April 30, 2011

Ray Stevens and Obama Money...

The latest music video from Ray Stevens, "Obama Budget Plan", continues on it's successful way as the unique views now sit at 92,156! This is an increase of 25,400 unique views in just 2 days time...could this video surpass the 100,000 mark by the end of Sunday? There's no way of knowing this until Sunday night rolls around. This marks the 5th day of "Obama Budget Plan" being available on You Tube. Wouldn't it be great if after the 10th day we'll be talking about 150,000 or 200,000 unique views for the hilarious music video? This being the last day of April it also means it shouldn't be long before Ray starts to heavily push the Spirit of '76 by hopefully appearing on TV programs or doing more interviews on radio. He did a short radio tour when "The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore" was issued as a single but if he chooses to do another one for this Spirit of '76 release I imagine he'd stick with political talk-radio. Here are the 11 songs on Spirit of '76...

1. The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore (over 150,000 You Tube views)
2. Mr. President - Mr. President
3. God Save Arizona (over 700,000 You Tube views)
4. Cap'n Trade the Pirate
5. My Uncle Sam
6. November Storm
7. Mi Casa Su Casa
8. Grandpa Voted Democrat
9. Obama Budget Plan (over 92,000 You Tube views)
10. News Machine
11. New Normal

April 28, 2011

Ray Stevens and Obama's Budget Plan...

Ray Stevens has another smash music video on his hands!! Anyone out there living on the "Obama Budget Plan" by any chance? The on-line music video's strong early numbers is a good indication that it'll surpass the 100,000 mark in no time at all. The "Obama Budget Plan" is also having the biggest short-term impact compared to his previous video. "Obama Budget Plan" has 66,756 unique views in a little over 2 days time. The previous video, "The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore", had gotten over 12,000 unique views in the same amount of time. That video had over 20,000 unique views on it's 4th day on-line while "Obama Budget Plan" has over 66,000 unique views in 2 days! At this pace it means that the newest music video has a good chance of surpassing the 100,000 mark at some point this weekend.

It's a catchy sing-a-long and the CD and Mp3 are available for purchase at Ray's web-site store. You can visit the store and purchase whichever format you want. The physical CD costs $10.99 plus shipping and handling. The digital download format costs $6.99 plus shipping and handling. When you click this link you'll be taken to Ray's web-store where you can browse the items yourselves. This song is on the Spirit of '76 collection which features 10 additional great performances.

April 26, 2011

Ray Stevens and the Spirit of '76...

This latest offering from Ray Stevens is wonderful in it's topicality, humor, sarcasm, and irony. This digital download features 11 songs that will put anyone in either a political mood or at the very least a current events mood...and more importantly you'll be laughing throughout most of the collection. The collection starts off with Ray's previous single "The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore". This song is about a couple who have quite an adventure while at the airport thanks in large part to the TSA's enhanced security procedures. A music video was uploaded in February 2011 and it's been viewed by more than 140,000 people on You Tube.

Track number two is a catchy sing-a-long...entitled "Mr. President-Mr. President" we hear Ray giving a rundown on all the things that are going wrong in the country (mostly of Obama's making) and it's then we hear Ray ask the President what are his plans going forward. The President gives his plans on straightening out the economy and the unemployment problem among other issues. It's a very funny song and it fits Obama like a golf glove.

On the third song, "God Save Arizona", we hear a very serious performance condemning the United States Attorney General as well as the critics of Jan Brewer and Joe Arpaio. The single and subsequent music video was released in August 2010. The video's been viewed by over 700,000 people on You Tube.

In the collection's fourth song, "Cap'n Trade the Pirate", we're told the tale of a pirate who wants to join forces with the President and punish America, too. The pirate goes through his credentials of why he feels he's uniquely qualified to be the enforcer of both the environmental and energy policies of the far-left. He plans to shrink the 'carbon footprint' and has plans on job growth and other programs near and dear to the progressives. Ray performs the bulk of the song using his pirate vocal impression.

Turning serious again we have the clever "Uncle Sam"...in this quiet, reflective ballad Ray sings about an Uncle named Sam who's gotten up in years and doesn't have a grasp on reality. The uncle throws his money away at the drop of a hat...but Ray (the nephew) comes up with a plan on trying to help his Uncle get on the right path and regain his common sense. This performance is followed by the high-energy, inspirational feel of "November Storm" which incorporates meteorology jargon when describing the previous election cycle and the one upcoming in 2012.

