March 29, 2011

Sailing the Seas with Ray Stevens...

It isn't something I normally keep track of but I was reading some things on the internet the other day stating that the Gilbert and Sullivan opera, The Pirates of Penzance, opened in London for the first time on April 3, 1880 and, doing the math, it's nearing the end of a 130 year anniversary. This comical opera, in addition to pirate culture in general, no doubt inspired Buddy Kalb and his wife, Carlene, to write "The Pirate Song" which is sub-titled "I Want To Sing and Dance". The song was recorded by Ray Stevens in 1985 and was part of his comedy album, I Have Returned. The album is coming off of an was 25 years ago this month, March 1986, that the album was #1 on the country album chart. The album had been released late in 1985 and slowly made it's way up to #1. His previous album titled He Thinks He's Ray Stevens, released late in 1984, was still on the charts around the time his 1985 album made it's debut. Ray made a music video of this song in 2000 and included it in a home video titled Funniest Video Characters. The music video is as funny as you may expect (for those familiar with the song). Toward the end of the song Ray, in gruff pirate vocal, mentions the Gilbert and Sullivan duo. The focal point of the song is the contrasts between a traditional gruff-speaking, bloodthirsty pirate and a not so gruff speaking, bloodthirsty pirate. Each pirate is voiced by Ray and it's the passive pirate who takes center stage with dreams of being in the Pirates of Penzance...singing and dancing his way into world history. A later recording of this song arrived in 1991 and even a third recording emerged in 2000 when the music video was put together. The original is on this 1985 album whereas the 1991 and 2000 re-recordings often show up on compilation releases.

March 24, 2011

Let's Discuss Ray Stevens, Part 29...

From 1969 this has got to be one of the earliest pictures of Ray Stevens with a beard. Here we see him looking hopeless standing in front of a conference table...playing out the part of one who's struggling to figure out how to promote "Sunday Morning Coming Down". Note the image of the Monument on the floor below the table...of course this was released on the Monument label...and this was the first commercial recording of "Sunday Morning Coming Down". Ray entered the country charts for the first time with this single and it also reached the pop Hot 100...but the same song became a #1 hit for Johnny Cash later on. The reason for this is simply due to the image factor...Ray had a much more clean-cut image whereas Johnny Cash didn't. Listeners could picture Johnny Cash going through a hang-over. This is one of the few songs that seem fit to be a success for just a certain style of singer...if a singer's image doesn't match the lyrics nearly word for word then it'll be a tough sell!

Yesterday marked the 1 year anniversary of a dark day in was on March 23, 2010 that Obamacare became law. In the months leading up to it Ray gave the world "We The People", a song and music video warning Congress if they voted for Obamacare that they'd pay for it at the ballot box in November. The music video's gotten 4.2 million unique views since December 2009...and upon the bill becoming law in March 2010, Ray issued the music video, "Throw the Bums Out!", and it's gotten 689,167 unique views in a year's time. Meanwhile, his current TSA music video, "The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore", has gotten 118,237 unique views! "Come to the USA", issued in May 2010, surpassed 5 million views a couple of days ago and now stands at 5,020,222 (an increase of over 20,000 views!).

March 20, 2011

Ray Stevens: Nostalgia Valley, Part 25...

Good Sunday late afternoon!! I've been watching the various NCAA basketball games over the course of the last several days and I decided to check in at You Tube about half an hour ago and noticed that a performance from Ray Stevens was the video clip below you'll see him perform his late 1971/early 1972 gospel hit "Turn Your Radio On". I wrote a review of this performance, as well as "Along Came Jones", in a previous blog entry. He performed both of those songs on this particular 1972 television appearance. You'll love it as much as I did.

March 17, 2011

Ray Stevens hits another Milestone...

Good afternoon all Ray Stevens fans. I've been waiting to make this kind of announcement for several days and now that it's happened it's an announcement I can make...Ray Stevens obtained another million today when his anti-illegal immigration music video, "Come to the USA", surpassed the five million unique view mark. As of now the total is 5,000,074!! The music video was uploaded on You Tube in May 2010 and late last year it had crossed the 4 million mark...making it the highest viewed music video from Ray Stevens...a close second being "We The People". Eventually "We The People" crossed the 4 million mark and currently sits with 4,258,625 unique views but, as you can see, "Come to the USA" had an even stronger impact and has now crossed the 5 million mark. When I checked the play count for "Come to the USA" earlier this morning it was sitting on the brink of 5 million with 4,999,070 views and so I knew it was only a matter of hours before it would reach the 5 million milestone. Doing the math we can see the video got 1,004 views in a little under 4 hours time. Meanwhile, his current TSA music video, "The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore", has gotten 114,040 unique views.

