July 31, 2015

Ray Stevens on Speaking Freely...April 2002...

Hello one and all...a fellow Ray Stevens fan brought to my attention an interview that Ray gave back in 2002 for the Speaking Freely program. For years I had seen the interview on-line but had never seen a video...I wasn't aware one existed. This discovery via social media happened yesterday on my Facebook page even though the upload hit YouTube a couple days ago.

The interview is conducted by Ken Paulson.

The video and a transcription can be found HERE. I had seen this page years ago and to my knowledge a video never existed (if one existed you'd think I'd have embedded it on one of my blog entries by now) but yet there's a video box on that page and so you can either click the video here or click the link and watch it there and read along. According to the data the interview took place on April 1, 2002. Longtime fans of Ray no doubt ill get a thrill seeing him perform abbreviated versions of "Osama Yo' Mama" (at the time it happened to be among the Top-5 best selling country music songs). Ray also talks about and performs pieces of "Sgt. Preston of the Yukon", "Ahab the Arab", "Mr. Businessman", "Would Jesus Wear a Rolex?" and he speaks about the changes in the music industry.

Keep in mind that this took place in 2002...and this kind of interview happened to be a rarity back then because Ray's not exactly known for being one that bares his soul for all to see and he doesn't do that here, neither, but it's one of the rare times he's given in-depth recollections of his life and times. He's a private man and he's not the sort that likes to get personal or open up about his off-stage happenings. Ray's opened up a little bit more since then, however...read his memoir, Ray Stevens' Nashville, and you'll see what I mean...but by no means is it a "tell-all" book but that interview/video is a treasure trove of anecdotes and performances.


If you're in the area Ray Stevens is going to be in concert Saturday night August 1st  (tomorrow) in Hiawassee, Georgia at the county fair. The tickets became available back on May 22 but given that the concert's tomorrow night and if you're wanting to attend I'd suggest you call the venue and see if walk-up tickets are available.

You can read about the Georgia appearance HERE.

If you missed the chance of getting tickets to that concert in Georgia and aren't able to attend you can call this morning beginning at 10am and purchase tickets to Ray's October concert in Bowling Green, Kentucky at the SkyPac venue. The concert is to be held on October 2. The next night Ray is going to do 2 separate concerts at the Country Tonite Theatre in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

Ray has 2 concerts scheduled for September. One of them is in Branson, Missouri at The Andy Williams Theatre on September 12th and then on September 19th he'll be in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina at the Alabama Theatre.

These concert dates are part of his Here We Go Again! Tour. You can read all about the October concert by clicking HERE or you can see his tour schedule by clicking HERE and selecting the venue from one single page.

To purchase your copy of his current CD, titled Here We Go Again!, click this LINK. It features "Taylor Swift is Stalkin' Me" and "You Didn't Build That"...both songs have been turned into YouTube music videos.

July 4, 2015

Ray Stevens Star Spangled Banner...

Hello once again...yes, this is my second 4th of July blog entry...earlier I did a re-cap of the 2011 Ray Stevens album, Spirit of '76. In this entry I decided to highlight a couple of versions of the same song. The song is "There's a Star Spangled Banner" and perhaps only the more detailed of fans are aware that there are 2 different versions of this song from Ray Stevens. The song's melody remains the same and it's chorus does, too, but the verses in each recording are completely different.

The song originated on the 1989 Ray Stevens album Beside Myself from the pens of Ray and Buddy Kalb. In this recording Ray sings about a prisoner in Beirut and the confidence and faith the prisoner has in the United States flag. A couple of years later a different recording emerged on the Curb Records compilation, Greatest Hits, issued in 1991. In this updated recording Ray sings about the various battles that the United States military has fought and all the victories and some losses that the American flag's been a part of through history.

Each recording is available for purchase on Amazon but there's no distinction made differentiating one recording from the other. If you purchase THIS Mp3 of "There's a Star Spangled Banner" then you're getting the 1989 recording. The 1991 recording isn't available by itself and so you'll need to purchase the full length Mp3 of Greatest Hits located HERE. I like that photo!!

Ray had re-recorded and partially re-wrote the 1989 song for a special project Curb Records issued during the Gulf War in 1991. That project hit on April 29, 1991 and it was titled American Music: Greatest Hits. It featured patriotic songs by those on the Curb Records roster at the time. Ray's 1989 recording happened to be for MCA Records and if you see it listed on any compilation released by MCA or one of it's subsidiary labels then you're going to get the 1989 recording. Ironic enough Ray's 1991 re-recording of "There's a Star Spangled Banner" debuted on Greatest Hits (it having been released on April 15, 1991) and so it's debut on the Greatest Hits album predated it's appearance on the April 29th project by 2 weeks but the main reason for the re-recording happened to be for the various artist compilation Curb issued.

There are some internet sites that list Ray's song as "There's a Star Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere" but that's an entirely different song altogether. Ray's song is "There's a Star Spangled Banner". If you see any internet sites mistakenly call Ray's song the former rather than the latter politely correct them. Accuracy is something I strive for when it comes to Ray Stevens information and trivia.

