December 4, 2012

Ray Stevens: Golden LP Series, Part 34...

One of the natural disasters to have a major impact on a country's geography happened in 2005 with Hurricane Katrina. The aftermath of the hurricane spawned all sorts of inner fighting, looting, and all out chaos from many of the citizens in the Katrina ravaged areas. There was even verbal fighting among city leaders and local politicans. Studio album 34 arrived in March 2007 but it was preceded in 2005 by a CD single-only titled "The New Battle of New Orleans" which detailed all the negativity that took place in Katrina's aftermath. The song's main writer was Chuck Redden but later it was partially re-written by Ray and Buddy Kalb. The end result appeared on the single-only released by Curb Records.

In March 2007 New Orleans Moon was released on his own label, Clyde Records. It was issued as a digital download during the first few months prior to it's release on physical CD format in the summer of 2007. Ray did some local interviews and media appearances creating awareness for the project but he didn't do any national publicity. The project contains 11 of those recordings is a medley featuring two songs blended into one performance. The medley is "St. James Infirmary" and "Just a Closer Walk With Thee", track 5. Things get started with the energetic "Way Down Yonder In New Orleans".

The title track, "New Orleans Moon", is a sentimental and crooning salute to the city and culture of New Orleans. There's even a surprise impression toward the end of the performance of Louis Armstrong, referred to as Satchmo. The song was written by Ray and Chuck Redden.

One of the things that you'll notice when listening to this tribute CD is that Ray performs the songs pretty much exactly the way they should be performed...there's a lot of gusto, excitement, swing, Dixieland, and heartbreak found in the originals that Ray captures in his versions, too. "New Orleans Moon" is the only new song on the project while the rest are his versions of famed songs about Louisiana and New Orleans, in particular. I have the digital download Mp3 album. The reason is the Mp3 was released first, in March 2007, while the CD came along in July 2007. I had no idea if a CD would ever be released considering the technological changes going on in the music industry and so I purchased the Mp3 version of New Orleans Moon as soon as possible. I still don't own a copy of the physical CD, yet.

A highlight, among the many, is "Louisiana". It's the famed song written by Randy Newman about the Mississippi River flood of 1927 which now carried the perception that the Federal Government in 2005 had done little to help the suffering that took place after Hurricane Katrina. The lyrics mention Calvin Coolidge, the President at the time of the 1927 flood. The CD closes with a homesick lament titled "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?" which was featured in a late '40s movie titled New Orleans and it featured Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, and a cast of many. According to research, Holiday performed the song in the movie. The recording artists weren't technically billed as the stars of the film even though they feature heavily on movie posters of the time period. The stars of the movie were Arturo de Cordova and Dorothy Patrick.

Most of the songs that I've mentioned so far are ballads. There are several uptempo songs on here, too. In this category we have the rocker "New Orleans" as well as the Hank Williams classic, "Jambalaya". Staying with the country sound there's his cover of "Louisiana Man", a classic that's been recorded by a whole host of artists but closely associated with the Kershaw Brothers as well as Connie Smith. If these gems weren't enough we have his take on the Johnny Horton classic, "The Battle of New Orleans", from the pen of Jimmy Driftwood and then there's the amazing "When The Saints Go Marching In" and the mid-tempo "Basin Street Blues".

New Orleans Moon was Ray's second non-comical CD in a row, following 2004's Thank You. In 2006 Curb Records had issued two DVD's that I mentioned in a previous Golden LP Series entry. Each DVD consisted of 5 limited animation music videos of mostly comical songs...there was one non-comical offering, "Misty". The DVD's were titled Gourmet Restaurant and Teenage Mutant Kung Fu Chickens. The animation was done by Randy Cullers. Would Ray's next CD be a return to comedy/novelty or would it stay in the ballad/non-comical category? We'll find out in the next installment of the Golden LP Series!

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