May 29, 2011

Ray Stevens: 45 at 41...

It was a beautiful week in the career of Ray Stevens in May 1970. Ray began his reign at #1 this week with his international smash hit "Everything Is Beautiful". The single hit #1 first in the Adult-Contemporary chart. Now, at the time, the chart was called Easy-Listening. The single spent a total of 3 weeks at #1 on the Easy-Listening chart. A week after initially claiming the #1 spot on that chart he hit #1 on the Top-40 Pop chart. This gave him one of the most envious achievements in the music business: claiming the #1 spot in two radio formats simultaneously. Ray would spend 2 weeks at #1 on the Pop chart. The single would also reach #1 in Canada and Australia plus it hit the Top-5 in Ireland, the Top-10 in England, and it reached the Top-20 in the Netherlands regional and national music charts with the Dutch Top-40 being one of the several. The song even crossed over onto the Top-40 portion of country radio...marking his Top-40 debut in that format.

The single continued to sell and maintain popularity throughout the year...much of it's endurance was aided by the weekly exposure it got on the NBC network for several weeks in the summer of 1970 as Ray played fill-in host for Andy Williams. Ray used the song as the show's opening theme. The program aired for 8 weeks starting on June 20th and so by early August the song's melody was very familiar to the millions of people who tuned into Andy's show each week. Ray had been a recurring guest on Andy's show dating back to 1969 and he received a lot of fan mail according to the producer's of Andy's program and that was a big reason why Ray was picked to host the summer replacement show while Andy went "on vacation". As you can see the TV program began on June 20th which was almost a month after "Everything Is Beautiful" had reached it's peak on the radio. No doubt the weekly exposure caused the single to continue to sell...the album of the same name reached the Top-40 on the Billboard 200.

The single reportedly sold more than 3,000,000 copies worldwide...and since there wasn't such a thing as a Platinum certification back then any album or single that sold a million copies or more was referred to as a Gold seller. It wasn't until later in the '70s that Platinum came to define a million seller while Gold became a certification for half a million in sales. For nostalgia purposes I refer to it as a Gold record...even though it's technically Triple-Platinum if we use today's terminology.

Given all the success that this single had in 1970...climbing the charts in April and May...reaching #1 in late May and remaining at #1 into early June...being heard for 8 weeks on a national NBC television program from late June through early August...and selling millions of copies in the process it shouldn't have been any surprise that in early 1971 Ray won the Grammy for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for "Everything Is Beautiful". The song won a second Grammy in 1971 due to the Jake Hess version which won in the Best Inspirational Performance category.

Ray Stevens and the Spirit of '76, Part 2...

Memorial Day weekend is half-way complete...and one of the things that a lot of people get confused over is what Memorial Day actually is. Over the course of the last decade or so a lot of people like to lump Memorial Day in with Veteran's Day. The point of Memorial Day is to remember the deaths of America's soldiers who died during combat missions. Given that the holiday is called Memorial Day it looks as if it wouldn't be too confusing but nevertheless there's some out there who don't distinguish between a veteran who served and survived a military operation and those veteran's who died while in the military. Even those with only a slice of American history knowledge should know that 1776 was a pivotal year in the Revolutionary War. It was the year the Declaration of Independence was signed. America gained it's Independence from Britain and the whole monarch system. The war itself raged on through 1781. I'm not much of a student on American military history and so I had to look up the exact year of the war's end. The Treaty of Paris came along in 1783 which enabled the United States to officially be free of any claims of ownership from Britain. The current CD from Ray Stevens entitled Spirit of '76 isn't necessarily a patriotic CD in the traditional sense but it definitely discusses, in song, the various political issues of the day and in one song in particular, "My Uncle Sam", Ray sings about an uncle who's lost his mind and no longer can control his spending...not caring how in debt he's becoming. The song, of course, is a reflection of the nation's economic problem. This coming July 4th will mark the 235th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence signing. For those interested, search my blog archives or visit Amazon to read my review of this collection.

May 20, 2011

Ray Stevens streaks to the Top...