Some may be asking themselves: Does Ray tackle illegal immigration in this collection? Why, yes, he does...and he does it well. In his previous collection, We the People, Ray sang about illegal immigration on a song called "Come to the USA" (it's music video has over 5,000,000 views on You Tube). Meanwhile, on this Spirit of '76 collection we have a further tale of illegal immigration titled "Mi Casa Su Casa". As we near the end of the collection we get more and more into satire and irony. "Grandpa Voted Democrat" may appear from it's title to be a sentimental song about how a grandpa voted...or a song about a grandfather's political beliefs...but in reality the song is a wickedly funny story about a bizarre chain of events.

Track 9 is Ray's current single and music video: "Obama Budget Plan". The song is kind of a sequel to the collection's opening song, "The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore". This time around the couple (who I refer to as the TSA couple) have apparently made their way from the airport and become fixated on living their lives on what's referred to as the "Obama Budget Plan" and so they create a vast operation in their basement, complete with printing press, and they go on a money printing spree. They figure if it's fine for Congress and the President (Government in general) to rack up debt and print more and more money to cover expenses then it should be okay for the American public to do the same thing. The music video was uploaded onto You Tube late on April 25, 2011 and in a matter of hours it's gotten 17,476 views. The video was highlighted on The O'Reilly Factor on April 25th.

Track 10, "News Machine", takes shots at TV news in general...especially when it's a slow news day and the mundane is lifted into the stellar and reported on insatiably 24/7. Track 11, "New Normal", is another satirical song and this time around we hear of a once rich man down on his luck thanks in large part to the President and the pay czar. We're told of how lonesome it is living underneath the bridge and how he can't wait for 2012 to roll around when Obama's kicked out of office...officially putting an end to Obama's "New Normal". As an added touch Ray delves into Hank Williams territory and yodels the song's title while a harmonica plays in the background.

All in all it's a wonderful release and a perfect companion to the We The People release last year. Here's "Obama Budget Plan"...the latest from Ray Stevens...

April 25, 2011

I'm discussing Ray Stevens on RCA!

The seldom seen back cover of 1983's Greatest Hits. The front shows Ray in a black shirt with flower designs. There's video of him wearing this shirt in an episode of The Fall Guy called The Pirates of Nashville. In the episode Ray plays a character named Webb Covington. Charlie Daniels and Dottie West appear in the episode as well. Toward the end of the episode Ray performs "Piece of Paradise Called Tennessee", a song found on his 1983 Me album for Mercury Records. This collection came into my possession at some point in 1991 or 1992. I'd found it sitting amongst a rack of cassettes at a shopping store and at the time it was the only collection of Ray's that had "The Moonlight Special" on it. At that time I hadn't heard the song before and so it's inclusion on this 1983 collection was the impetus for my wanting it. The vinyl version of this Greatest Hits release features "The Dooright Family" as track 1 and "Shriner's Convention" as track 2. I don't know exactly why RCA would place the biggest hit single Ray had with the label as track 10 but yet that's what they did.

The cassette version of Greatest Hits switched the opening and closing tracks. In the cassette, "Shriner's Convention" leads off the collection while "The Dooright Family" closes out the collection. As I've remarked several times on this blog page I have no idea why RCA decided to showcase just two recordings Ray did for the label and fill the rest of the album with material readily available on other collections. The opening and closing tracks on this compilation come from Ray's RCA debut album in 1980 titled appropriately, Shriner's Convention. He had four more hit singles for RCA, in addition to "Shriner's Convention", that didn't make this collection: "Night Games", "One More Last Chance", "Written Down In My Heart", and the quasi-novelty song "Where the Sun Don't Shine". A couple years after this compilation came along in 1983 RCA issued an artist-by-artist series called Collector's Series. The compilation projects would all feature 8 recordings...the one for Ray came along in 1985. At the time of it's release Ray was by then on the MCA label. He had left RCA in 1983, signed with Mercury that same year, released one album for Mercury late in 1983 titled Me, left Mercury in mid 1984, then joined MCA later in 1984 for a hugely successful 5 year stay.

The Collector's Series release featured exclusively RCA recorded material...of the 8 recordings on the collection only three were chart hits: "Shriner's Convention", "One More Last Chance", and "Where the Sun Don't Shine". It didn't feature "Night Games" or "Written Down In My Heart". Nevertheless, the Collector's Series still remains the only compilation release to showcase RCA material exclusively. The compilation, released in 1985, was issued in cassette format in 1987, and re-issued in CD format in 1992. The peculiar thing about the two re-issues is RCA replaced the 1981 love ballad, "One More Last Chance", with the 1980 novelty "Put It In Your Ear". As a result, "Put It In Your Ear" appears on both the 1987 and 1992 re-issues while the original 1985 release features 1981's "One More Last Chance". "The Dooright Family" appeared on Collector's Series as well as 1983's Greatest Hits.

