September 18, 2015

Ray Stevens obscure 1978 cassette...

It's me once more! For those that have read my blog posts over the last 6 years or so you're familiar with the excitement I often display upon seeing something obscure, rare, or hard to find (all synonyms, yes!) pertaining to Ray Stevens. This time around it's a 1978 cassette copy of There Is Something On Your Mind!! Talk about obscure!! It's often hard to find in vinyl...seeing a cassette copy is almost unheard of...but yet a cassette copy of the album appears on eBay.

I never post links to eBay anymore because I've long become well aware of the fluid nature of the site...once an item is purchased or taken off the site by it's seller the link I provide will no longer be active. I found that out by looking through my archived posts several years ago and clicking on the links I embedded only for a blank error page to open up or a page informing me that the product is no longer listed/available. I'm sure other links that I've posted become that way during the passage of time but more so if the link is tied to an auction site.

If you're interested in seeing or possibly bidding/purchasing this rare cassette do a search on eBay of "Ray Stevens + cassette tapes" and select the newly listed option or you can go a general search for "Ray Stevens + There is Something On Your Mind". It'll be among the first results. The listing debuted on September it's been nearly 2 weeks since it appeared. I just discovered it today. The 1978 album features Ray's excellent covers of vintage rhythm and blues songs from the '50s and '60s by groups such as The Clovers, The Drifters, and solo artists such as Ray Charles, Bobby Marchan, and Bobbie Freeman. The title track had originally been recorded in 1959 by a saxophonist named Big Jay McNeely and his release featured vocals by an artist named Little Sonny Warner. The appeal of Ray's 1978 album, aside from it's main appeal of it being an album by Ray Stevens, is that the material Ray chose to cover wasn't limited to the smash hits of Rhythm and Blues that crossed over to pop music radio. The album goes a long way at spotlighting songs that didn't cross-over and become million selling pop hits.

The asking price for the cassette is $24.99 or best offer...but clearly the seller realizes that the rare, obscure nature of this product may be of value to fans of Ray Stevens. As usual read carefully before making any purchase or any bids on auction sites and ask the seller questions that can't be replied by a simple "yes" or "no". The products are previously owned by others and aren't typically in pristine, crisp condition but an honest, serious eBay seller will not risk his or her reputation by selling defective products and so, in theory, the seller should be up-front in their reply. I have the vinyl copy and it features some superb liner notes about every song and it includes a summary/commentary from Ray as to the reason behind the making of the album. This appears above Ray's photo on the LP version. His commentary/opinions of the songs he chose to cover appear on the back of the album. I can't tell if this feature comes with the cassette as only the photo and track list appear on eBay. There isn't any photo of inside the cassette case on eBay to see if the liner notes are part of the cassette copy or not. I doubt they of the allures of the vinyl album is getting features exclusive to the vinyl release...shifting gears from 1978 to present-day 2015...

As you all should be aware of Ray's been on a mini-tour lately. He's performed a series of concerts (typically 2 or 3 per month) going back to the start of summer. The tour is named for his current CD, Here We Go Again!, even though there is plenty of current merchandise from Ray Stevens that no doubt is also being sold to concert goers, too. One such item being the memoir, Ray Stevens' Nashville. If it's not being sold at the merchandise table then purchase it from his on-line store or on Amazon.

Here We Go Again! Concert trail...

After the September 19th concert tomorrow at The Alabama Theatre in Myrtle Beach, SC Ray is going to be extremely busier than usual. If you're a member of his mailing list you should have gotten some e-mails about some of the happenings that are going to be taking place next week. It revolves around the television program that he's putting together. Search some of my earlier blog posts to read about the project. Ray closes out the month of September making a guest appearance at the Grand Ole Opry on September 26th. As mentioned in a previous blog entry I assume Ray is going to announce more information about the television program he's working on during the Opry appearance.

The activity doesn't stop early October look for more concert appearances from Ray. He'll be in Bowling Green, KY at the SKyPAC venue on October 2nd. According to the publicity reports it's a near sell-out. An ad for the concert has aired on YouTube to promote the concert. I had posted the video back on September 3rd but the uploaders have since made that video private (if you come across that embed it'll now state that it's private) but they've re-uploaded the ad and made the video public again due to the concert getting closer and here it is...