Ray Stevens and the Spirit of '76, Part 11...

Happy 4th of July to all the fans of Ray Stevens! In April of 2011 a CD from Ray Stevens emerged and it immediately became a fan favorite. Spirit of '76 contains 11 recordings from Ray Stevens and each of them feature a topical and or political slant...some songs feature both. In the earliest years of the Obama Administration and the Tea Party movement it shouldn't be overlooked that our Ray Stevens happened to be one of the most vocal amongst the music acts. Criticizing the Obama Administration and embracing the ideals of the smaller Government Tea Party advocates had an impact in the 2010 midterm election cycle.

Combining topical humor, political commentary, and patriotism became the foundation for Spirit of '76. The project featured 5 songs that became music video hits on YouTube/social media...as such this could be interpreted as one of Ray's biggest successes if you factor in the amount of video popularity associated with the songs.

I purchased Spirit of '76 as an Mp3 in April of 2011. It remained an exclusive Mp3 release until the fall of 2011...it emerged in CD format at that point in time and so I purchased the CD counterpart, too. At the time of the CD's release only a couple of songs had become video hits and then throughout the rest of the year the remaining video releases soon emerged. If one happens to examine this era of Ray's career, in hindsight, it all appears perfectly timed but yet for those like myself we know that from day to day, week to week, month to month it was pretty much a roller coaster ride for as soon as you'd reach the height of a music video's initial popularity, it would reach a valley, and then when you're least expecting it the video would soar into  popularity once again. Given the unpredictable nature of topicality a music video featuring political commentary/humor and those that center on topical events are largely at the mercy of the collective news cycle. If Obama and one of his machinations seems to be dominating the news cycle then more than likely a video by Ray about Obama gets a boost in unique views. The topic of the environment/Green Energy comes and goes...and on this CD there's "Cap'n Trade the Pirate"...a song mixing pirate lore and Green Energy that should have been made into a music video but it wasn't.
The very first release from this CD turned out to be the third track, "God Save Arizona", on August 4, 2010! That particular song in music video form emerged in the fall of 2010 during the peak of the controversies surrounding illegal immigration and the State's court battles with the Federal Government. Issued as a music video exclusive it struck the same kind of chord that a previous video about illegal immigration from Ray Stevens did. At the time of the release of "God Save Arizona" there was no talk of it being part of any upcoming CD. So, then, once Spirit of '76 became available fans noticed that "God Save Arizona" appeared as track 3 and so it retro-actively became the CD's first video release. This ballad has gotten 1,053,472 unique views. For those that may not be aware, this video created controversy during it's first day of release and was taken off-line after it had obtained nearly 100,000 discoveries. The issue surrounding the video apparently resolved itself because not long afterward the video re-emerged but the previous views had been erased and so it's rather appropriate if you want to add at least a hundred thousand to the current tally.

The CD's opening track, "The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore", became a video in the early part of 2011 and ironically it, at the time, was being promoted as the first release from Spirit of '76. This amusing song/video has to do with the TSA at the airport and the body scans. The video hit in February 2011 and to date it's gotten a little more than half a million unique views at 555,404.

As mentioned previously the music videos are like roller coasters and those numbers for the video didn't come all at once. The video seen it's release a little less than 2 months before the Spirit of '76 became available.

The biggest successes from the CD centered around Obama. Several weeks after the Mp3 of Spirit of '76 became available "Obama Budget Plan" became his next video release on April 25th. The video, as one can guess from the song's title, is about the Federal budget (or lack thereof). The song comically tells the story of a man that comes up with an idea to print money from his basement. He figures if it's perfectly fine for the Government to print money and rack up trillions of dollars in debt then it shouldn't be illegal or unethical for the tax payer to get in on the money printing business. Currently sitting at 3,869,283 unique views it's the biggest hit from the CD.

The second biggest video hit from Spirit of '76 comes in the form of "Mr. President - Mr. President", a video that seen it's social media debut on September 27, 2011. In this video Ray portrays a fictional reporter stationed at the White House "asking" Obama a series of questions. The visual hook is that a video snippet of Obama appears at a podium as if Ray's really asking him questions. The song highlights the reputation Obama has of mixed up priorities. To date that particular video has gotten 1,632,890 unique views.

The fifth release from the CD came along more than a year later on November 3, 2012. "Grandpa Voted Democrat" was certainly a surprise release. It's not a surprise that it eventually became a music video but considering that more than a year had passed from the release of the previous video from the CD it wouldn't have been out of the ordinary to assume 2011's "Mr President - Mr. President" to be the CD's final video single...yet Ray emerged just prior to Election Day 2012 with the voter fraud satire "Grandpa Voted Democrat" and to date it's gotten 637,364 unique views. It's the fifth and final release from Spirit of '76 and you can purchase your copy HERE if you want to add it to your Ray Stevens collection.