"The Dooright Family", while hysterical, was never an officially charted song. Over the course of time, through word of mouth and the like, the song became a popular recording amongst the Ray Stevens fans. Today it's treated as if it were a hit song in the traditional sense of the word...even having a music video made of it in 1995. The music videos for both "The Dooright Family" and "Shriner's Convention" debuted in Ray's 1995 movie, Get Serious! The music video of "Shriner's Convention" is available on You Tube...and here it is...

April 18, 2011

Ray Stevens and those Animals...

In a departure from my usual in-depth analysis of Ray Stevens here's a whimsical blog entry discussing the animals that appear in various Ray Stevens songs. We can't start off this entry without mentioning the camel. The camel not only appears in a couple of songs but it's one of Ray's trademarks. The camel's name, Clyde, doubles as the name of Ray's record company. Clyde appears in a couple of songs...but camel's also are referenced in a couple more songs. "Ahab the Arab", from 1962, introduced Clyde the camel.

The story goes that the camel got it's name when Ray spotted Clyde McPhatter walking around at Mercury Records. After "Ahab the Arab", Clyde the camel made a guest appearance in the original recording of "Santa Claus Is Watching You". Clyde was called in as a last minute replacement for Rudolph who, curiously, injured himself while doing The Twist. When you have the reindeer visually planted in your mind...replace Rudolph with a camel...and see how hilarious the image looks now.

The camel and Arabian scenery was re-visited nearly 30 years later in 1991 when Ray recorded "The Sheik of R&B". The title, of course, is a spoof of the movie, Sheik of Araby. In 2010 Ray mentions camels in the song "Come to the USA" and there's footage of him in Arabian attire in the music video. Also from 2010 we have "Caribou Barbie" which is a song all about Sarah Palin and her nick-name that the critics came up with. Each of those 2010 recordings come from his We The People collection. "Deerslayer", from 2000's Ear Candy and 2002's Osama Yo' Mama, is about a hunter who captures a deer (it's laying in the road!). The hunter puts the deer in his car and that's when all the fun begins.

In 1963 Ray sang about another particular animal: The ape! "Harry the Hairy Ape" was Ray's satirical look at rock music and the shaggy long-hair a lot of them were beginning to appear with. In Ray's song, of course, it's a real ape who becomes a singing sensation. In the same animal family is the monkey...and of course "Gitarzan" immediately comes to mind. In that 1969 song Ray sings about a jungle band consisting of Gitarzan, Jane, and the Monkey. A year later, "Monkey See, Monkey Do" appeared on a 1970 album from Ray Stevens titled Unreal. The song has nothing do with monkeys...it's based upon the phrase that refers to people who copy others...mostly for social acceptance. In 1984 Ray did a wild version of the theme song of the rock group, The Monkees. In Ray's recording we hear two Austrian singers perform "The Monkees" theme song but ultimately the duo dissolve into arguing with one another over everything from singing off-key to goat management.

Ray's sang about dogs on several of his albums, too. "Fred" springs to mind...it's from 1984. In another song from 1984, "Joggin'", Ray gets chased by a dog and the song closes with dog howls. In 1960's "Sgt. Preston of the Yukon" we hear about the dog, King, as Ray does some chilling dog howls. In 1963's "Butch Babarian" we get to hear Ray do more dog howls when Butch's dog, Houston, makes an appearance. In 1991 Ray recorded "Back in the Doghouse Again" and while we don't hear any dog howls we get to hear some dog growls toward the end of the song. In "The Dog Song", from 2000, Ray sings from a dog's point of view about a woman who claims to have been treated like a dog but yet the dog recalls all the attention he actually receives...and if a man really treated the woman like a dog she would have never left. In 1993 Ray told the story of "The Higher Education of Ol' Blue" which was based on a story about a boy, his father, and a dog who goes to college. The boy is running a scam against his father in an attempt to get more spending money...so he tells his dad that he needs more money because there's a college course that'll teach dogs to read. It's available on Classic Ray Stevens.

