August 2, 2015

Ray Stevens: Lady of Spain at 40...

Hello one and all...a certain Spanish lady that Ray Stevens sang about in 1975 is 40 this year. Originating on the Misty album comes "Lady of Spain"...a pop music standard that up until 1975 had been performed mostly as a love ballad and in some performances as an instrumental on guitar and or accordion. In fact, in the performances that feature a vocalist (recordings from the likes of Bing Crosby, Eddie Fisher, Dennis Day, and dating back to 1931's recording by Al Bowlly and Ray Noble's orchestra) the singer is usually singing the song at a slower tempo against the up-tempo musical backdrop.

Although the instrumental performances carried an up-tempo flair in comparison to some of the vocal performances none could compare to the raucous, up-tempo lively performance by Ray Stevens. In the Ray Stevens recording his vocal matches the musical tempo...and on top of that he does a swell vocal impression of the legendary Fats Domino during the first half of the record before it explodes even further into a frenzy prior to Ray calling out the name of the saxophonist at the session, Norman Ray, who goes into a saxophone solo. The image off to the left is from the German release early in 1976. The recording itself took place in 1975 but commercially seen a single release in the summer of final single release on the Barnaby Records label several months after Ray had joined and already released his debut album for Warner Brothers. Given that "Lady of Spain" seen it's release after he left Barnaby meant that all of the media hype that could've been used for the single had instead gone to his current single release for Warner Brothers, "You Are So Beautiful"...but longtime fans of Ray are well aware of his cover of "Lady of Spain". It's one of my all-time favorites.

The image of Ray that the record distributors overseas used on the single release of "Lady of Spain" comes from his 1973 album, Nashville. Once upon a time international publicity of American artists utilized previously released publicity photo's or images from previously released albums instead of issuing an exclusive photo for each fact I came across an article on Ray dated from 1976 but it clearly used a photo of Ray from 1970 as a visual. This kind of thing continues to go on today but to a lesser extent. If you visit any number of sites that feature information or articles about Ray Stevens chances are you're going to see a publicity photo of Ray from the latter half of the 2000s or the familiar photo of Ray from his 1992 Comedy Video Classics home video...that release occurred 23 years ago (!) as hard as it is for me to believe...but sites use that photo of him to this very day.

One of the strange facts about the single release of Ray's cover of "Lady of Spain" is that it credits a writer by the name of H.B. Tilsley alongside Tolchard Evans, Stanley Damerell, and Robert Hargreaves. On almost all other single releases of the song by other artists the writers are credited as Tolchard Evans and Erell Reaves (a pseudonym for the lyricists). I'll post an image of the single release from Ray a little bit later. In the meantime "Lady of Spain", as the title of this blog entry points out, turns 40 and so does all of the recordings on the Misty album. Yes, the big hit from the album is the Grammy inning title track but the entire album is Grammy worthy. Even though Ray's performance of "Misty" is incredible, in hindsight, it's massive success over shadowed the remaining performances from the album with "Lady of Spain" being one of those over-looked gems. Another under-rated performance from that album is this single's B-side, "Mockingbird Hill"...oh, and then there's the splendor of "Indian Love Call" and the memorable vocals on "Deep Purple". Here's something to amaze your friends with...Ray Stevens, in 1975, visited The Great American Songbook decades before it became commonplace as a commercial endeavor. As mentioned, the image used on this picture sleeve comes from Ray's Nashville album. In some of my earlier blog entries I've posted other picture sleeves of "Lady of Spain" happened to be the image of Ray from the Misty album.

I came across an interesting item on eBay several hours album called Puzzle credited to Ray Stevens and the release year being 1978 and the country of release being Spain. I can't read foreign languages but common sense would lead one to assume that it's a double album (2 vinyl albums) based on the sticker that appears on the album's cover. The year of release being 1978 and the fact it contains 2 vinyl records has me thinking it's an earlier version of a United Kingdom double album project that surfaced a year later in 1979 called The Greatest Hits Collection or a re-release of a 1977 double album project called The Many Sides of Ray Stevens. The bizarre fact surrounding this Puzzle double LP is there's no picture of Ray on the album's cover but a familiar font of his name appears. The font comes from the 1975 Greatest Hits compilation with the rather large copy of the "S" letter. Any information about this Puzzle LP is appreciated. The back of the LP isn't on display and perhaps a picture of him and the list of songs on the album appear on that side of the cover but as you can see all that's on the front is the title, the number of vinyl discs, and the artist name.

Here's that image of the single release I made mention of earlier. The writers are credited as R. Hargreaves, T. Evans, S. Damerell, and H.B. Tilsley. I did some research in the past and Tilsley happened to be a composer often credited as Henry B. Tilsley...and his name appears on other works featuring the other credited writers. Further research at some future point in time may provide me with answers as to the reason Tilsley is credited as a writer in some pressings of "Lady of Spain" but yet he's uncredited as a writer in other pressings. If you're familiar with the long running program hosted by Lawrence Welk (1951-1982) then you'll immediately be familiar with "Lady of Spain" as the theme song for Myron Floren, an accordionist and right hand man on the program for pretty much it's entire run (both locally, nationally, and in syndication).

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