The very next day, October 3rd, he'll be performing 2 concerts in Pigeon Forge, TN at the Country Tonite Theatre. The first concert is at 3pm and the second is at 8pm.

Ray Stevens Concert: 9/19/2015...

Hello once's a reminder that the next Ray Stevens concert appearance on his limited engagement Here We Go Again! Tour is tomorrow night at THE ALABAMA THEATRE at 7pm. The link takes you to the advertisement. You can still purchase tickets since it isn't an official sell-out but, obviously, you should purchase your tickets in-person at the venue given that the concert is tomorrow night. Call the number listed in the link I provided.

If you're new at this kind of thing the person at the box office will inform you of any seating available or it could be a recording informing a caller that tickets are now only available at the venue's box office.

I assume that some venues set aside a number of tickets for in-person purchases because not everyone purchases tickets through mail-order or on-line or some people may learn about a concert at the last minute and their only way of obtaining a ticket is at the venue itself (assuming the concert isn't a sell-out by then).

In my own small way I've been promoting his concert appearances for those that are able to attend and I'll continue to do so. Unfortunately there aren't many, if any, concert goers that relate their experience or reveal much about the performance or song selections and so I rarely have any Ray Stevens post-concert information to share. If I do come across feedback from those that attend a concert of his I often make mention of it or I direct readers to a link containing the feedback.

There have been some comments posted on Twitter from concert goers...mostly in the form of it isn't as if everybody that attends his concerts are tight's just not an onslaught of feedback.

September 15, 2015

Ray Stevens: You Didn't Build That, Blog 3...

Hello one and all!! I'm assuming those that attended the previous concert from Ray Stevens at the Moon River Theatre (this past Saturday night) enjoyed the program...there hasn't been any feedback from those that comments, no pictures, no nothing...but I'm guessing that one of the songs performed is this one...his most recent video release, "You Didn't Build That". As mentioned in passing in the previous 2 installments spotlighting this video the title originated from a remark Obama made during one of his numerous speaking events...can't remember if he said it during a State of the Union address, a campaign speech, a campaign rally...or wherever...the point is the phrase generated inspiration enough to compose a song using the phrase. Ray, Buddy Kalb, and Chuck Redden are the credited songwriters. It's track 9 on the Here We Go Again! CD. The video hit YouTube on May 19, 2015...of course you're all encouraged to share this video among your on-line friends and share it on political sites if you hadn't done so already.

The upcoming 2016 election cycle and the various debates among candidates tend to dominate much of a cable news programs and the political blog sites...and it'll only get more and more dominant as the calendar flips over to 2016...but Obama's still the President...he's still in a highly powerful position to push his agenda through a largely inept Congress...but let this song remind you of the kind of policies and the kind of mentality that you don't want in the White House anymore or, for that matter, in Congress anymore...

Unique views for the video sit at 49,752...a month ago the count sat at 41,815. The fact that the video's gotten a 7,000 plus increase with hardly any mainstream media coverage is cause for some celebration. The actual pick-up in views is 7, it's more closer to 8,000 additional discoveries since mid August. Let's see it break the 50,000 plateau sooner rather than later. If you are one that prefers the audio over the video you can click HERE and purchase the Mp3 of "You Didn't Build That" on Amazon.

September 14, 2015

Ray Stevens: Alabama Theatre 9/19/2015...

Hello once following the advertisements currently underway on social media sites I, too, am here to spread the word about the upcoming concert in North Myrtle Beach from Ray Stevens at The Alabama Theatre.

You can read the article/interview about the upcoming concert by clicking HERE. As you'll learn in the article the concert is this Saturday night, September 19th at 7pm. All of the details (such as ticket prices and an overview of his career) can be found in the link. The article is decent and does a good job at mentioning some of the songs from Ray's catalog that usually do not get much coverage and it incorporates some of the latest happenings in his career instead of being almost exclusively focused on past accomplishment as a lot of concert promo's of established artists tend to be. The article promotes his 2012 project, The Encyclopedia of Recorded Comedy Music, as if it's just been released but I commented about Ray having a comedy CD out of brand new recordings, too. You can purchase this CD at AMAZON where it's gotten rave reviews. Strangely enough it's not available in his on-line store...and it's been half a year since it's debut back in March...but above is the Amazon link and here's the cover photo...