Fish have only made their way onto two Ray Stevens recordings. "Fish Eat Sleep" appeared on a 1973 album, Nashville. 24 years later in 1997 "Too Drunk To Fish" came along...as did a comical music video. In 1975 Ray recorded "Cow Cow Boogie" which was originally conceived in the early 1940's as a satire of the singing cowboy. 1970's music listeners, when hearing it on Ray's album, may have viewed it as a groovy cowboy-type song. It happens more than you think...humor and satire often get lost in time and each successive generation will interpret lyrics to mean entirely different things than originally intended. When Ray recorded the song in 1975 it was more than 30 years old. It's on his Misty album.

The fearsome snake took center stage on 1986's "Smokey Mountain Rattlesnake Retreat" and 1987's "Ballad of Cactus Pete and Lefty". In 2005 Ray recorded "Kitty Cat's Revenge" which dealt with the misadventures of trying to rescue a cat from a drainage pipe. The same year he also recorded "The Cat Song" which deals with a husband's jealousy over a wife's affections toward the family cat...Ray does baby talk at various spots in the song in an effort to explain the way the wife treats the cat. Each of those songs are on the Box Set collection. Famously in 1984 Ray recorded "Mississippi Squirrel Revival" about a squirrel that gets loose in a southern church...and all the while the church goers think all the commotion and disturbance is created by the Lord and they start confessing their sins and asking for forgiveness. A year later Ray recorded "Kiss a Pig"...a cute story about a man who finds a pig and takes him home and treats him like a member of the family.

In 1976 Ray hatched upon an idea to release a chicken clucking version of "In the Mood". Ray remarked that he had the idea and recorded it for private use to share with friends and family...but then his label at the time, Warner Brothers, wanted him to put it out as a single! So, in late 1976, Ray Stevens issued "In the Mood" under the pseudonym Henhouse Five Plus Too. It's b-side was the culturally aware "Classical Cluck". Amazingly, the 2 minute 40 second chicken clucking extravaganza known as "In the Mood" reached the country and pop Top-40 charts in America and the Top-40 in the United Kingdom. In 1985 he revisited the chicken coop again with "Thus Cacked Henrietta", based on Also Sprach Zarathustra...in the recording we also hear cows and a goat much like we did in "In the Mood". In fact the 1985 recording kicks off with a cow mooing.

Another million success for Ray Stevens...

Good Monday morning all Ray Stevens fans!! Over the weekend Ray Stevens was treated to another million...the music video, "Mississippi Squirrel Revival", passed the million view mark on You Tube. The video, originally released in 1992 as part of Comedy Video Classics, was uploaded onto You Tube in July 2009. The unique views of the Mississippi Squirrel music video are 1,012,858 which of course enables it to become the third music video of Ray's to achieve at least 1,000,000 unique views. The first video to surpass a million views for Ray was "We The People"...and the second video to do so was "Come to the USA"...ironically, the third to achieve this accomplishment is one of the classics in his career...

"The Mississippi Squirrel Revival" came along in Ray's career in 1984 and was part of his debut MCA album that year, He Thinks He's Ray Stevens.

"Come to the USA" continues to be enormous on-line. Several weeks ago I commented on the video surpassing 5,000,000 views and now it's close to 5.1 million. The specific total of unique views to date is 5,089,164. By comparison, "We The People" has 4,311,711 unique views to date. Doing the math that's a difference of 777,453. That means over 700,000 more people have seen the illegal immigration music video, "Come to the USA". There's also an underlying belief that the video's tapped into an audience that up until 2010 had never knew of Ray Stevens before...and for a lot of people this video was their introduction to him. "We The People" can be applied with the same scenario...a lot of people who either never knew of Ray Stevens or weren't aware that he was still making music took notice when the "We The People" music video hit late in 2009.

Since then Ray's been a fixture at political fundraisers and other political events; appearing on politically-driven talk radio programs and television programs as well. When Ray returned to Branson, Missouri for a series of concerts in 2010 at the Welk Theater he did so with a political and patriotic theme. He still performs his signature hits and other notable songs while in concert but he often remarked in interviews that he felt the big reason why there seemed to be an increase of demand for personal appearances was because of the political music videos and he pointed out "We The People" and the other on-line music videos he released as evidence. In other words, with the videos getting such a strong positive reaction it was obvious that he'd have to perform them in concert for the people.

2011 appears to be shaping up to be another whirlwind year...already this year Ray took part in a radio call-in tour, appeared at C-PAC, and appeared on several programs to promote his TSA music video, "The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore". A lot of this activity took place during much of late January through early March. A music video of the song became another on-line hit. As soon as Ray releases a new music video I'll embed it here on my blog page of course!

