December 23, 2013

Ray Stevens: '80s Singles, Part 2...

In this second installment, a certain Ray Stevens single from early 1985 became one of his biggest selling singles of the decade. "Mississippi Squirrel Revival" became one of those kinds of hit songs that are forced off an album, according to an interview with songwriter Buddy Kalb. The LP containing the song, He Thinks He's Ray Stevens, wasn't released until November 1984 and by that time 2 singles had already been released from the LP: the uptempo novelty love song "I'm Kissin' You Goodbye" and another single that I'll be writing about later. "Mississippi Squirrel Revival" became the third single release and ultimately became the bigger radio hit...even though the LP's second single release has matched the Mississippi Squirrel for durability and popularity in the long and varied career of Ray Stevens. By the way, in case you missed it, you can read the first blog entry in this short series of Ray Stevens '80s Singles HERE.  This song deals with a squirrel that causes miracles at a rural church in Pascagoula.

The music video's been seen on-line by more than 3.4 million people since it's summer 2009 upload on You Tube. Millions had seen the music video during it's original release back in 1992 when it was part of Ray's million selling home video project, Comedy Video Classics, and briefly part of the music video rotation on The Nashville Network...but of course it's been seen by millions upon millions of people since 2009 thanks to the internet...

The LP's second single, "It's Me Again, Margaret", has also become closely identified with Ray ever since it's release late in 1984 (in spite of the fact that it never made the 'Top 40' of any music chart). That particular single, about an obscene phone caller, has delighted fans of Ray Stevens for decades and never a concert goes by without a performance. It's long been a visual song...and a music video seemed a perfect choice years later. Ray sings about Willard McBain, a man that has a fixation on a woman named Margaret...every chance he gets he calls her up and asks her personal questions. This song became a music video in 1992 as part of Ray's award winning Comedy Video Classics. The video arrived on You Tube in 2009 and since then more than 700,000 people have seen it. In performance Ray often mimics a telephone dialing up Margaret's number (as you'll see in the video) but for even more comedic effect, in concert, he has the 'phone' ring almost endlessly...building and building the anticipation before finally making a connection to Margaret and delivering the line that the audience is waiting to hear... "It's Me AGAIN, Margaret...hehehehheheheeee!!!". Just like the "Mississippi Squirrel Revival" video, Ray's friends and his brother, John, make appearances in "It's Me Again, Margaret".

Ray Stevens: '80s Singles...

This is going to be a brief series of blogs that I'm titling "'80s singles". I'm leading things off with one of Ray Stevens' all-time best of that decade. Issued as a single in 1981, "One More Last Chance" is an excellent love ballad and it features lots and lots of steel guitar work. This, however, is a promo copy in blue vinyl. It's also the B-side. The promo featured the same song on side A and side B with minor differences. Sometimes side A would be the stereo recording and the B side the mono recording. Here, both sides are stereo but the B side features more music solo's than the radio edit on the A side. There's also several seconds of steel guitar glory throughout the longer performance. The single comes from Ray's 1981 album of the same name, One More Last Chance. It technically is the album's second single, though. The first single arrived in the latter half of 1980 even though at that point in time the song was considered a single-only release from "a forthcoming LP". The 1981 album's first single? It's a sing-a-long ballad called "Night Games" and it reached the Top-20 of the country music charts. I've written extensively about the RCA years in the career of Ray Stevens (1979-1983). If I'm not mistaken I wrote a blog entry in 2011 celebrating the 30th anniversary of the 1981 album and the songs on it. In fact, I looked it up and found that I posted that particular blog entry on March 13, 2011 under the title 'Ray Stevens Nostalgia Valley, Part 24'. Here's The Link to that specific blog entry. It includes an image of the LP and some other images except the one above, which I came across recently. As mentioned, each side of the blue vinyl single contains "One More Last Chance". The A side is 2 minutes, 39 seconds and the B side is 3 minutes, 34 seconds. The song kicks off with a rocking guitar and then blends with a symphonic kind of musical production and a steel guitar added on top of all of this. The commercially released single has "One More Last Chance" as the A side (obviously!) and "I Believe You Love Me" as the B side. Ray performed this song on the short-lived soap opera, Texas, during his June 1981 guest appearance. The video clip of his appearance used to be available on-line but it's long been off the internet. In the soap opera there was a club called 'The Coop' and every so often a country music singer would travel through the area and make a visit. I wish the clip was still available...Ray's acting as always is top notch but that performance of "One More Last Chance" is thrilling. I encourage those reading this to seek out Ray's RCA material...the music, production, and vocalizations are crisp and we've come to expect from Ray Stevens.