Those wanting to hear some Irish-inspired songs from Ray Stevens on this St. Patrick's Day look no further than a couple of comedy songs from his past. First there's "The Day That Clancy Drowned" from 1987...a comical tale of a man who works at a brewery but meets his end in a most bizarre fashion. There's no reference to the words Irish or Ireland but Clancy, the name, is of Irish origin. Also, Ray does an Irish vocal impression while playing the part of the preacher at the funeral. The second Irish enhanced song from Ray is 1993's "The Bricklayer's Song", a comical performance which was also recorded by Noel Murphy as well as The Corries in addition to it's writer, Pat Cooksey. In this song Ray recounts the story of an Irishman who had bad luck while laying bricks on a multistory building. In previous recordings by other artists the song was always performed as if it were first-hand recollections of what went on but in Ray's version he plays the part of the storyteller instead of the victim (although in the descriptive lyrics it allows Ray to comically agonize the pain and suffering taking place between the bricklayer, the rope, and that barrel.)

March 13, 2011

Ray Stevens: Nostalgia Valley, Part 24...

The latest music video from Ray Stevens, "The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore", has risen to 111,038 unique views...this is an increase of 2,436 views in a couple days time.

We take a trip back 30 years to 1981 to highlight another great album from Ray Stevens. It's an album that I can write things about without getting tired of doing so. So far I think I've written 3 or 4 other blog entries about this unheralded gem of an album...the title of which is One More Last Chance.

Unheralded may be an exaggeration but based upon the passage of time it's clearly become an obscure album even though at the time of it's original release it boasted two major country hits for Ray in the form of the title track, "One More Last Chance", which reached the country music Top-40, and "Night Games", which had reached the country Top-20 late in 1980. Based on the fact that it's first single hit late in 1980 and the title track hit in the early half of 1981 and no other singles were released means that for the bulk of 1981 there wasn't anything new being promoted on Ray Stevens in relation to this album. An unconventional source of publicity, however, came along later in 1981 when Ray made a guest appearance on the soap opera, Texas. Ray had some dialogue in the soap opera and he was written in as the celebrity appearing at a fictional night-club. Ray performed "One More Last Chance" in the show.

The albums first single, "Night Games", dealt with singles bars and it fit in perfectly with the Urban Cowboy craze in country music during that time period. Those not familiar with the phrase "urban cowboy" need to read up on the movie starring John Travolta and it's impact on country music sales and mainstream popularity during 1980-1983.

Ray, as some outside of the loop may not be familiar with, used to appear in concert wearing a cowboy hat during the early '80s...and the Western fashions that you see him wearing on the 1981 album was commonplace for nearly all country singers who were affiliated with, or supported, the Urban Cowboy trend.

Depending on who you ask there's all kinds of opinion on the fad...the more devout traditionalists in country music have nothing but contempt for Urban Cowboy while the more commercially aware country singers credit the craze with either boosting their careers or affording them some publicity outside of country music. There's a popular misconception that if a singer is commercially aware, or trendy, that they're not a legitimate "artist". This belief is something I don't agree with...but it's a belief that's popular nonetheless. The way I see it, a singer can be in it for the music but still have the desire to want their music to be commercially successful, too. Some people out there take the attitude that singers must be in it "for the love of the music" and any hint of commercial aspirations from a singer will result in that singer being treated like the plague. I know that sounds harsh but I've read commentary for years from those who hold those similar kinds of views so I know what I'm writing about.

Ironically, "Night Games" closes out the 1981 album. "One More Last Chance" opens up the album. In between those two songs lay a wealth of country ballads and mood music. In hindsight one of the songs that should have also been issued as a single is "Let's Do It Right This Time". When you hear it you'll wonder why it wasn't a commercial single, too. Perhaps this is why it was chosen in 1985 to be part of RCA's Collectors Series release that they did on Ray. "Certain Songs" has a power ballad feeling...the arrangement is similar to the style popularly associated with Barry Manilow. Elsewhere on the album is the slow ballad "Just About Love" as well as "Take Your Love", another song that should have been a commercial single in my opinion!! "It's Not All Over", a song about a man who won't let a woman leaving him confine him to loneliness, is another example of a song that should have been issued as a single.

The only song that breaks the slow to mid-tempo pace of the album is the wild, Mexican-Spanish arrangement on "Pretend", the slow ballad pop hit popularized by Nat King Cole. The atmosphere created by Ray successfully causes you to forget, during the course of the performance, what the original sounded like.