This week in 1974 Ray Stevens hit #1 on the American pop chart with "The Streak". Ray spent a total of 3 non-consecutive weeks at #1. The single hit #1 for 2 consecutive weeks but then dropped from the top spot but returned for a third week. On the charts around the time Ray was at #1 was a single by Paul McCartney called "Band on the Run" which was #1 for 9 non-consecutive weeks. "Billy, Don't Be A Hero" was also among the Top-10 during this time frame. Ray's single ultimately sold more than 5,000,000 copies worldwide and at the end of the year it ranked among the Top-10 hits of 1974. The song reached #1 in England a month later in June 1974 and it reached #1 in Canada and New Zealand. In Australia and Ireland it reached the Top-5...and it became a Top-5 country music hit as well. One of the few radio formats where it didn't make the Top-10 was Adult-Contemporary...and on their weekly chart it reached the Top-15. The song easily became the biggest selling novelty single of the entire decade. It's closest rivals were "Disco Duck" by Rick Dees, "Spiders and Snakes" by Jim Stafford, and "Convoy" by C.W. McCall.

Being that "The Streak" is Ray's biggest commercial hit it's not surprising that it appears on a lot of compilation albums. One of the collections it appears on is this 1983 Greatest Hits collection from RCA Records. Devoted fans of Ray Stevens will be well aware that the shirt that he's wearing was also worn during a television appearance on the Fall Guy. Ray wore the shirt toward the end of the show as he performed "Piece of Paradise Called Tennessee", a song from his 1983 album. That album was titled, Me, and it's never been released in CD format or in Mp3 format. As a result it's only availability is vinyl and cassette. I've got the vinyl album in my collection. "The Streak" continues to be one of the biggest requests at Ray Stevens concerts...and most of the time when he appears on TV or does a radio interview "The Streak" is almost always brought up. The song, by way of You Tube and other on-line sites, continues to get discovered by those who weren't even born when the song was originally released. I was born more than 2 years after "The Streak"...I was born in late 1976...and I discovered the song through my grandparent's who owned a copy of another Greatest Hits release...this time the release was by MCA Records in 1987. The song is so identified with Ray that the 1987 collection placed the song as track one. Typically the song either kicks off the various greatest hits releases or it's track 2 or 3...rarely is the song found further down the track listings. In the 1983 collection it's track 3.

"The Streak" was not confined to only American audiences. The single was an international hit...reaching #1 on several music charts overseas and becoming sales successes overseas, too. This Boogity-Boogity release is what appeared in record stores in Canada, Europe, and Australia. The title of the album is lifted from the phrase heard within the song. The way you can tell the difference between the album that was sold in America and the album that was sold internationally is that the America release didn't contain the comic balloon above Ray's name mentioning that the album features "The Streak" and "The Moonlight Special". The America release features a thought balloon below Ray's name mentioning that the album contains the hit single, "The Streak". Everything else about the album's cover design resembles the America release. Given that the phrase "Woosh!!" appears as a kind of censor bar enabled some people to mistakenly refer to this album as being called "Woosh!!". I suspect people who don't actually own the album assume that's the title...those who own it, as I do, realize the album's really called Boogity-Boogity. The phrase is written down on the lower right in the clouds of dust left by the streaker. The name of the album is also listed on the vinyl album itself...once you take the album out of it's jacket and look at the song list the album's name appears in big bold letters at the top. The album's title is listed on the spine of the jacket, too.

May 15, 2011

Ray Stevens and Obama Money, Part 5...

140,715 is the most up to date number of views for the "Obama Budget Plan" by Ray Stevens. The death of Osama bin Laden still carries a lot of priority as interviews with those in the NAVY Seals trickle out as well as interviews with former members of the Bush Administration.

As mentioned, the "Obama Budget Plan" video has obtained over 140,000 views since it's debut 2 weeks ago. At the moment his previous video, "The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore" has 155,566 views. The "Osama Yo' Mama" music video has risen to 1,041,226 views. This is an increase of more than 60,000 views since the news was released about his death.

I'm hoping there's an upcoming media blitz from Ray surrounding the Spirit of '76 collection. Even with 2011 not being an election year it doesn't mean that America's voters have no opinions on the issues. I hope this Spirit of '76 collection of songs, as well as last year's We The People collection, helps secure an Obama defeat in 2012. One of the songs on the latest collection, "Mr. President, Mr. President", is one I'm hoping becomes a music video. It's amusing and catchy. I'd love it if Ray were to perform "Mr. President, Mr. President" at campaign rallies later this year and into 2012.