April 15, 2011

Golden Entertainment from Ray Stevens...

The first commercial success for Ray Stevens as I covered in a previous blog entry was this 1961 single about a wonder drug that is guaranteed to cure everything. I believe Ray was intentionally grabbing for attention when he officially titled the song "Jeremiah Peabody's Polyunsaturated Quick Dissolving Fast Acting Pleasant Tasting Green and Purple Pills". The single, issued by Mercury Records, reached the pop Top-40 in 1961 and was a stepping stone onto an even bigger hit the following year, "Ahab the Arab". Jeremiah Peabody, a follow-up to his 1960 single about Sgt. Preston, established Ray as a comical artist...as some critics put it "...a singer of off-beat, interesting songs...". Sgt. Preston was a near-hit in 1960...then came Jeremiah Peabody in 1961...followed by "Ahab the Arab" in 1962...followed by "Harry the Hairy Ape" in 1963...and rounding out this cast of characters are "Speed Ball" and "Butch Babarian". In press releases and single reviews of this time period there was always emphasis placed on Ray's comedic characters...all the while the B-side's of those songs were typically pop and R&B-driven love ballads that the public at large weren't paying much attention to. In those days people apparently never thought to flip a single over and hear what was on the other side. This 1961 song became part of Ray's live stage show in 2009 during a segment that spotlighted the early '60s era of his career.

Issued by Barnaby Records in 1971 this Greatest Hits collection features a picture of Ray that was so popular that it later appeared on the cover of The Very Best of Ray Stevens which was issued four years later. This particular collection focuses largely on his late '60s Monument recordings as well as his first recordings for Barnaby in 1970. What many don't know is Barnaby Records bought the master recordings that Ray did on Monument...this is why a lot of his Monument and Barnaby recordings often appear together on the same compilations. It's also the reason why his Monument recordings were always copyrighted to Barnaby Records. If you look on the song credits on any number of Ray Stevens compilations during the '80s and '90s you'll see where his Monument recordings have the phrase Courtesy of Barnaby Records in the credits. Getting back to this 1971 release...it contains several hugely popular recordings from Ray at that time period. "Bridget the Midget the Queen of the Blues", issued late in 1970 and reaching it's popularity peak in early 1971, was the most recent hit on this collection. It hit the Top-5 in England. "Everything Is Beautiful", his 1970 #1 Grammy winner, is the biggest hit single on this collection. One of my favorites, "America, Communicate With Me", was a Top-20 hit on the Easy-Listening charts in 1970...it's included on this 1971 collection.

Shifting gears to 1981 we have One More Last Chance, a studio album from Ray Stevens on the RCA label. As you can see I'm working on a pattern...focusing on Ray Stevens products that were released 10 years apart from each other: 1961, 1971, 1981, 1991, 2001, and 2011. The 1981 album, also one of my favorites, is ballad heavy for the most part. It came along during the Urban Cowboy trend in country music...and one of the songs on this 1981 album told a vivid story about singles bars and the night life. That song, "Night Games", was the album's first single. It was released late in 1980 and was still being pushed in 1981...the single reached the Top-20 on the country chart. The album's title track featured a wonderful dose of steel guitar and electric guitar...the steel guitar solo's were great...as was Ray's performance. "One More Last Chance" reached the country Top-40 in 1981. The song was featured in the soap opera, Texas, as was Ray Stevens! Ray did a guest starring role as himself for a series of episodes culminating in his performance of "One More Last Chance" on screen.

The release of this collection in 1991 on Curb Records I feel was in response to a collection they released in 1990 on Ray titled His All-Time Greatest Comic Hits. This 1991 collection features a heavier dose of non-comical recordings from Ray Stevens with an alternate version of "There's a Star Spangled Banner" closing out the CD. An alternate version? Yes! Originally a song with this title appeared on Ray's 1989 album, Beside Myself. In 1991 the song was largely re-written but it retained the same melody and it was placed on this 1991 compilation. In the 1989 original Ray sings about a P.O.W. in the Middle East before switching to commentary about how the American flag is treated in the Middle East region of the world. In the 1991 re-write Ray sings about all the wars and battles that the flag's waved proudly through. In both songs the chorus and melody remain the same. The only recordings on the collection that would be considered comical songs are "Along Came Jones", Ray's 1969 pop hit. There is also the inclusion of "Would Jesus Wear a Rolex?". This song, from 1987, also appeared on His All-Time Greatest Comic Hits. Contemporary releases by Ray in 1991 included "Power Tools", "You Gotta Have a Hat", and "Working for the Japanese". Those recordings are on his #1 With a Bullet CD. 1991 is also the year he opened up his Branson, Missouri theater. He closed it in 1994.