1. One More Last Chance
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

Although I know that this 1981 album hasn't been issued digitally, either on CD or Mp3, I nonetheless am aware that vinyl copies still come up for sale at on-line auction sites. I purchased my copy of the vinyl album from an auction site.

Also, purchasing a turn-table isn't such a difficult thing to do, either. There's a couple of places on-line that sell record players and I'm sure you can find them in shopping stores around Christmas time as a "nostalgia" item from the very same companies who sell their items on-line during the rest of the year.

I got a turn table for Christmas this past year...right off the racks of a local shopping store! So, it's highly possible to come across turn tables if you look for them. eBay and other places enable a person to substantially add vinyl albums and singles to start their collection or add to their collection. Again...there are ways for people to get vinyl and to get record players and it's no longer an excuse for some out there to say "I can't find a record player anywhere!!". This sentiment was accurate maybe 20 years ago during the huge proliferation of the CD market but nowadays it's rather easy to find reputable on-line companies that offer record players. The brand name of two of my record players is Crosley. This marks the third record player I own. My first one was built into what appears to be a suitcase which is model number CR249 at Crosley's web-site. The second one I bought is from a company called Detrola and the third one in the picture you see above is from Crosley.

Each of the record players are still in working condition...the reason I wanted multiple record players is just to have them. You don't want to wear out a record player and then not have a back-up ready. A record player will last as long as it's taken care of...and you don't really want to wear one out from excessive what I do is use them sparingly. The image off to the right that shows the picture of Losin' Streak, a 1973 album from Ray Stevens, is an image of my Detrola record player with it'd lid raised. This particular record player comes with a cassette attachment, radio, and CD player.

March 11, 2011

Let's Discuss Ray Stevens, Part 28...

Good Friday evening all Ray Stevens fans!! One thing is for sure...some topics come and go while other topics seem to dig in and grow. The topic of Arizona has certainly become enmeshed with Ray Stevens for nearly a year now. In May 2010 Ray issued his illegal immigration music video, "Come to the USA", on You Tube. The video was released during a time when the Arizona border wars were becoming a national issue once again due to the illegal immigration bill that was being written in the Arizona State Government...ultimately signed into law by Jan Brewer. The video quickly became a major internet hit...surpassing the unique views of "We The People", a video Ray issued late in 2009 about ObamaCare which had by May 2010 amassed 3,000,000 unique views. To date, "Come to the USA" has gotten 4,982,169 unique views in 10 months time. May 2011 will mark the video's 1 year anniversary and by that time the totals will perhaps be more than 5,000,000!!

Several months later, in contrast to the humorous "Come to the USA", Ray delivered the stark, serious "God Save Arizona". This video was in response to the Federal Government's intrusion into State matters. The video plays like a documentary...recalling events from World War Two (The U.S.S. Arizona sinking of 1941) and using footage from war news reels as well as images of Eric Holder and other faces of the Arizona debate. The video's gotten 665,619 unique views during the last 7 months. It was uploaded in August 2010.

"The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore", the current Ray Stevens music video spoofing the TSA, now has 109,449 views. This is an increase of 3,202 unique views over the last three days. This video puts a humorous spin on a lot of the security procedures that the non-flying public may not be aware of. The video also speaks to the non-flyer in that, through exaggeration and humor, we're told of the experiences of a couple brand new to flying. Airport security and the TSA probably doesn't register with those who don't even step foot into an airport...but I'm sure people are exposed to security and scanners as they walk through their work place. I'm sure people, at times, may be approached by security or greeters in shopping stores if an alarm goes off due to some sort of malfunction where an item wasn't appropriately scanned at check-out. Although the video specifically spoofs airport security and the pat-downs that take place at airports I feel there's something to take away from the video if you happen to be a recipient of over-the-top security procedures at your own work place.

The times we live in require a lot of security...but when that security becomes invasive and infringing on a person's dignity it's impossible to remain easy-going and go "oh well, that's the price we pay to be safe.". If people adopt a passive response to a lot of stuff then how can a free society recognize when their Government has gone too far? I'm sure a lot of people feel the way I do in that we feel the Government takes advantage of a person's fears (and anxieties) in an effort to ultimately control a person's livelihood. The real threat of terrorism and the threats that come almost daily from terrorist organizations provides cover for a lot of unnecessary liberty-stripping policies.

March 8, 2011

Ray Stevens and the TSA, Part 11...