There's obviously nothing wrong with backing a candidate for President...but if the person being backed/endorsed doesn't get the nomination I think all Republicans should show their support for whoever gets the nomination. This coming election in 2012 is about removing Obama from power. It's not about gaining a "true Republican" as President or gaining a "fiscally responsible" person as President. The Republican party can't afford to continue to allow petty in-party bickering over who's a real or true Republican and allow Obama to use that political bickering to secure a victory next year. After the Republican nomination for President is decided I hope all factions of the party such as the social conservatives, the hard-line conservatives, the moderates and RINO's, all back whoever runs against Obama. Whoever runs against the Obama agenda will more than likely get the nomination for President in 2012. Should any Republican show uneasiness about telling it like it is or appear weary and intimidated at the idea of debating Obama...those Republicans shouldn't even be running!

The candidate has to be articulate and able to deflate Obama's monumental ego and point out all the flaws in the Obama vision of America and go after the policies already set in place by Obama. The candidate also has to explain how he or she will do things differently and why their way is better. In the meantime enjoy the "Obama Budget Plan" song/video and remind yourselves why his 2012 defeat is important.

May 14, 2011

Ray Stevens: Nostalgia Valley, Part 23...

"Ahab the Arab" by Ray Stevens is a very funny story based on the Arabian Nights and other stories utilizing Arabia and the Middle East as a back-drop. Those who crave political correctness typically want to censor this song and are constantly seeking a day when the song and it's music video will be out of public view for eternity. You see, the politically correct kind want to censor, control, and dictate what people can see, read, and hear. If that doesn't explain the kind of people they are nothing will. Those who object to political correctness are often called racists, trouble makers, old-fashioned, ignorant, prejudiced, and on and on and on. You can also tell when someone's politically correct even if he or she doesn't come right out and say so. You want to know how? The politically correct person almost always comes off apologetic for liking "Ahab the Arab". I've seen numerous posts on Twitter where somebody comes on with a link to the music video and then concludes by saying something like "I know I shouldn't laugh but it's funny!". Well, let's take a look at a line like that...there's nothing wrong with laughing when you hear "Ahab the Arab". It's a very funny song and there's nothing to be apologetic about. In other words don't feel as if you have to say you're sorry for liking the song...however, it's perfectly fine to feel sorry for those who don't like it.

A lot of people on-line get confused when this music video was produced. Some people who look up the song's chart data will see "1962" as the year of release and naively believe the video was taped in 1962! Obviously this isn't the case. This music video of "Ahab the Arab" was put together in 1995 for a direct-to-home video movie that Ray released that year titled Get Serious!. That movie runs 110 minutes and you can typically find copies of it on eBay. There was never a DVD release and so the only way a person can see the movie is on home video. The music videos from the movie are readily available on various home video and DVD compilations from Ray...but I suggest you track down the movie and watch it yourselves. It's a family friendly movie, of course, but there are moments where some of the references will no doubt go over younger viewer's heads.

A lot of the jokes are what one may call inside other words the jokes will be understood better by those familiar with Ray's music and his life's experiences. His experience, for example, in a hotel during a Shriner's convention ultimately led to the writing of "Shriner's Convention" (one of the music videos in the movie). However, for those not as familiar with his career, there's the inclusion of the song "Dudley Dorite of the Highway Patrol" which serves as the springboard for the movie's overall plot. In that one single song Ray's music career is spotlighted. Search my blog page for further information about Ray's 1995 Get Serious! movie. I say this because I can go on and on and on and on writing about the movie but that's something I did several blogs ago!

Jumping to contemporary happenings in the career of Ray Stevens we see that he's continuing to spread his music all over the video hosting sites across the internet. Several music videos in are experiencing heavy unique views: the current "Obama Budget Plan" has 138,363 views so far; plus there's the resurging "Osama Yo' Mama" with 1,039,049 views; "Come to the USA" with 5,165,019 views continues to pull in numbers, as does "We the People" which sits at 4,356,105 views. His previous video, "The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore", has 154,988 views.

May 5, 2011

Funny Man Ray Stevens...Hilarious as Ever...