Issued by Varese Sarabande in 2001 this All-Time Greatest Hits collection gathers up 23 recordings from Ray Stevens taken at various moments during the '60s and '70s. The collection has some great liner notes which appear in booklet form complete with pictures. Purists complained about the CD, at the time, because it didn't include the original recordings of a couple songs. "Ahab the Arab", "Harry the Hairy Ape", and "Funny Man" are featured here via late '60s re-recordings. Originally those three songs were recorded in 1962 and 1963 but the CD focuses on the 1968 soulful re-recording of "Funny Man" and the more widely distributed 1969 versions of "Ahab the Arab" and "Harry the Hairy Ape". Outside of those three recordings everything else represented here are the originals. The CD kicks off with the obscure 1960 single, "Sgt. Preston of the Yukon". This is one of the few collections that feature the recording. The collection does a nice job at showcasing several recordings from Ray that often go over-looked on other collections. "Everybody Needs a Rainbow", a great inspirational song from Ray, rarely gets much coverage so I was glad to see it emerge on this CD. The recording came along in 1974 but yet everything Ray did in 1974 seemed to be over-shadowed by "The Streak"...a single that sold more than five million copies world-wide and is track 19 on this collection. In late 2001 Ray released the topical "Osama Yo' Mama" which eventually sold more than half a million copies and became one of the biggest selling country singles of 2002. This was among the many recordings that emerged in the months after the September 11th terror attacks. Some critics, who obviously weren't in the mood for comedy, criticized Ray's choice of response and pointed out that other entertainers were serious in their reaction to 9/11. Of course, other critics understood that Ray uses humor to address situations going on in the country and the world, and that "Osama Yo' Mama" was a perfect outlet for him.

Now we're up to 2011! I was originally thinking about posting pictures of Ray during the last 50 years but when I went to look for some pictures of him from the mid '60s I couldn't find them. I know I have them...somewhere...but at the last minute I decided on this concept. "The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore" is the most recent commercial single from Ray Stevens. The recording, poking fun at the TSA, is his first single of the year and it's music video on You Tube has gotten over 136,000 unique views. The song is part of Ray's Spirit of '76 collection. The song came out at a time when the enhanced pat-downs and security screening at airports, dictated by the TSA, was all over the news. Ray went on a radio call-in tour during much of February 2011 to promote the single and the video. As is the case with topical material, by late March, the TSA wasn't getting much of the headlines as they were in late January and into February...and as a result this particular recording met the same fate. He's currently working on a new music video set to be released at some point in early May titled "Obama Budget Plan".

April 10, 2011

Ray Stevens plays the Piano...

Hello Ray Stevens fans!! It's been awhile since I submitted a blog entry but it's not from having nothing to say...I'd been side-tracked by all the news surrounding Ray's latest happenings and the fact of myself being more active on Facebook than I usually am took me away from here for a few days. I came across this video upload several days ago on You Tube and now I'm embedding it here. It's a performance by an unlikely duo: Ray Stevens and Loretta Lynn...and the two of them are performing several Patsy Cline songs. Barbara Mandrell is seen at the start of the video making the introduction. The performance comes from 1983 during the Silver Anniversary of the CMA's 1958 founding.

The songs performed during the clip are "Faded Love", "I Fall To Pieces", and "Back In Baby's Arms". This clip marks a series of firsts for me: first of all it's the first clip I've seen of Ray Stevens performing on a CMA telecast; it's the first time I'd seen Ray and Loretta sing together (probably the only time!); and it's the first time I'd seen Ray perform songs made famous by Patsy Cline. Ray's appeared at the Hall of Fame museum and performed at the Hall of Fame's Ford theater rather recently...and we all know the CMA is associated with the Hall of Fame...but this is the first time I'd seen him perform on a CMA telecast.

For those who hadn't been keeping up to date with Ray's latest happenings the place to find out what's happening is right here at his own web-page. Within the last several days news has become available that Ray signed contracts with a couple of companies that'll certainly help 2011 become just as successful as 2010 was. It was announced on April 5th, as the article in the link goes into more detail about, that the Bobby Roberts Company has become Ray's representative for concerts/personal appearances and that a company called Absolute Publicity is now in charge of PR (public relations).