Ray Stevens called into radio station KZNE today and did one of his more in-depth interviews. I didn't clock the interview but it seems to me that it lasted a good 15 minutes. The program that Ray called was Chip Howard's which airs 5-7pm Eastern time, 4-6pm Central time. Ray's interview began during the show's second hour and judging by the radio station web-site the shows become archived at some point here. It'll be the March 8th archive. As of this writing the archives are updated through March it'll be imperative for us to keep checking the archive page and select "Hour Two" for the March 8th show. I listened to the radio interview as it was happening thanks in large part because of a tweet several days ago by Chip Howard making mention of Ray Stevens calling the show today. There was another tweet posted today mentioning Ray's call-in so it wasn't difficult to miss the announcement...that is...if you happen to check Twitter frequently.

Some of the discussion in the interview consisted of Chip asking Ray several questions about the comedy songs he's known for and he asked what Ray thought about the social media's advantages in promoting music. Ray commented that it's an advantage because once something becomes uploaded onto a social media outlet it's got the potential to be heard or viewed by thousands of people in a matter of hours...hundreds of thousands in a matter of days. This speaks to a concept that I made mention of last year where I remarked that Ray's music videos are seen by more people in one day than your typical song on a radio station is heard in a week's time. Ray commented that "Come to the USA" is nearing 5,000,000 unique views and that "We The People" is over 4,000,000 views. His current video, "The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore", has gotten 106,247 unique views on You Tube in 2 week's comparison the #1 song on Country radio, for example, may have around 11,000 plays nationally during the same 2 week time period.

At another point in the interview Ray's asked if he's ever felt other words was there ever a time where he didn't feel like being in the studio or putting on concerts. Ray commented that he's never had feelings like that and that he doesn't plan on retiring...ever. In the past Ray had always commented that he loves making records...and one time he said that he'd always make records...whether he's on a major record label or not. Ray commented that a lot of people in the business feel that comedy/novelty songs have always been a "fast burn" and that there's no future (i.e, success) in making a career out of comical recordings. As far as radio airplay goes comedy is a fast burn...and it's something Ray addressed in 1995 when being interviewed on TNN's Music City Tonight program during the Get Serious home video publicity. Yet, as far as longevity is concerned, his particular comedy recordings have endured and continue to remain in print...and therefore there's no fast burn to speak of when discussing longevity.

Chip asks Ray, specifically, about "The Streak", "Everything Is Beautiful", "Misty", and "Ahab the Arab". Ray remarked, when asked about political incorrectness charged at "Ahab the Arab", that those who charge the song with being politically incorrect are ignorant about the song's original intent. Ray spoke about his time in Branson, Missouri in the early '90s and the host mentioned that Ray was there on three separate occasions (a reference to the series of concerts late last year at the Welk Theatre). Ray talked about music videos and how he went against the traditional conventions of marketing when he began selling music videos on TV. Ray pointed out that before he had his initial success with Comedy Video Classics in 1992 that the thinking in the music business was that music video's were nothing more than promotional tools to encourage sales of the audio recording. His home video proved that there was an audience who loved watching music videos so much that they'd be willing to buy them...whereas in the past nobody had thought to sell music videos to the public. Nearing the end of the interview Chip mentioned the current TSA song and Ray spoke about the We The People CD and the upcoming Spirit of '76 CD. The host played a snippet of "The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore" as the segment came to a close.

March 6, 2011

Ray Stevens Song Profile...

In the Ray Stevens song profile this time around we focus mostly on 1978's "L'amour". It's been my belief that those who hear this song and don't get a big smile on their face must have ice in their veins. The music alone is great but Ray's performance is wonderful. "L'amour" is credited to Ray Stevens and the French artist, Gilbert Becaud. There's not many video clips of Becaud performing this fact I'd only been able to come across one very brief clip of him performing the first few words of the song before the video cuts off. The melody, of course, is what will be familiar to Ray Stevens fans. The French lyrics to the song, when translated to English, do not mirror the lyrics that Ray sings and a lot of that has to do primarily with differing song structures between America and France. There are sites that have an English translation of "L'amour c'est l'affaire des gens" (the actual French title of the song) and once you read those lyrics you will be able to see the basic outline of the song that Ray would go on to re-write for the English-language recording, "L'amour". Ray's "L'amour" appeared as the opening track of his 1978 Be Your Own Best Friend album on Warner Brothers. The album features a total of 9 songs and as I've mentioned elsewhere on this blog site: the album cover of Ray is one of my favorites!!