In the meantime a couple of posts on the social media site of Twitter, from the Washington, D.C branch of The National Guard, included pics of Ray Stevens from an appearance at the Opry House Sunday night (yesterday). The performance was apparently closed to the general public but pictures of Ray on the Opry stage in performance, before a crowd of National Guard members and presumably their family and friends, appeared on-line. You can find those pics by doing a simple search for Ray Stevens or a search for NGAUS while at that particular social media site.

September 10, 2015

Ray Stevens and the Moon River Concert...

Hello once again! Here's a reminder that Ray Stevens has a concert coming up...this coming Saturday night at the Moon River Theatre in Branson, Missouri. You can read about it and purchase tickets HERE. I've mentioned this concert in previous blog posts but considering it's now a couple of days away I thought to make mention of it once more. It's his first concert of the month...he has 2 more concerts planned for later in the month in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

Beginning today you can purchase 2 of Ray's DVD collections in a special offer ($15.00). Each of the DVD collections regularly sell at his web-store for $10.95 each but starting today both are being sold together. The DVDs are the Cartoon Carnival releases. Each release (Volume One and Volume Two) features 10 music videos...most of them featuring animated characters on screen (including Ray himself) but there are some that feature live-action Ray interacting with animated backgrounds.

You can purchase the special offer HERE.

In one of the summer 1970 video clips found on Ray's YouTube channel there's a clip titled "Swamp Girl". In addition to the comedy sketch there's also the recurring segment called "Who is Ray Stevens?". In that segment you'll be treated to cameo appearances by Don Knotts, Andy Williams, and Jonathan Winters giving their response as to who they think Ray Stevens happens to be. The routine came about due to Ray's low-key nature and the idea/belief that a television audience is different than a music audience.

Ray had made periodic appearances on Andy's television program in 1969 and into early 1970 and according to producers of Andy's program Ray happened to be the most popular/talked about guest and so they approached him with the offer to host Andy's summer program. Ray, up until that point, had been a fixture on the pop music scene for nearly 10 years and he had several recordings and albums to his credit (some of those songs became million sellers).

The exposure on the summer television program launched him into pop superstar stratosphere. Ironically his summer series began on June 20, 1970...a couple of weeks after "Everything is Beautiful" had reached it's #1 finish on both the pop and the Easy-Listening charts...but the further exposure the song received on Ray's summer series enabled it to remain a top seller. Given the fact that it remained #1 pop for 2 weeks and #1 Easy-Listening for 3 and the fact that it hit the Top-40 internationally (reaching #1 in Australia and Canada and the Top-10 in Ireland and England) it's not a surprise to learn that it became the #12 song for the entire year of 1970. A massively popular recording.

The final episode of the summer series aired on August 8, 1970. During the production of the series he was promoting some other songs, too, which came to light on the Unreal album (released after the summer series ended). "America, Communicate with Me", for example, became the big single from that album but "Sunset Strip" is a masterful recording, too. Each single became a hit on the adult oriented Easy-Listening radio format (music that still appealed to a broad audience...but typically appealing to people aged 35 and older instead of 30 and younger).

Here is one of the clips from Ray's 1970 summer series...

Ray Stevens: Freddie Feelgood and more...

One of the funniest recordings from Ray Stevens originated in 1966 but seen it's official music video arrive 34 years later in 2000.

"Freddie Feelgood and His Funky Little Five Piece Band", or as it's referred to by fans, "Freddie Feelgood", arrived in music video form in 2000 as part of a collection released on VHS titled Funniest Video Characters. The collection also provided the music video debuts of "The Pirate Song", "The Haircut Song", "Juanita and the Kids", and "The Blue Cyclone". The latter music video split in 2 separate parts like the original recording from 1985. A couple of previously released music videos from 1997, "Virgil and the Moonshot" and "Too Drunk To Fish", appeared on the home video collection to complete the project.

