...but I don't go around quoting it at every opportunity. I also promote and encourage others to listen to Ray Stevens music or catch him on a TV or radio show. This is a far cry from encouraging people to dislike Ray Stevens and it's also a far cry from making fun of him at any opportunity...which is what those other bloggers and critics often do. Apparently those who don't particularly care for Ray are, for the most part, doing so to appear hip to some social or political faction of some kind. In other words, music snobbery again. It's obvious that the negative criticism that froths up toward Ray is based on some desired outcome by those who spread the criticism around. As far as Ray is concerned there's never, in my opinion, been any instance where negative criticism was justified. The negative criticisms that pop up about Ray through the years have quite frankly been unfair.

I can say those kinds of things and it not be classified as music snobbery because I've researched and looked at a lot of music reviews and message boards through the years and that's how I arrive at my opinion. I'm not saying negative criticisms of Ray are unfair just because I'm a fan of his. I've did the research to back up my opinion. However...some people out there...they do NO research and spout off their opinions at the drop of a hat. It's those kind of people who are the true music snobs.


Click the above image for a bigger look. It's a promo copy of Ray's 1961 comedy single, "Jeremiah Peabody's Green and Purple Pills". Obviously the song title is much longer than that but as I mentioned in a previous blog entry...Ray Stevens fans know of the song by various titles. The reason I use this image is to concentrate on the natural urge of most people to compare early vs. contemporary at any chance. As mentioned the single debuted in'll have some people say that the song is "silly, foolish...a waste of time". You'll also have some who say "it's a brilliant use of tomfoolery and nonsense". There are those who detest any recording that deviates from what they consider normal. Then you'll have those who like the song just because they like it. Looking beyond that you'll have some who will argue that this song represents Ray Stevens at his best...and some only champion his early '60s work on Mercury Records and they dismiss everything else he did. That would be a form of music snobbery of course. It's also incredibly short-sighted at the same time when you dismiss a lengthy, eclectic body of work for a handful of recordings in the early '60s.

This form of music snobbery can go both ways, too. As the example's short-sighted to dismiss Ray's career except for a few early '60s recordings but it's also just as short-sighted to only want to hear his comical recordings and nothing else. I've come across plenty of people on-line who have no interest or desire to want to hear the serious side of Ray Stevens and there's also just as many who are bitter that Ray clings to comedy instead of singing serious "meaningful" material.

Well, it's that kind of dismissive-selective approach on top of the unfair negative criticism I wrote about at the start of this blog entry that inspired me to start this fan-driven Ray Stevens blog page a couple of years ago. That is why this blog page gives plenty of coverage to all sides of Ray Stevens...and I don't just focus on a handful of recordings...I talk about contemporary Ray Stevens and classic Ray Stevens with equal enthusiasm. Hopefully this blog has gone a long way at exposing a ton of great Ray Stevens material that otherwise would slip by without much notice.

Latest You Tube numbers for "Nightmare Before Christmas" are 23,307. The music video is almost 2 weeks old and so it's on pace to reach 40,000 hits in 2 weeks time (but don't quote me on that). I continue to predict that it'll gain higher numbers by the end of the month as Christmas season gets underway. There's not been any promotional appearances for the video...but it's being offered as a DVD single at Ray's web-site store. The special offer also includes a CD copy of his 1997 comedy Christmas release and his 2009 serious Christmas release. The item is actually called The Christmas Gift Pack and you can check it out and buy it here.

It may be hard to believe for some but Ray has only made two Christmas music videos...back in the mid '80s he made "Santa Claus Is Watching You" and then "Nightmare Before Christmas" came along about two weeks he's got plenty of material available on both the 1997 and 2009 CD's in case he ever wants to put a lot of these songs into video form for a future project of holiday music videos.

November 7, 2010

The Ray Stevens Web-Site...have you visited it Yet??

At the start of this particular blog entry there's 90 minutes left until NFL football kicks off at 1pm Eastern time...watching football on Sunday is something I've did for years and something I'll always do each Sunday during the season. Something else that I've been active in for a number of years is the official message board at Ray's web-site. You can find the message board here at Ray's official web-site. The message board is titled "Web Board" up in the top right hand side of the page. The official title of the board is "The Piano Room". There's bound to be some topics that'll perk anyone's interest. As far as message boards go there's much more reading that goes on and once you visit the site you'll understand what I mean right away.

Even though there's a message board the majority of the traffic, I assume, visits the site to either shop at his web-site store or read the latest news headline(s) and they probably don't even think to visit the message board area. Those who do happen to visit the message board read the messages but seldom make comments. This is evidenced by the fact that a lot of topics have hundreds of hits but fall short of that total in actual replies.

His web-site is free to join by the way. The only things that cost money is the Ray Stevens Backstage feature and, of course, the items for sale at his web-site store. Aside from those two exceptions everything else about the site is free.

I often encourage people to visit Ray's web-site because it's one of the only places where you'll find all of the up to date information about Ray. Those who visited his web-site were aware of his Branson, Missouri concerts in advance. Those who visit his site are informed about the latest music releases and video releases. Those of you who are fans of his and haven't visited his site owe yourselves to check it out and check the message board, too.

Have any of you visited his web-site yet?? If not, what's the delay?? You can visit it here.