Much of Ray's material on Warner Brothers is available at Amazon's Mp3 store. All you have to do is look the song titles up and see if they're available. I'll make it easy for a lot of 1995 Warner Brothers released a 3-CD set featuring recordings that he made for the label in the mid to late '70s. Those CD's have since been reissued as Mp3 digital albums and so all of the material on those 3 CD's are available for download. "L'amour" is available on the digital album, The Serious Side of Ray Stevens. On that collection you also get several other songs from Ray's Be Your Own Best Friend album: "Two Wrongs Don't Make a Right", "The Feeling's Not Right Again", and obviously "Be Your Own Best Friend". For those, like myself, who own and operate turntables on a frequent to semi-frequent basis the 1978 vinyl album consistently becomes available on eBay. The other songs on the 1978 album are "You're Magic", "Comeback", "With a Smile", "You've Got the Music Inside", and "Hidin' Place". Meanwhile, the two other 1995 titles available for download containing Ray's Warner Brothers material are Cornball and Do You Wanna Dance?. Those 1995 collections continue to be the only commercially available retrospectives on Ray's short stay with Warner Brothers (1976-1979) but there are several recordings that weren't selected for the 3 CD set and the only place to find these particular recordings are on their original vinyl release: "OM", "Gimme a Smile", "Junkie For You", "Road Widow", "There Is Something On Your Mind", "Banned in Boston Trilogy", "With a Smile", "Comeback", "Hidin' Place", and "You're Magic".

The seldom seen back cover of the 1977 Ray Stevens album, Feel the Music. I wasn't able to get the entire image in the camera shot but it serves it's purpose at showing what the back of the album looks like for those who don't own a copy. The 1977 album, much like 1978's Be Your Own Best Friend, featured a heavy dose of easy-listening songs...but there was always a song or two to break up the dominant mood. On Be Your Own Best Friend the sedate mood is broken up by the upbeat "Comeback" and the mid-tempo "Two Wrongs Don't Make a Right". On Feel the Music the overall mood of the album is spread across the entire collection of songs. All kinds of styles are featured on this collection...which features an image of a stereo speaker on the front of the album. The bluesy, funky "Junkie For You", the urgent "Alone With You", the gospel stylings of "Save Me From Myself", the inspirational "Feel the Music", the passionate "Daydream Romance", the lonesome mood in "Road Widow", the somber "Blues Love Affair", the uplifting "Set The Children Free", the carefree, high flying "Get Crazy With Me", and the jazzy, Dixieland flavored "Dixie Hummingbird" demonstrate Ray's eclectic nature...a whole lot of styles are covered on the 1977 album. Ray wrote 9 of the 10 songs...the only song he didn't write is "Set The Children Free". That song was written by his long-time friend/associate, Buddy Kalb. You can see Buddy in a lot of Ray's music videos...particularly as the TSA agent in Ray's current music video, "The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore".

Ray Stevens looks at Songwriting...

This particular video's been uploaded on You Tube for nearly a was uploaded on April 2, 2010 and it's a fascinating look into the mind of Ray Stevens and how he goes about writing songs and recording them. The interview was conducted in Oklahoma City in 1982 and the two appearing in the video with Ray are The McCain Brothers, the hosts of the show that this interview originated from. The video has a run time of 4 minutes, 2 seconds. At the time of it's debut on You Tube I had made commentary that it comes off like one of those classic interviews from 60 Minutes with the extreme close-up's. I'm baffled, though, why this particular upload hasn't been seen by more people. As of March 6, 2011 the video has 306 unique'd think it would've gotten a lot more views by now. I first embedded the video here on the blog back in April 2010 and according to the video stats at You Tube it's been accessed from this blog 27 times throughout the last 11 months. Given the activity that this blog experiences, with new blog entries that I write showing up at a rapid pace, I assume those 27 plays occurred during the month of April 2010 prior to it being buried in the blog archives on the right hand side of the page. Considering the embed was nearly a year ago I thought I'd re-embed the video for those who are not aware of it's existence...and by the looks of it's unique views, unfortunately, a whole lot of people are unaware that it here's the great video once more...

Ray Stevens and the TSA, Part 10...

This Sunday morning blog entry finds "The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore" with 102,596 unique views. As of now there isn't any radio call-in's posted at Ray's web-site. Whenever there's a call-in they usually get posted in the Tour section simply because it's a radio call-in tour. It began in early February...actually, late January, right around the time the TSA song was still in it's infant stages as I call it. At that time there was no CD single, Mp3 single, or music video available...and in those earliest radio interviews he'd comment that the single would be available soon and that he was working on a music video. As we all know the commercial availability happened in early February as the CD and Mp3 single became available for purchase at Ray's web-site and at Amazon and Itunes. Following the commercial release the music video became available on February 17th.