These music videos have since become fixtures on Ray's YouTube the process introducing an entirely different audience to some of the songs he recorded in the '80s and '90s that often go overlooked in the shadow of some of his other recordings from that time period. As far as the 2000 home video goes "Freddie Feelgood" was the oldest of the group. Ray's catalog of comedy songs also have great video potential and is one of the reasons why so many of his older songs were becoming available in modern-day music video format. Ray and his associates could take one of his comedy songs, at random, and be able to present a music video of it...and "Freddie Feelgood" having an origin from the mid '60s lent itself perfectly to video. The song itself is paints a visual picture...and that's the key to a lot of Ray's success in transforming an audio recording into a music video production so effortlessly.

Ray performed the song on the 1970 summer television program he hosted for Andy Williams...

Video of Ray's summer program had never been made available outside of a stray clip or two for historical purposes. This all changed a couple years ago after Ray uploaded dozens of performances from the 1970 summer program. Myself and several other fans of Ray Stevens have come to the conclusion that Andy's death (September 25, 2012) resulted in the availability of these performances after all those decades of unavailability. If you look at the videos from the 1970 summer series each of them contain an AW watermark. The video clips from the summer series didn't start to appear on Ray's YouTube channel until August 2013 (almost a full year after Andy passed away).

These performances are interesting, entertaining, highly nostalgic, and totally enjoyable for a variety of reasons. At long last fans ere able to see full-length performances (not just 20 to 30 second snippets) of Ray's summer television program. As an added plus there are performances by his cast of regulars...including several routines featuring both Ray and Andy (!) even though, technically, Andy was suppose to be on vacation.

"Freddie Feelgood", the music video produced in 2000, arrived on YouTube on May 25, 2011. At that point in time Ray had experienced phenomenal success on YouTube throughout much of 2010 and it carried over into 2011 and it created the opportunity to gather up some more older music video productions and introduce them to a different audience that perhaps didn't even see the music video's originally (more than a decade ago).

Ray launched his YouTube channel on July 13, 2009. The first 12 music video uploads to appear on his channel happened to be music videos taken from his home video projects Comedy Video Classics, his movie, Get Serious!, and 3 animated music videos that appeared on DVD originally in 2006 as part of a 5 music video collection called Teenage Mutant Kung Fu Chickens. Another DVD of 5 animated music videos from Ray also became available in 2006 titled Gourmet Restaurant. All of the videos from those DVDs have since been uploaded onto Ray's YouTube channel.

The heaviest traffic for Ray's YouTube channel is focused a lot on his politically-themed comedy videos. I say that because the numbers speak for themselves. A good chunk of the unique views that his music videos have obtained are tied almost exclusively to the political offerings. Although he's reduced the number of politically-themed music videos in the last couple of years, nevertheless, the run of political comedy videos he released during a 2 and a half to 3 year period (2010-2013) represent the lion's share of his YouTube success.

After decreasing the amount of political comedy output Ray returned to uploading earlier video productions onto his channel for much wider exposure. As mentioned earlier the 1970 performances from the summer television series he hosted made their debut on his channel in August 2013. A performance of "Freddie Feelgood" is among the video clips that emerged and here's a 1970 performance long before CGI and other special effects became commonplace in video production...a perfect display of Ray's innovative and creative abilities...

September 9, 2015

Ray Stevens: All-Time Hits...

As I often do I highlight compilation albums issued on Ray Stevens...some I've got in my collection and some I find posted on-line most typically listed on auction sites that I feel the need to comment about or promote through this fan-created blog page.

All-Time Hits is one of those misleading titles that many record companies place on compilation albums. The basic reason is to grab a consumer's eyes...and then once their attention's been obtained the next thing some, not all, but some consumers do is look at the album's photo/picture of the artist. Then the consumer, in the vinyl era, more than likely would flip the album over and read the song selections. Usually a different photo of the artist appeared on the back of the album...a kind of exclusive photo for those that purchased the album. Promos and ads rarely gave the back of album's much, if any, exposure and so a lot of fans that didn't purchase vinyl albums (preferring singles) weren't aware of the practice of having the main publicity photo of the artist on the front of the album and then a secondary photo on the reverse side.