December 20, 2013

Ray Stevens offers Red Hot Chili...

In these cold days of December one of the things you can do is enjoy a big bowl of chili. In the spring of 2013 Ray Stevens emerged with this novelty song/music video, "Red Hot Chili Cook Off". To date that particular song has not, to my knowledge, appeared on any CD or become available as an Mp3. The song takes a comical look at Texas chili and the fame it possesses all over the country but for the purposes of comedy Ray plays the role of a man that writes his mother to alert her that he thinks he's on his deathbed after eating so much spicy chili. There are some nice special effect graphics in the video and in one scene Ray unleashes one of his comical screams.

The upload date for the video is March 20th and so it's exactly 9 months old today. There was no publicity surrounding this video and it's been seen by almost 70,000 in that 9 month time span. The actual number of unique views is 69,969 but I'm pretty sure a lot of people simply do not realize that the video's out there given it's lack of publicity and the fact that his political music videos and his Christmas music videos have obtained the bulk of attention over the last several years...but here it is... 

It's been almost 2 years since the release of The Encyclopedia of Recorded Comedy Music, the great box set from Ray Stevens that featured his versions of other artist's novelty songs from the last 50+ years. He covers everyone from Spike Jones, The Coasters, and Roger Miller to Phil Harris, Little Jimmy Dickens, and Johnny Cash. In the video clip below, Buddy Kalb 'hosts' a short infomercial that runs 4 minutes. In it you'll see and hear Ray talk about the collection and hear snippets of some of the songs in the Encyclopedia. The original release date for this project was February 28, 2012. Since it contains 9 CD's, 108 songs, and a booklet, the price is more expensive than your standard CD but it's a definite must-have project for any Ray Stevens fan to seriously think about purchasing...

In this video clip, Ray is in the studio. Those that are interested in purchasing it in 2014 can easily get in contact with Ray's office in Nashville, Tennessee by visiting his official website.

December 16, 2013

Ray Stevens 1970 Summer Program...

An early Monday morning...and a reminder that those that may want to purchase any Ray Stevens item and have it potentially arrive before Christmas, place your orders by December 18th...that's this coming Wednesday! Ideally, these orders are for credit/debit card holders. If you don't mind if something arrives after Christmas then simply send a money order or a check through the mail.

In all likelihood, though, if you plan on placing an order today, tomorrow, or Wednesday but mailing in the payment (check or money order) then that payment more than likely is going to arrive at Ray's office after the 18th of December cut off date (unless you live local). The reason for the December 18th cut off date is because that's the latest one can place an order and have it in transit ahead of Christmas.

Ray's web-store has their annual shipping disclaimer posted in red letters at the store's Main Page.

My CD suggestions for those last minute shoppers are: The Encyclopedia of Recorded Comedy Music; The Spirit of '76; We the People; both of the Christmas CD's; plus Ray Stevens Sings Sinatra...Say What??; New Orleans Moon; and Bozo's Back Again. There's a DVD section, too, that you should explore.

Several days ago I received in the mail my copy of a magazine titled Southwest Georgia Living. I purchased this magazine because Ray Stevens appears on the cover and the hype surrounded the accompanying article and obscure pictures. It's a delightful article/story, featuring several pictures of Ray that you can't find anyplace on the internet. The magazine's cover has Ray as Santa during a photo session for his 1997 Christmas CD. If you visit their Facebook page you'll see the magazine's cover. This is a time sensitive comment so if you come across this months from today chances are their Facebook page will be showcasing the current issue at that particular time but for now it's the Ray Stevens issue. Is this magazine for sale on-line? The answer is no! Is this magazine available at all book stores? The answer is no! How did I get a copy of it? The answer is simple: I took the initiative and e-mailed the magazine's office staff as soon as I found out that the magazine existed and asked how could I get a copy of this magazine considering that I don't live in Georgia. I received a reply that provided a mailing address and total cost and so being the obnoxious fan that I am, I didn't hesitate...and off I sent a check to the magazine. I would not be surprised, though, if the issue with Ray turns up on eBay at some point...magazine back issues often do.