On April 7th the web-page added a story commemorating the collective 15,000,000+ unique views that all of his You Tube music videos have obtained over the last year and a half. The total number of combined views of his videos is now approaching 16,000,000. A quick look at his You Tube channel shows 15,998,966. Also, he has more than 11,000 subscribers to his channel.

The April 7th article also announces the upcoming May release of a brand new music video. This music video, in my opinion, more than likely will coincide with the physical CD release of The Spirit of '76. It isn't everyday we get advance warning (a full month ahead of time) of an upcoming music video...usually the video's are mentioned a few days prior to their You Tube release...but given that this upcoming video was mentioned weeks before it's arrival indicates, to me at least, that Ray and his people are planning a big opening week for the physical CD and they want a brand new music video to be hitting the internet at the same time. His current single, "The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore", is on The Spirit of '76 and technically that TSA song is his first release from the collection.

On May 7th Ray will appear on Huckabee's program on the Fox News Channel and on May 11th Ray will take part in a Conservative function titled Conservatives on the Move which will take place in Franklin, Tennessee. A write-up of Ray and how much the organization is looking forward to Ray's appearance can be found here at their web-site. I believe I posted a link to this in one of my March blogs due to the fact the article was written on March 16th but it never hurts to bring back articles and news reports in an effort to keep the news on the front burner.

April 4, 2011

Ray Stevens and the New Orleans Moon...

Released almost 4 years ago, New Orleans Moon is the glorious salute to Louisiana culture from Ray Stevens. The CD came along in the spring of 2007, available exclusively at first at Ray's web-site, but it was never publicized much outside of a few places. It was released nationally in July 2007. I remember the title track, "New Orleans Moon", was making the rounds on a few radio stations in Louisiana based on news releases by Ray's web-site. Aside from this localized publicity no major national publicity followed. I don't know if the lack of national publicity was did by design or not...songs that salute a specific region of the country might not play well nationally and so it makes more sense to publicize a CD like this in the area in which it's designed to pay tribute to and perhaps that's what Ray did. "New Orleans Moon" was written by Ray Stevens and Chuck Redden.

The CD is filled with songs about Louisiana...specifically New Orleans...and it's one of Ray's few latter-day CD's which features exclusively non-comical performances. New Orleans Moon features 11 tracks...one of the official titles for one of the songs on the CD is "Preleude to Way Down Yonder in New Orleans/Way Down Yonder in New Orleans". "New Orleans Moon" is great and the rest of the CD is his versions of quite a few Louisiana/New Orleans songs. Ray does a brief impression of Louis Armstrong on the title track by the way!

While most of the songs are ballads there are a few up-tempo songs...one that stands out is "New Orleans"...another is "When the Saints Go Marching In". The CD features a medley: "St. James Infirmary" and "Just a Closer Walk With Thee" are blended together. Ray covers "Louisiana", "Louisiana Man", "Jambalaya", and "The Battle of New Orleans" while also covering "Basin Street Blues".

The track list on the CD appears in different order from the track list on the Mp3 digital download. For example, the CD opens up with "Basin Street Blues" while the digital download CD opens up with "Way Down Yonder In New Orleans". Here's the track list as it appears on the digital download CD:

1. Way Down Yonder in New Orleans
2. New Orleans Moon
3. Basin Street Blues
4. When The Saints Go Marching In
5. St. James Infirmary/Just a Closer Walk With Thee
6. Jambalaya
7. Louisiana
8. Louisiana Man
9. New Orleans
10. The Battle of New Orleans
11. Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans?

April 3, 2011

Furthermore, I'm a huge fan of Ray Stevens...

Released in 1962, "Furthermore" is a love ballad from Ray Stevens about a break-up and it deals with denial from the man's perspective. The topic can be found on any number of pop and country songs from that era...even today many country and soft-rock songs are built around relationships of some kind or another. The trick, or the object of the game, is to come up with new or clever ways of saying the kinds of feelings that have been expressed in countless love songs for more than 70 years. This particular recording features some vocal effects from Ray as he starts the song off in a falsetto voice which evolves into full-blown scat singing. It's a bit of a tongue twister at the same time...Ray's hyper vocals of running a lot of words together within musical beats was something of a trademark of his during this era of his career. This song is not a comedy song...and it isn't a novelty song, neither. It's a genuine love ballad with a unique twist in delivery. The song appeared on Ray's debut album for Mercury Records in 1962, 1837 Seconds of Humor. The album's biggest draw for those familiar with Ray was, of course, "Ahab the Arab" and a full-length depiction of Ahab on his camel, Clyde, was illustrated on the front of the album. Due to the album rightfully showing awareness of that particular single I decided to post an image of the actual "Furthermore" single from 1962. The single reached the Hot 100 but it didn't reach the radio-oriented Top-40. It's B-side is a comical song titled "Saturday Night at the Movies".