One of the recurring concepts of compilation albums labeled either Greatest Hits, The Very Best of, or All-Time Hits is the use of photos of the artist that, usually, do not match the era in which the bulk of the recordings took place. This is, of course, more common for artists that have had incredible longevity in the music business. Even though there a lot of artists from Ray's generation and those that came before him that have had a massive catalog of compilation albums issued on them I've noticed that the compilations issued on Ray have had some of the most misleading photo's accompanying a release.

This release, All-Time Hits, originated in 1996 in cassette format and featuring a minimum of just eight recordings it was marketed as a budget-priced release. Issued on Polygram Records, a subsidiary of Mercury Records, the eight recordings on the project happened to have been recorded by Ray during his stay at Mercury (1961-1965, 1983) and one song, oddly enough, from his RCA period (1980-1982). Of course not every recording during his Mercury or RCA stint are represented but 8 recordings are. The track list: "Ahab the Arab", "Harry the Hairy Ape", "Jeremiah Peabody's Green and Purple Pills", "My Dad", "Shriner's Convention", "Speed Ball", "Furthermore", and "Funny Man". Six of those recordings come from the early 1960s but the photo of Ray that's used from a much later era (perhaps from a photo session in 1983 during the making of his studio album that year). If one is not too familiar or conversant with all things Ray Stevens as some of us are you'd probably think that Ray looked like that during the recordings found on this collection but in reality he did not. On six of the eight recordings found here he looked like this...

A note to collectors is this 1996 compilation includes the original recordings of his early 1960s hits on Mercury. A lot of compilations use the Monument re-recordings but on this collection, since it's affiliated with Mercury, the original recordings are featured.

All-Time Hits is also available in CD format. Although a cassette is perfectly capable of holding a large amount of recordings only 8 appeared on the cassette copy. However, for the CD release, three songs were added. In a move to entice CD sales using the allure of "bonus tracks" the 11 track version of All-Time Hits incorporated 2 additional recordings from the early 1960s and one recording from 1981. The three bonus recordings are "Butch Babarian", "Santa Claus is Watching You", and "One More Last Chance". The reason, well, one of the reasons that I have both the cassette and CD releases is because of my desire, at the time, to have any Ray Stevens release that appeared in retail stores.

Secondly it's because I only had a cassette player at the time...I didn't have a CD player and I definitely didn't have a record player, yet. So, once I got a CD player I found All-Time Hits in CD format and purchased it...the allure being I didn't have any of those songs on CD format at the time. You could say I was slow at getting the latest listening devices. I'm still like that...I don't have an Ipod or Ipad or tablet or whatever the most recent listening device happens to be but I do purchase/download songs on Amazon if I choose to but ordinarily I prefer a CD copy.

The CD copy of All-Time Hits displaying all 11 tracks. The titles that have an asterisk to their left indicate the bonus songs found only on the CD. Considering how obscure Ray's 1983 studio album for Mercury happens to be it always puzzled me as to why only "My Dad" appeared on this compilation and nothing else from that album...instead choosing a couple of his RCA recordings to represent the early '80s period. Don't get me wrong, though...the inclusion of "One More Last Chance" is most certainly a welcome addition. Given that "My Dad" appears it's still a mystery as to why his 1983 studio album, Me, has never made it's debut on CD or even Mp3 yet. Polygram, the label that issued this in 1996, certainly had the capability of including songs from the 1983 album or else "My Dad" wouldn't have made an it's odd that they, nor Mercury itself, have ever thought to reissue Me. One thing about this collection that can't be said for other compilations issued on Ray Stevens is this one features single releases only. Every track on here found it's way onto the pop or country music charts. Usually the compilation releases included album tracks, chosen seemingly at random, along side the actual single releases. This practice raised awareness for a lot of recordings by Ray Stevens that were originally meant as album cuts.