Ray Stevens makes the cover of the Pasadena, California issue of TV Week, June 14, 1970. This is the first time I have seen this and as a result it's the first time it's been posted on this fan created blog. As soon as I seen this on-line I immediately saved the image thinking that it'll soon become unavailable and just as obscure in months, years to come just as it's been since 1970. Thankfully there are those such as myself and others that deliberately collect and save any image of Ray they come across because of just how obscure his vintage appearances truly are. Speaking of his 1970 summer program for Andy can still take in all the fun and laughs on his You Tube channel. The clips from his summer program continue to be discovered daily but if you haven't seen these clips yet, go to You Tube or better yet click This Link and explore his videos. His most recent uploads are the first 2 and then the various clips from the 1970 summer program are listed. I posted most of the clips back in the late summer/early fall of this year but there had never been any sort of national publicity campaign from Ray about those clips being available for You Tube viewing and so for those most part the clips have garnered less than 2,000 views a piece. There are 3 uploads from the summer program that have gotten more than 2,000 and those are the performances of "Gitarzan" (4,684), "Ahab the Arab" (3,715), and "Everything Is Beautiful" (4,352). This, if anything, demonstrates perfectly the power of familiarity...those three songs are among his biggest recordings and so it's no surprise that the performances of those specific songs from his 1970 summer program would net the most viewers. Technically, "Ahab the Arab" is performed along side a cast performance of the Beatles "Let It Be" but it goes to show that out of all the clips posted from his summer program, the familiar song titles are the ones that captured the most action.

December 7, 2013

Havin' a Ray Stevens Christmas...

It's a cold, blustery December morning in this part of the country. 18 days left until Christmas 2013. It's December 7th, Pearl Harbor Day. It's long been the norm that every 5 years there's typically a national memorial of some kind...this being the 72nd anniversary of the 1941 attacks perhaps explains why there's not been much coverage of it in the national media like there had been in 2011 during the 70th anniversary (2011 also marked the 10th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks). As the day goes on there probably is going to be some stories about December 7, 1941...I don't think a total overlook is going to happen...

This blog entry is about some more Christmas music videos that fans of Ray Stevens can enjoy. In my previous installment I mentioned the "Blue Christmas" (comedy version) available as a music video. It's really a neat video...even more perfect on a cold morning around breakfast time.

Ray made the rounds of several television programs last Christmas season and performed the comical version of "Blue Christmas" in a medley with other Christmas songs. It's been available on You Tube ever since the local channel uploaded it around this time in 2012. You can see that particular video HERE. It's from a local station in the Nashville area. In the performance he does "White Christmas", "Blue Christmas", and "Redneck Christmas".

The official music video of "Redneck Christmas" is located below...

The at-a-glance unique views for all of the Ray Stevens Christmas music videos, as of December 7, 2013 are here:

1. Santa Claus Is Watching You; 2009:  463,881

2. Nightmare Before Christmas; 2010:  325,544

3. Merry Christmas; 2012:  132,003

4. Redneck Christmas; 2012:  114,129

5. White Christmas; 2012:  21,961

6. Blue Christmas (comic version); 2012:  14,259

7. Guilt For Christmas; 2013  5,683

Some explanations are in order, though. The music videos that emerged in 2012 all arrived in December. As you can see "Merry Christmas" has the most views among the ones that arrived in December 2012. A lot of this has to do with the song's politically correct theme and the commentary on the politically correct influence during Christmas season. The fact that a music video can debut just 3 days before Christmas (and hardly no major publicity) and be able to reach more than 100,000 people is still something to be proud of, in my opinion. "White Christmas" arrived on December 3, 2012 while "Blue Christmas" (comic version) arrived on December 21, 2012. A day later both "Redneck Christmas" and "Merry Christmas" hit the internet. The video that has the least views, "Guilt for Christmas", arrived in the summer of this year and has 5,683. The Christmas video, arriving in May, fully explains the reason for the small turn viewer out. There's not a lot of people that search for Christmas songs and videos in the spring/summer months.

The thing that the music video has going for it (besides the appearance of Ray Stevens) is that it's also a musical jab at political correctness, following in the snowy path of "Merry Christmas" and "Nightmare Before Christmas".

Share the video with those that have not yet seen it..."Guilt For Christmas"...

I don't know if Ray is waiting until it gets more closer to Christmas to start re-introducing these videos once more but I decided to start a little bit early during the last several blogs I've written.

Oh yes, the Christmas CD's from Ray Stevens are still available for purchase. Don't forget, he has 2 Christmas CD's chock full of the sounds of the season.

The comical Christmas CD can be found by clicking Christmas Through a Different Window.

The non-comical Christmas CD can be found by clicking Ray Stevens Christmas.

December 5, 2013

Ray Stevens Christmas Fun...