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

Although it doesn't pertain to the entire world some places utilize time change. On Sunday November 7th at 2am the clocks were set back 1 hour to conclude Daylight Savings Time for the year. The gain of 1 hour will be the norm through the spring when the clocks are moved up 1 hour. Spring forward, Fall back. Speaking of setting the time clock back let's go back in time to was this year that saw the release of a couple of gospel songs from Ray Stevens which eventually lead to an entire gospel album, Turn Your Radio On. I wrote about "A Mama and a Papa" in a previous blog...and I posted one of the various picture sleeve's of the single, too. That particular single featured "Bridget the Midget" as the A-side but I came across another picture sleeve which shows "A Mama and a Papa" as the A-side and "Melt" as it's B-side.

The "Melt" song is originally what appeared as the B-side here in America...and as I remarked in a previous blog "Melt" has never been made available on any LP album, cassette, CD, or Mp3. To this day, as far as I know, it's only available as the B-side to "A Mama and a Papa". Let me see if I can describe the arrangement as best as I can for those who've never heard "Melt" before. It starts out with loud emphasis on if the microphone was placed inches above the hammers of the piano and it probably was. Ray delivers the song in a sort of melancholy voice which stands in contrast to the full-on, romantically charged lyrics...and the melody escalates as it reaches the chorus. When I first heard the song it made me think of something of British has that international sound, as I call it. Musically it doesn't sound like a song meant for America simply because of how different it sounded. The sound of a song, for Ray Stevens, is just as crucial as the actual lyrics. This is why he takes arranging any song seriously whether it's comical or non-comical. I've read quotes by Ray where he's said things like "I want my recordings to tell a story musically as well as lyrically".

I imagine half the fun for Ray is coming up with what instruments will be used on each recording. He's also said, when asked about his unique embrace of both country and pop, that a piano doesn't know if it's pop or country since it isn't a living creature...and a song doesn't know if it's pop or country. It's all up to the singer, producer, and music arranger to determine which style a song is to be performed; and, of course, Ray's been his own producer and arranger for decades and so whatever you hear from Ray on any of his albums throughout the last 40 plus years is a result of his own judgment and interpretation.

Speaking of music arrangement and the like...this particular single from Ray Stevens is glorious in it's production and performance. "Sunset Strip" obviously pays tribute to the Sunset Strip but it also doubles as a nod to the West Coast music scene of that time period...specifically the Beach Boys sound. Now, now...before anyone out there can say this is the type of song that the so-called former "liberal, Democrat Ray Stevens" preferred prior to his "Tea Party metamorphosis" I would encourage people to actually listen to the song before drawing any political conclusions. "Sunset Strip" is a non-political song...even though some who hear it may walk away with the belief that Ray's in love with all things California...including their mostly liberal politics. What I took from the song is a basic study of the social scene as seen through the eyes and mind of one brand new to that culture...not exactly an endorsement of any political party. Having the urge to escape real life for a day or two isn't indicative of being a Democrat or Republican...more or less it's basic human nature to get away from reality every now and then. "Sunset Strip" offers that escape. It's B-side, "Islands", is a love song about a relationship gone bad and how the man and woman reside on two separate islands, figuratively, unable to reunite. Each of these songs, from 1970, are from his Unreal album. This album was released a couple years ago on CD accompanied with his other 1970 album, Everything Is Beautiful.

November 3, 2010

Ray Stevens and the Government, Part 2...

Well hello all you Ray Stevens fans out there!! The day after the midterm elections of 2010 has proven to be what a lot of us were predicting and hoping for. Republicans taking control of the House of Representatives by such a wide margin in addition to all of the local races and State Government's being flipped from Democrat control to Republican control really goes a long way at displaying just how upset and opposed to the direction that the President and the Democrats, in general, were taking the country. There were several Democrat wins, though...and the Republicans gained several more Senate seats which makes the gap between parties even more close in the Senate. In other words the Democrats no longer have a commanding majority in the Senate, even though they remain in control of the Senate. The Republicans gain control of the House of Representatives as I mentioned. The next goal on the horizon will be to defeat the President in 2012 and I'm pretty sure ObamaCare will continue to be one of the major issues given that it doesn't even take full effect until after the 2012 elections.

The thing that'll cause ObamaCare to not be a big issue in 2012 is if it gets repealed outright or if there are amendments made to the existing law prior to it taking full effect. The Government mandate that people must have health care of face fines from the IRS is the biggest controversial element of the bill. Considering that any bill requires the President to sign it into law or veto it leads a lot of people to rightfully assume that the fight will continue through 2011 and into 2012. In the best or worst case scenario the President will stick to his ideologies and not make any attempt to work with Republicans and if this happens I expect to see more Republican gains in 2012.

In the meantime Ray Stevens issued a brand new music video on You Tube today. The video is "The Nightmare Before Christmas" and it's taken from his comedy Christmas album. The album, Christmas Through a Different Window, has quite a history. It was originally released in 1997 and it's become an annual success ever since. It was re-released a few times and even served as the backdrop of a couple of holiday themed concert productions from Ray in the late '90s billed as Christmas with Ray Stevens. This marks Ray's second Christmas music video...his first came along back in 1985, "Santa Claus Is Watching You". "The Nightmare Before Christmas" deals with political correctness getting it's ugly claws dug into Santa Claus. Ray has a nightmare that Santa gets arrested and is charged with political incorrectness among other things. Within the song Ray gives examples of the "crimes" as he plays the nutty prosecutor, Santa, and the Judge. It's a cute yet hard-hitting indictment of political correctness and it's one of my favorite songs on his comedy Christmas album. Hopefully Ray will be making more music videos from this album...they all tell funny stories! Here's his latest...