Yes, this is the cassette copy...the one I purchased at the local Wal-Mart store back in 1996. It's still in excellent shape. I never handle cassettes, CD's, or vinyl singles and LP's in a rough manner or toss them around, etc. I guess the only strike against this collection is the lack of liner notes. I've become spoiled by the liner note concept that accompanies a lot of music collections even though, strangely enough, I never cared one way or another if something featured liner notes or not; but since I've gotten older and have seen a lot of liner notes and articles about Ray that are more fiction than fact it's becoming something of an interest of mine if a compilation features liner notes or not. The thing about liner notes is the subjective nature of the authors, which I don't mind, I'd be more offended to see negative criticisms...but the thing I'd noticed about liner notes is the passing of misinformation and the omission of information. Bios found on Ray omit the fact that Ray recorded an album for Mercury Records in 1983 and the label released several singles on him throughout the bulk of 1984 prior to his departure to MCA and his relaunch as a country comic. Liner notes often omit that Ray had more than a couple of hit recordings for RCA and Warner some liner notes only a couple of songs are highlighted during an entire 7 year time span (1976-1983) and this sort of lack of information does a disservice to any new fan of Ray's and it's maddening to long time fans that don't appreciate seeing his catalog of music go overlooked. So it's great if a CD has liner notes but it's also wise on the reader or the fan's part to do research for themselves, too. I was once a new fan of his...and my only exposure to his music happened to be what appeared on the CD's available in retail stores and the several cassette tapes originally owned by my grandparent's. If I remained content on just enjoying the songs on those projects I'd be missing out on a LOT of other great recordings from his career. Some prefer just to listen to a handful of recordings by him (recordings from the mid '80s primarily) and dismiss anything else he's recorded. 1987's Greatest Hits on MCA and Greatest Hits, Volume Two contain the recordings that are associated heavily with Ray...and therefore those compilations have gotten the most sales.

The liner notes for the Platinum 1987 album, however, doesn't mention that the recording of "Ahab the Arab" is from 1969. The author mentions the song was a hit in 1962...but this naturally suggests to a new fan that the recording they're hearing is from 1962. I didn't learn that the recording was from 1969 until some point in the 1990s...I had gotten the Mercury cassette titled Funny Man and heard his early '60s recordings for the very first time and that's how I heard "Ahab the Arab", the original recording, for the very first time. The cassette features a bearded Ray Stevens on the cover...looking nothing like he did in the early '60s...which fits in with the overall theme of this blog entry spotlighting compilation albums featuring misleading images of Ray on the cover.

September 3, 2015

Ray Stevens upcoming Tour Dates...

Ray Stevens has six concerts planned for the months of September and October. These are part of his mini-tour titled Here We Go Again which began earlier this summer. Up first is an appearance in Branson, Missouri on September 12th at The Andy Williams Theatre. Tickets went on sale in May...if you hadn't called about tickets by now it may be too late to get a seat near the stage. You need to call 1-800-MOON-094 or visit the promo page HERE.

The second concert planned for this month is in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina at The Alabama Theater on September 19th. You can read all about it and purchase tickets HERE 

On September 26th Ray has another guest appearance on the Grand Ole Opry. You can listen to the Opry on the radio and on the internet but if you prefer to attend in person you can purchase tickets by clicking HERE. At the moment the page only has 3 performers listed for that date but there's going to be more performers scheduled by the middle of the month.

The first concert scheduled for October takes place at the SKyPAC venue on October 2nd. This is an acronym for Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center. A video clip debuted on YouTube earlier today promoting the upcoming concert and you can see it below...

The next day, October 3rd, he'll be in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee to perform 2 shows at the Country Tonite venue. The first one being 3pm and the second being 8pm. You can read about it HERE.

6 days later on October 9th he'll be up in Ontario, Canada at the Casino Rama. You can read about it HERE.

Ray Stevens: Video Singles...

There's been a pair of video singles tied to the current Ray Stevens CD, Here We Go Again. The first happened to be "Taylor Swift is Stalkin' Me" and the second, "You Didn't Build That". The video's are extreme opposites of each other...the first one deals with the delusions of a man believing Taylor is stalking him because he sees her everywhere that he happens to be. Ray performed the song several times in the spring of 2015 during some of his such being a guest appearance on the Grand Ole happened to be the first time he performed it in concert. Those that had no idea who Ray Stevens happened to be didn't know what to make of the video.