Hello to all the Ray Stevens fans out there...some are still learning about the interview that took place yesterday on Mike Huckabee's radio program. It was a great interview of Ray giving details about his upcoming CD and there is even a poignant moment as he discusses the time of his mother's funeral. His mother passed away in 1997. I knew that it had happened at some point in the late '90s because he mentioned it during the Life and Times special that the original TNN had aired in 1999. I did some research for this blog entry, rather than relying on my memory, given the nature of that particular subject matter. His mother passed away on February 11, 1997. Her headstone, shared with her husband (Ray's father passed away in 2001), can be found on-line but I'm not going to post it. Those that want to see it can find it on their own. In the meantime, those that missed the Huckabee interview, you can still hear it (for the time being) at this LOCATION. Mike's radio program comes to an end on December 12th and it's not certain if any of the audio links and other things associated with the program are still going to be accessible after that date and so if you haven't yet heard the interview, which also contains a snippet of "If Jesus is a Stranger", one of the songs on Ray's upcoming CD, I highly recommend any Ray Stevens fan to listen to the interview before it's potentially removed for all time.

This is one of the Christmas music videos that Ray put on You Tube in the summer time this year. It hit You Tube on May 1, 2013 and it's gotten a little more than 5,000 unique views. It's called "Guilt For Christmas" and it's a stinging attack on political correctness. I had posted about this back in the summer but considering it's now December and 20 days before Christmas it's the perfect time to spotlight it again and create new awareness for it...

The video carries some exclusivity in that Ray performs it in an Americanized dialect (German/Austrian)...the original recording from 1997 lacks this and is recorded in his natural voice.

Almost a year to the day, actually December 3, 2012, Ray unleashed "White Christmas" in video form. His version includes a vocal salute to The Drifters, too.

You can get an audio copy of this on his Ray Stevens Christmas CD from a couple of years ago. The video's gotten more than 20,000 views but it's become overshadowed by a couple of other Christmas music videos from Ray that have taken on lives of their own: "Merry Christmas" (more than 130,000 views!) and the bouncy "Redneck Christmas" (more than 110,000 views so far!) plus the annual favorites "Nightmare Before Christmas" (more than 300,000 views since it's November 2010 debut). The actual number as of today is 324,527...I'd say that works out roughly to a little more than 100,000 views per year. Then there's the classic "Santa Claus Is Watching You" and it's gotten 461,656 views so far. It debuted on You Tube in July 2009, one of Ray's first video uploads to his then-new You Tube channel. The actual video itself is Ray's first ever music video...and it originated back in 1985...the year that he re-recorded the song with different lyrics and changed it from a children's Christmas song (the original from 1962) to a tale of suspected adultery. He'd re-record that particular adultery version once again in 1997 for his first and only comedy Christmas album.

There's a music video for "Blue Christmas" (comical version) that debuted one day before "Redneck Christmas" in December 2012. I'll post those videos next time. The "Blue Christmas" music video features Ray stuttering the song in the vein of a fictional group called Seymour Swine and the Squealers. In essence, it's a cover song from Ray. There's the non-comical recording of "Blue Christmas" on the Ray Stevens Christmas CD, by the way. The 2 separate recordings are referred to as "Blue Christmas" (serious version) and "Blue Christmas" (comical version).

December 4, 2013

Ray Stevens upcoming CD...

As a third shift worker I am typically asleep at this time of the day but about an hour ago I woke up and decided to visit the internet and see if anything was happening in the world of Ray Stevens. I visited a social media site and sure enough an interview had taken place during my nap. This interview happened during a call to the Mike Huckabee Show. The interview dealt with the announcement that an upcoming CD is to be released in January 2014 titled Onward Christian Soldiers. Ray had spoke of this CD before and a couple of articles on various internet sites made mention of this CD but this is the first time a definitive announcement's been made regarding it's release. As soon as I found out that Ray had been interviewed I immediately began searching for any audio link...even though the interview had taken place an hour earlier I was able to find an audio link posted on Huckabee's Twitter page. Typically, audio links rarely become available so soon after an interview has taken place but this time there's a link. The clip runs a little more than 10 minutes and you'll hear Ray discuss the idea behind the CD and he mentions the image that'll appear on the CD's picture sleeve. Long time fans will immediately recognize the image that Ray describes but according to the interview a Cross symbol will be edited into the picture.

The audio link of the Mike Huckabee interview with Ray Stevens is located HERE and near the end there's a small sampling of an upcoming song from the Onward Christian Soldiers CD, "If Jesus is a Stranger".