Since the month of February has fewer days than the rest of the months of the year it enabled the calendar to flip over to March in a week and 4 days time. The time span that the music video's been available is 17 days. The only reason I break all of that down is because some people will see "February" as the video's release month, paying no attention to the actual upload date, and with it now being March there will no doubt be some out there who'll say the video's been out for "2 months" when in reality it's only been available on You Tube for a little over 2 weeks...and so it's still in the early stages. The music video won't be a month old until March 17th.

In the meantime, though, continue to be on the look out for The Spirit of '76. As soon as it becomes available I'll write a blog about it and as soon as I'm able to hear it I'll write a review. Although a lot of you could've guessed as much it never hurts to remind people. I'm currently in the process of writing a review of Ray's We The People album from last year. I have a review up on Amazon but this new review is at a different on-line store. I had noticed that an existing review at this other on-line store didn't really say a whole lot about the CD...and with a CD that contains 22 songs the review should at least have some length to it...and so I'm writing a brief, lengthy review. Brief lengthy??'ll be a lengthy review as far as size goes but it'll be brief on specifics.

Ray Stevens: Nostalgia Valley, Part 23...

One of the fascinating recordings from Ray Stevens came along in 1975 when he tackled "Indian Love Call". I'd always liked the song...and when I discovered quite a few years ago that Ray Stevens had recorded the song I couldn't wait to hear it. I got my hands on the vinyl album, Misty, after purchasing it on-line...and I played the album and loved all the songs (obviously...since Ray's doing the singing!). "Indian Love Call" as performed by Ray Stevens is nothing like the previous recordings of the song by other artists and once you hear Ray's version it's safe to say that you'll end up preferring the way he performed the song. Around the middle of 2010 I purchased a DVD of Pop! Goes the Country mainly because Ray is a featured guest on one of the episodes. The episode, from 1975, featured Ray singing not only "Indian Love Call" but "Misty" and "Twilight Time". The show's host, Ralph Emery, along with the other guest, Sammi Smith, both agreed that Ray's take on "Indian Love Call" was like nothing you'd ever heard before. Ray very seldom performed the song on TV appearances and it's hard to tell how long it was part of his concerts...but for those who want to see his performance as well as see his relaxed, easy-going demeanor during the interview segment with Ralph look no further than Classic Country DVD. Ray's performance of "Indian Love Call" is found on Volume Four of Pop! Goes the Country. Ray is also featured on Volumes 9, 15, and 17.

I don't think Ray ever performed this song on TV...maybe in concert...I would've loved to see a performance of this song, though! Those who've never heard it will probably wonder who he's doing a vocal impression of...I've narrowed it down to a few people. One of my on-line friends suggested Fats Domino...maybe Fats Waller. It's got a classic R&B sound blended in with Spanish-Mexican instrumentation. "Lady of Spain" originates from the 1930's. The conventional way of performing it, at the time, was in the style of crooners which nowadays are referred to as either Big Band or Pop Standards. I first heard this song performed by Dennis Day on Jack Benny's radio program of the 1950's. Dennis sang the song in his customary operatic-tenor delivery. I read where Eddie Fisher recorded the song in 1952 and I looked it up on You Tube and it sounds almost identical to the way Dennis Day performed the song. Ray leaves out a lot of the middle lyrics and instead replaces them with a hard driving saxophone solo by Norman Ray. Much in the same manner as "Indian Love Call" causes you to forget all of the previous recordings of the song by other artists, this recording of "Lady of Spain" by virtue of it's uptempo sing-a-long nature will have you liking it more and more. The image of Ray on the single sleeve is the same one that appears on his 1975 Misty album.

The winning formula on the Misty album seemed to be: arrange songs that were popularly known as ballads into uptempo sing-a-long's and then arrange songs that were popularly known as sing-a-long's into ballads...which is why "Lady of Spain" is transformed into an uptempo song and the usually midtempo "Indian Love Call" is transformed into a bluesy ballad. "Young Love" is performed at an extremely slow a response to the song's extremely uptempo delivery made famous by Sonny James. One of the few covers in which the original arrangement remains pretty much intact is his take on "Cow Cow Boogie". When I first saw the song list for Ray's 1975 album, years before I owned a copy, I assumed "Cow Cow Boogie" was a song that Ray either wrote or co-wrote simply because of it's funny title. I then heard the song one night while listening to an AM radio station which played pop standards. The version I heard was from a female artist whose name wasn't announced. It could have been Patti Page for all I knew but research shown that the hit versions were recorded as a duet by The Ink Spots and Ella Fitzgerald as well as a solo recording by Ella Mae Morse. It was Morse's version that I heard on the radio back in the late '90s. Ray's version, as I mentioned, doesn't stray too much from the original arrangement. The album contains 11 songs and as a change of pace I'm going to include the writer's names, too...