A lot of those confused and at a loss being young kids and teenagers (primarily Taylor's fan base) that more or less had been alerted to the video due to it containing Taylor's name in the title. Some of the more humorless didn't care for the song's festive tempo and levity taking place at a fictional mental institution. It's gotten more than 300,000 views, regardless.

The second video single returned Ray to the political comedy field after an extended hiatus of new material for that genre of entertainment. Prior to the release of "You Didn't Build That" a couple of months ago his last political comedy video arrived a year ago this month in the form of "If You Like Your Plan" (September 22, 2014). It's been seen by more than 120,000 people. "You Didn't Build That" has been seen by close to 50,000 people so far.

I stress that this isn't the heat of a political season, yet, and even though Obama can't run for a third term he nevertheless is going to play a major part in the 2016 election cycle by virtue of his policies being attached to whichever Democrat gets the nomination. If it's Joe Biden expect to see a lot of issues that defined the Obama-Biden Administration to be fair game during the campaign trail in 2016.

Even though Ray's foray into political entertainment came as a surprise and a shock to most people late in 2009 nearly all of the political music videos from him that have appeared on YouTube feature a comical presentation to keep the mood lighthearted even though, if you listen carefully, the lyrics are pointed and actually, serious, but masked behind a comical presentation on video. "You Didn't Build That", his current video single, takes a phrase from one of Obama's speeches and it's turned into a song about Obama's twisted attitude about American business.

Not all of Ray's political videos have been visually comical, though. A couple are deeply serious. In the latter category there's "God Save Arizona" (August 4, 2010) and last year's "Nero Fiddled" (October 10, 2014). The 2010 video's focus happened to be the enormous problem of illegal immigration along the Arizona-Mexico border...more specifically the lawsuit that former Attorney General, Eric Holder, issued against the State of Arizona as a result of their enforcement of their immigration laws.

The 2014 video focuses in on Obama's consistent misplaced priorities and his lack of strong leadership in face of real the real threat of global terrorism. It's a strong message criticizing Obama's Presidency. "If You Like Your Plan" and "Nero Fiddled", at the moment, are available only as video singles on YouTube.

Share these among your on-line friends if you hadn't done so already... "You Didn't Build That", "Nero Fiddled", and "If You Like Your Plan"...

Ray Stevens: That Nashville Sound...

Hello again! Late last night...I should call it early in the morning since it happened to be around 2am...I came across a video upload on YouTube of a complete performance of the Nashville Public Library's series titled That Nashville Sound. The special event that took place on May 31st of this year is of particular interest because of it's involvement with Ray Stevens. If you read some of the archive blog entries off to the right hand side of the page (those from May/June 2015) chances are you're going to find blog entries making mention of Ray's then-upcoming appearance at the Library.

The event celebrated Ralph Emery's career as host of Nashville Now (1983-1993) and the impact the cable series had on country music during that 10 year period. Throughout that decade and beyond various television critics in the 1980s and 1990s referred to Ralph as the Johnny Carson of cable television. As far as his varied career on television and on country radio some even called Ralph the Dick Clark of country music.

On stage at the venue the familiar/iconic desk, complete with the TNN logo, brought back memories of the series. The line-up for the special event included Con Hunley, Lorrie Morgan, Barbara Mandrell, Steve Hall/Shotgun Red, and of course Ray Stevens. Like the television series each guest came out and participated in an interview detailing the latest happenings in their career or in their personal lives. After each segment each guest moved down the line-up of chairs (there wasn't a couch and chair like in the TV series). Unlike the television series there wasn't any live music performances. To make up for this the special event included a large selection of snippets from various episodes of Nashville Now of artist's singing or being interviewed. If you happen to be a fan of Roger Miller, too, you'll be in for a treat. During the section focusing on Ray Stevens there's video footage of these 2 comedic geniuses and clever songwriters sharing the stage during an episode of Nashville Now. Roger tells a joke to Ray's utter delight. The two of them rarely appeared on stage together but the moments they did are priceless. The clip is brief but entertaining.

