November 18, 2012

Ray Stevens: Golden LP Series Extra...1987...

In this Extra feature of the Golden LP Series we take a look at a series compilation album releases on Ray Stevens in 1987. This first compilation was a little bit different than others in that it was promoted heavily for a compilation project and it only featured two contemporary recordings from Ray with the rest of the material dated pre-1981. The interesting thing about this compilation is that it wasn't the only one issued on Ray in 1987...there were a few other compilation releases later in the year and I'll discuss those in a follow-up Extra feature.

Starting things off is Greatest Hits. This collection features 10 recordings and as you can see it shows Ray and an uncredited woman as Bonnie and Clyde. This is one of the cassette tapes that I grew up listening to and it's where I was introduced to 10 of Ray's most popular songs. The compilation, from MCA, features liner notes written by Ronnie Pugh from the Country Music Foundation and as mentioned the majority of the recordings all come from a pre-1981 time period. The project kicks things off with Ray's 1974 multi-week #1 smash pop hit "The Streak" which had by now sold more than 5,000,000 copies worldwide. Selection two happened to be the longer version of "Shriner's Convention". This recording reached the country Top-10 in 1980 and the label he recorded it for, RCA, had released two recordings of different lengths. There was the long version and then there was the short version. The long version appears more on the MCA compilation projects while the shorter version appears more often in the compilation releases from other labels. Each recording is longer than your average country music single but once you hear the long and short versions you'll be able to notice a few omitted lyrics as well as a rushed vocal performance in the shorter version. Track three is the more contemporary "It's Me Again, Margaret", one of two hit recordings from Ray's MCA debut in 1984. You can read about that LP in this Blog Entry.

Side One closes out with two non-comical performances in 1971's "Turn Your Radio On" and his Grammy winning 1975 hit "Misty". As you turn to Side Two things get started with the second contemporary single from Ray, "Mississippi Squirrel Revival", the second hit single from his MCA debut LP. The rest of Side Two are comprised of classics in his career. "Gitarzan", his million selling Top-10 pop hit from 1969, is track seven and it's followed by his 1969 re-recording of "Ahab the Arab" which has often been featured on many other compilation projects instead of the 1962 original recording which appears almost exclusively on projects associated with Mercury Records (the label Ray recorded the single for originally).

Selection nine, "Along Came Jones", also comes from 1969 and it reached the Top-30 on the pop chart. Those three 1969 recordings are from the Monument label, more specifically the Gitarzan album. The album's closing track, "Everything Is Beautiful", comes from 1970. It sold more than 3,000,000 copies during the early '70s and hit #1 on the pop chart and it became an international hit single along the way.

Considering that this LP features 10 of the most popular, most recognizable, and the most commercially successful singles of his career it was inevitable that the LP would go on to sell 500,000 copies and continue to sell another half a million+ during the latter half of the '80s. This particular LP was certified Platinum for sales of more than 1,000,000 copies. His first two studio albums for MCA, He Thinks He's Ray Stevens and I Have Returned, were certified Platinum and Gold respectively around the same time Greatest Hits was receiving it's sales awards.

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