1. Misty (Erroll Garner and Johnny Burke)
2. Indian Love Call (Rudolph Friml, Otto Harbach, and Oscar Hammerstein II)
3. Over the Rainbow (Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg)
4. Oh, Lonesome Me (Don Gibson)
5. Sunshine (Ray Stevens)
6. Cow-Cow Boogie (Don Raye, Gene DePaul, and Benny Carter)
7. Young Love (Carole Joyner and Ric Cartey)
8. Deep Purple (Mitchell Parish and Peter DeRose)
9. Mockingbird Hill (Vaughn Horton)
10. Take Care of Business (Layng Martine, Jr.)
11. Lady of Spain (Robert Hargreaves, Tolchard Evans, Stanley Damerell, and Henry Tilsley)

Some of the writers have unique names that's for sure! As you can see, tracks 5 and 10 were original recordings. The rest of the material are his versions of Pre-1960 pop hits with the country classic, "Oh, Lonesome Me", added into the mix. 36 years to 2011...

A look at the totals this hour show "The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore" with 101,751 unique views on You Tube.

March 5, 2011

Let's Discuss Ray Stevens, Part 27...

In an article that popped up on-line today, De Pasquale's Dozen, Ray Stevens offers a brisk Q&A to a series of questions. The author of the write-up agrees with a lot of us that Ray Stevens was indeed a big hit at this year's C-PAC gala. The expansion into the political arena, obviously, has enabled Ray to acquire an entirely different audience in addition to the audience that's seemingly been there since the beginning.

Within the above link to De Pasquale's article you'll be able to access Ray's music video, "The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore", as well as access an Amazon link for the single. I often keep track of the Amazon sales rankings of Ray's current material...last year I was keeping track of the "We The People" single, for example.

This time around the TSA single has appeared on Amazon's Top-100 Comedy Song list, off and on, for a number of weeks. Remember...the single had been available since early's only the music video that's been available to watch for just 2 weeks now. The video's continuing to show it's strength as the unique views have totaled 101,112 in that short amount of time.

This expansion into political humor, while having a majority favorable response, has also netted Ray some negative criticism, too, but this can be summed up as nothing more than...well...politics. Whenever anyone gives a political viewpoint there's almost always going to be the favorable responses and then there's going to be the unfavorable responses. There's an underlying positive/favorable response to Ray's political music videos and his TV/radio interviews in general. This favorable reaction among Independent voters, no doubt, increases the animosity of the opposing point of view. You can check the various News/Blog entries throughout 2010 from various left-leaning organizations who did articles about Ray Stevens to see what I'm referring to. The anger and downright nastiness that spilled out from those liberal blogs was atrocious.

The animosity stems from the fact that Independent voters shape the outcome of elections.

Now, the latest song from Ray, "The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore", doesn't necessarily have the same kind of political overtone of his previous recordings...even though toward the end Ray makes reference to the faces of the Democrat party: Obama, Nancy, Harry, and Hillary. If anyone denies that Hillary isn't a face of the Democrat party how quick you're to forget who her husband is and what political party they belong to. Just because someone becomes Secretary of State it doesn't mean that their individual political views go away or that their political convictions play no part in their decisions. In a perfect world those who hold those offices should be apolitical and never let politics enter their minds but the truth is that doesn't happen.

Ray Stevens: The TSA music video, Part 2...

"The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore" has surpassed the 100,000 unique view total and at the moment it's gathered 100,482 views at the 2 week mark. I've noticed that a lot of people have visited my blog page recently via on-line searches of the title of Ray's current music video...this is one of the rare moments where I get visitors based solely on a song title search. I caught a Tweet the other day from a sports radio station...a talk-show host named Chip Howard tweeted that Ray Stevens would be calling in next week (technically this that it's Saturday). I have no idea if the radio host is referring to our Ray Stevens (The Singer) or someone else with the same name. There's a radio DJ who goes by the on-air name Ramblin' Ray Stevens...there's also a couple of athletes with the name of Ray it's difficult to know exactly which 'Ray Stevens' the talk-show host was referring to. Usually whenever I see a tweet from someone at a radio station mention 'Ray Stevens' I automatically assume it's our Ray Stevens...but KZNE radio is sports-driven and so it's wise to try and find out exactly which Ray Stevens will be calling into the station this week. I sent a tweet inquiring about the soon as I find out anything I'll of course post about it here.