Funny man Ray Stevens is hilarious as ever in his latest Spirit of '76 CD!! There are several phases of it's release. The Mp3 digital download arrived first...I purchased it a couple weeks ago. The physical copy of the CD arrived second...and I'll soon get myself that CD, too. After a week on-line the "Obama Budget Plan" has obtained 113,835 views. I believe the totals would have been higher but the death of bin Laden, which broke late Sunday night, created such a stir on-line that it caused Ray's 2002 music video, "Osama Yo' Mama", to generate more than 15,000 views this week and vault it past the million play mark. I imagine once things start to settle down and we get back to discussing the debt and deficit the "Obama Budget Plan" will continue to rack up the kind of numbers it did prior to the announcement of bin Laden's death...maybe the video will cross the 200,000 mark by this time next month??! Time will tell!

May 4, 2011

Ray Stevens and Obama Money, Part 4...

After a week available on You Tube, the "Obama Budget Plan" music video has received 110,509 unique views to date. I originally thought that there was to be a big push for the Spirit of '76 starting around this time (early May) based upon several comments left on Twitter and Facebook from Ray and his associates in late April but according to a post on Twitter earlier today from Ray it looks as if there's possibly been a slight change of plans culminating in a rescheduling of Ray's trip to New York which was to have taken place this week. According to earlier details Ray was to have done several television programs while in New York but of course in light of the news of bin Laden's death and the impact it has around the world (specifically in New York) those plans are postponed.

(Edit 5:43pm 5/4/11: The May 7th Huckabee appearance is postponed due to the bin Laden death and the necessary coverage that it requires. A rescheduled date hasn't been announced.)

Speaking of bin Laden, Ray has an Osama song/music video that came along in 2002 (uploaded on You Tube in 2009) and this week it saw a resurgence in activity...

In my previous blog entry I mentioned that Ray's 2002 music video, "Osama Yo' Mama", was nearing a million views. Well, after my blog entry, the numbers for that video continued to climb throughout Monday and into Tuesday. For the longest time the video hovered in the 990,000+ range and obviously the news of bin Laden's death caused the video to experience a resurgence. This resurgence enabled the video to break the million mark. At one point Monday morning the totals for Ray's Osama music video were 990,654 and by the end of the day it rose to 1,002,597! Today the music video sits at 1,007,785.

May 2, 2011

Ray Stevens...Osama Yo' Mama...

The big news today is the death of Osama bin Laden. I've been watching Fox News off and on most of the morning. There's not been a lot of details given beyond the crafted news release giving specifics and there's not been much elaboration. Much of the night and into the morning there's been a steady stream of celebrations taking place in New York and in front of the White House and near quite a few military bases across the country.

Ray Stevens wrote a song about Osama bin Laden back in 2001. The song hit in December 2001 followed soon after by a music video in early 2002. The song, "Osama Yo' Mama", became one of the Top-5 hits in country music for all of 2002. The sales of the single, in CD and Mp3 format combined, hit Gold selling status (half a million). The music video, by then 7 years old, was uploaded by Ray onto You Tube in 2009. Since it's upload on July 15, 2009 the video's gotten more than 900,000 unique views. It's a lot closer to a million views, actually. The numbers for the video as of right now are 990,654...

Although the news about bin Laden's death is wonderful to hear let's keep some things into perspective, too. While there's necessary celebration taking place it doesn't change the Obama agenda or his policies one single bit. At the end of the day Obama is still a far-left progressive bent on transforming America little by little. All he needs is a re-election win to secure his long-term goals. There's still a national debt, a deficit, high unemployment, high gas prices, and a myriad of other issues that this President is directly responsible for.

A write-up of the "Obama Budget Plan" music video can be found here. The article was written on April 28th and so I'm a few days behind at pasting the link here as I just came across it this morning. When I do my daily Google news and blog searches for Ray Stevens content I didn't see this among the public listings but I saw it this morning. The article features a screen-cap of Ray from the music video. Speaking of the music video...earlier this morning the video surpassed the 100,000 mark. The totals as of now are 100,532. The video was uploaded exactly 1 week ago back on April 25th. The reason that I was hoping for the video to break the hundred thousand mark within a week's time is because it creates the potential for even bigger success for the video and the CD as the days go by. The first hurdle of surpassing the hundred thousand level is accomplished. The CD, Spirit of '76, is a stellar recording from start to finish.

May 1, 2011

Ray Stevens and Obama Money, Part 3...