"Furthermore" got an update with a new arrangement and some additional lyrics in 1984 (with some of the original lyrics taken out). This updated version debuted on He Thinks He's Ray Stevens, the 1984 comedy album Ray Stevens released on MCA Records. The album would eventually be certified Gold and Platinum. In this re-recording Ray removes the hyper-speech and replaces the early '60s pop/teen-idol sound with a more matured vocal delivery with heavy emphasis on blues...complete with a lonesome sounding harmonica in the background. Given that this bluesy, serious song closes out one of Ray's most popular comedy albums it's hard to tell if some people out there mistake the song as something that's meant to be funny. I remember when I was around the age of 10 or 11 in the mid 1980's and was just getting familiar with the songs of Ray Stevens (by way of my grandparents) and they'd play the cassette tape of He Thinks He's Ray Stevens a lot...whenever it got to the last song and that harmonica would start playing I'd get upset because it meant that it was the last song on the tape...and I wanted to hear more and more and more of Ray Stevens!!

April 2, 2011

Ray Stevens and the Golden Touch...

Not counting the 4 years Ray Stevens spent working his way into eventual super-stardom (1957, 1958, 1959, and 1960), 2011 continues to be the Golden Anniversary of his 1961 arrival at Mercury Records and the 50th anniversary of his first Hot 100 hit, "Jeremiah Peabody's Green and Purple Pills".

1962: Gold Single - "Ahab the Arab"
1969: Gold Single — "Gitarzan"
1970: Gold Single — "Everything Is Beautiful"
1970: Grammy — "Everything Is Beautiful" (Best Male Pop Vocal Performance)
1974: Gold Single — "The Streak"
1975: Grammy — "Misty" (Best Arrangement)
1980: Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame
1980: Georgia Music Hall of Fame
1984: Gold Album — "He Thinks He's Ray Stevens"
1985: Gold Album — "I Have Returned"
1986: Music City News Comedian of the Year
1986: #1 Country Album - "I Have Returned"
1987: Music City News Comedian of the Year
1987: Platinum Album — "Greatest Hits"
1987: Gold Album — "Greatest Hits, Volume Two"
1988: Music City News Comedian of the Year
1989: Music City News Comedian of the Year
1990: Music City News Comedian of the Year
1990: Gold Album — "All-Time Greatest Comic Hits"
1991: Music City News Comedian of the Year
1992: Music City News Comedian of the Year
1992: #1 Home Video — "Comedy Video Classics"
1992: Multi-Platinum Home Video — "Comedy Video Classics"
1993: Billboard Home Video of the Year - "Comedy Video Classics"
1993: Music City News Comedian of the Year
1993: Platinum Home Video — "Ray Stevens Live!"
1994: Top-5 Home Video - "Ray Stevens Live!"
1994: Music City News Comedian of the Year
1995: Platinum Home Video — "Get Serious!"
1995: Country Weekly Golden Pick Award: "Best Comedian"
1997: Top-5 Home Video - "Get Serious!"
2001: Atlanta Country Music Hall of Fame
2002: Gold Single — "Osama Yo' Mama"
2009: Christian Music Hall of Fame
2009: "We The People" receives 2 million unique views on You Tube
2010: "We The People" receives 3 million unique views on You Tube
2010: "Come to the USA" receives 3 million unique views on You Tube
2011: "Come to the USA" receives 5 million unique views on You Tube

I didn't list the numerous publisher awards that Ray's been a recipient of because they're too numerous, for one thing, and I don't have an accurate listing of the song's. I know of a handful of songs associated with Ray that were awarded BMI publisher certificates starting with 1969's "Gitarzan" and ending with a Sammy Kershaw recording in 1994 titled "I Can't Reach Her Anymore"...but I don't have an exact total...I believe his publishing company received a certificate recently for the song "Bad Angel" which one of Ray's publishing companies was responsible for (and one of his daughters co-wrote). I don't believe there's a list available of all the publisher certificates and citations that's he's gotten through the years. It would be great if such a list would become public.