My Twitter name is also ACcountryFan and a lot of my tweets are about Ray Stevens. I'd say 99.5% of my tweets are built around Ray Stevens...either me tweeting something about him or my re-tweeting something he's tweeted.

Starting with this blog entry, as all of you frequent visitors can tell, I've changed the design/template of the page. I liked the design I'd been using but I decided to change the design...I like how the lettering is much more crisp looking and the information isn't so compact as it appeared in the previous blog design. Also, the pictures that I insert in the various blog entries will look like Polaroid pictures...with a white trim/border fitted around the images to give it an authentic look. That sort of thing was missing in my previous blog design. Also, it's much more clearer reading the labels, the blog date, and the title of the blog entries. I'll stick with this updated look for awhile. I'll probably go with something else later on.

While writing this blog I opened up a separate internet browser and seen that "The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore" has risen to 100,739 views on You Tube. When I started this blog entry the totals were 100,482. I believe You Tube updates their numbers every half hour or every hour.

March 4, 2011

Ray Stevens new TSA single, Part 2...

I'm not a traveler by air and so I've never been subjected to the pat-downs or full body scans that take place in all the airports but that doesn't mean that non-fliers can't empathize with those who deal with the TSA on a daily basis. Ray Stevens' current music video, "The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore", has gotten 98,507 unique views so far. In my previous entry on March 1st the total was in the 85,000+ range. The video's been available on You Tube for 2 weeks...reaching that plateau late Thursday afternoon...and with it knocking on the door of 100,000 views it means that it should continue to see big leaps in unique views as more and more people discover the video, presumably, as Ray does more and more radio call-in's. There hasn't been any word yet when The Spirit of '76 will be issued. Perhaps it'll get released whenever Ray decides to release a follow-up song/music's tough predicting things like that!!

The unique views that this TSA music video is pulling in are highly reminiscent of "God Save Arizona". His previous music video, "The Nightmare Before Christmas", has recently reached the 100,000 plateau...but that video's been available since November 2010. It's a perfect example of the timeliness of the TSA music video where it's been able to capture close to 100,000 views in 2 weeks time while "Nightmare Before Christmas" has just now reached that 100,000 level with 100,106 views to date. In fairness, though, Ray never did much high profile publicity for the Christmas video...the same holds true for "The Global Warming Song". That particular video's gotten 95,491 unique views over the course of 8 months. In fairness to that video it not only didn't get a lot of publicity but it was over-shadowed not only by the increasing popularity of his previous music video, "Come to the USA", which has gone on to rake in nearly 5,000,000 unique views, but also, "God Save Arizona", which was released on You Tube a month after "The Global Warming Song". "God Save Arizona" has gotten 658,046 unique views. "The Global Warming Song" was caught in the middle of two massively popular music videos from Ray Stevens dealing with issues in Arizona. There was also the mid-term elections in 2010 which caused the earlier "Throw the Bums Out!" music video to have a resurgence in views during the month of October 2010.

March 1, 2011

Ray Stevens and the TSA, Part 9...

Welcome one and all to this fan-created blog page where I give commentary and talk about the great music and comedy videos of Ray Stevens...not necessarily in that order! Also...welcome to March! As we turn the calendar we see that the success of the latest music video, "The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore", has risen over 6,000 unique views since my previous blog post. The video currently has 85,553 unique views in nearly 2 week's time. The TSA video was uploaded onto You Tube back on Thursday, February 17th...technically the video's been around for only a week and 5 days...not quite officially 2 weeks...and here it is knocking on the door of 90,000 unique views! Could we see 100,000 views greet this video by this weekend?? It's certainly possible! I think it's highly possible that it'll reach 90,000 views by the end of today.

This song will be part of The Spirit of '76...which at the moment doesn't have a release date yet. I assume we'll hear something at some point this month regarding the release of that CD...I can't wait to hear all of the material that'll be included on it. On a recent TV interview on the Fox Business Network he mentioned one of the songs will be about Obama's budget plan. At C-PAC last month Ray performed a song which asks the President to offer his solutions to the problems facing the country and the world. That song should be on The Spirit of '76 too.

The Mp3 single reached #13 yesterday on Amazon's Comedy best-seller list and that was a new high...previously #16 had been the highest that the single had charted on that particular best-seller list. Earlier this morning it was ranked #22 indicating that it hadn't moved much over the course of the last 12 hours and is holding steady among the Top-30.