The "Obama Budget Plan" has 95,868 unique views so far. I'll take a look at the number this evening or tonight and see if they're even closer to 100,000. I happen to think it may surpass that number later today but it may happen on Monday. Whenever it happens one thing is for sure: Ray Stevens has yet another major video hit on his hands!! Don't forget...the CD that contains "Obama Budget Plan", "Mr. President - Mr. President", "The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore", "Cap'n Trade the Pirate", and others is now available at Ray's web-store at his official web-site. The CD is called Spirit of '76 and it's available as a physical CD and as an Mp3 digital download.

Those of you who do a lot of on-line music shopping may come across a Ray Stevens collection titled The Incredible World of Ray Stevens. Consumer alert is in order due to the fact that there are two collections with the same exact title and the same packaging concept. The first release, from 1993, contains 3 CD's of mostly MCA material. Ray recorded for MCA during the years of 1984 through 1989. Each CD contains 10 overall total of 30. CD #3 is Crackin' Up, the studio album Ray recorded for MCA in 1987. The biggest single from that collection is "Would Jesus Wear a Rolex?". CD #2 is actually He Thinks He's Ray Stevens, Ray's debut album for MCA in 1984. In this collection the 1984 release goes under the title of Mississippi Squirrel Revival. MCA, in 1992, had re-issued Ray's 1984 album under that alternate title and that's why it appears as such on this 1993 collection. "Mississippi Squirrel Revival" reached the country Top-20 early in 1985. "It's Me Again, Margaret" was another song from the 1984 album to become a classic in Ray's career. CD #1 features a mix of songs Ray recorded for MCA during 1985, 1986, and 1988 in addition to 1970's "Everything Is Beautiful" and 1974's "The Streak". Four songs come from 1985's I Have Returned release; three songs come from 1986's Surely You Joust release; 1 song comes from 1988's I Never Made A Record I Didn't Like release while the other two come from the 1970's. Ray's 1989 album, Beside Myself, is the only studio release for MCA that wasn't represented on this 1993 collection.

I happen to have the 1995 you can see it features pretty much the same cover design but it uses a different picture of Ray and on this collection there's 34 songs instead of 30. There's two additional songs on CD's 1 and 2 while CD #3 features 10 songs. The songs are also different on CD's 1 and 2 while CD #3 on this 1995 release remains 1987's Crackin' Up. CD #2 features a whole lot of mostly Monument recordings that Ray did plus quite a few early Barnaby recordings from 1970 and 1971. CD #1 also features quite a few Monument Recordings and Barnaby recordings. The highlight of this 1995 release is that it included several album tracks from Ray's late '60s and early '70s albums that weren't in print. One song in particular on CD #1 is "Mary, My Secretary"...this song was released as a single only on Monument Records in 1967. I believe this 1995 collection marks the first time it was released on CD. I also believe this 1995 collection to still be the only place you can find the song in CD format. The original single on Monument has a catalog number of Monument-1001 and it's B-side is "Answer Me, My Love". As you can tell this collection with 34 songs and the 1993 release with 30 songs that's a grand total of 64 songs. I'm not going to list all 64 songs on both releases for obvious reasons (too many to mention!!). Those interested in those particular collections can seek them out on the various on-line shopping stores and discover the material contained on them.

Ray Stevens and Obama Money, Part 2...

Welcome to May! I have a feeling that May will definitely be another great month for Ray Stevens and so without further delay let's look at the latest unique views for "Obama Budget Plan"...the current number of views is 95,665! Considering this is early Sunday morning I look for this video to surpass the 100,000 mark today! The video was uploaded on April 25th and this being May 1st indicates that it's only been available for 6 days...not yet a full week...and here it is nearing the 100,000 level.

His first on-line video to make a lot of national news, "We The People", was nicknamed Obama Care. That video, released in December 2009, currently has 4,341,324 unique views to date. His biggest on-line video success is "Come to the USA" which currently has 5,127,606 unique views. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that topical humor will continue to hit big when the subject matter continues to be a hot topic.

"We The People", being about Obama Care, and "Come to the USA" being about illegal immigration, well those two videos will continue to enjoy viral success for as long as those two topics remain controversial. Ray's previous music video, "The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore", is about the TSA's security procedures. That video currently has 150,493 unique views and it's been available for 2 and a half months. Presumably the "Obama Budget Plan" will overtake that total rather quickly judging by the pace the video's currently on.