In Ray's segment he mentions his memoir and some of his plans for future products and his current CD. Among those plans is the hope of having a music/talk program in the same tradition of Nashville Now. He also talks about some other things that I'll hold back making mention'll have to click the video to learn more. At the time of this taping on May 31, 2015 Ray's current CD had been available for just a couple of months (it's release date happened to be March 23, 2015).

September 2, 2015

Ray Stevens: The Elusive Ten...

Hello to all the fans of Ray Stevens! September is here and for those that took advantage of the half-price sale of Ray's Such a Night DVD (sale ended yesterday), good for you. I'm sure it and or other items are going to be on sale in a couple of months as the Christmas season begins but perhaps not at such a steep discount as the one that just ended. By that time could it be possible that the long-awaited Volume 2 of his gospel recordings might be available?

I don't, of course, have any idea about the contracts and other things that go on in Ray's business life but I'd like to hear the remaining songs from those gospel recording some point.

The reason I bring it up is because during the publicity and promotion for the Ray Stevens Gospel Collection, Volume One CD Ray often remarked that he'd recorded more than 20 songs and the first 10 appear on the Volume One CD and the other batch of songs are going to appear on Volume Two. The gospel CD hit the market on August 19, 2014 and so, given that it's been more than a year, could it very well be possible that the follow-up is right around the corner?

Getting to the heart of this particular blog entry I'm bringing attention to a series of LP's in the career of Ray Stevens that have, to date, remained exclusive to vinyl, cassette, and 8-track format in an era of CD, digital downloads, and other technological inventions. As a result of the LP's not being available in a contemporary format there's a chance that some of his fans may want to track these albums down on internet auction sites to hear what they've been missing.

There's proof via social network commentary that a lot of Ray's younger and or newest fans discovered his music by accident given the lack of mainstream publicity on radio/television...therefore these newer fans of his are more often than not only familiar with Ray for whatever video clip they discovered on YouTube from him. This fan created blog is designed to spotlight his career, from all time periods, for those that have discovered him on YouTube but may not know much at all about his music.

In keeping with that goal here is a list of 10 studio albums from Ray Stevens that have never been available on CD or Mp3...

1. Have a Little Talk with Myself; 1969 Monument Records-  This is one of Ray's cover albums. In this collection he delivers the hits originally recorded by the likes of The 5th Dimension, Blood, Sweat, and Tears, The Beatles, Bob Dylan...a varied collection of pop music artists and groups. There are three original songs among the covers...first there's "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down" from the pen of Kris Kristofferson. Ray recorded this song before Johnny Cash...but it's Johnny that ended up having the big hit single on it. Ray's recording afforded him the chance to appear on the Country music singles chart for the first time in his career...both here in America and in Canada. The other original song is "The Little Woman", a tale of fidelity and devotion. The third original song is the album's title track...the inspirational tale of attitude correction and prioritizing one's life. The title track also reached the country singles chart. The cover songs include "Help", "Aquarius", "Hey Jude", "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight", and "Hair" among others. The highlight among those being "Hair"...the production and time put into making the record sound almost exactly like the original by the cast of the musical, Hair, is a testament to his genius in the recording studio. The entire LP is incredible. It's a travesty it's never been issued on CD/Mp3.

2. Losin' Streak; 1973 Barnaby Records- For whatever reason this LP didn't see a re-issue from Collectible's Records even though the company re-issued the other studio albums Ray recorded for Barnaby (1970-1975). It still remains a mystery as to the reason it was skipped over. The title track appeared as a single release but it never charted. One of the tracks, "Inside", found itself as the B-side of several single releases from Ray in this era. There's an instrumental on here called "Laid Back". My favorites are "Golden Age", "This is Your Life", and "Idaho Wine". Physically, this is the first album of his to show him having a beard. Typically clean-shaven for photo sessions the beard didn't become a physical fixture until around 1978 or so. If anybody has a clean-shaven photo of Ray from the 1980s, 1990s, or even this decade I'd love to see it! I doubt any exist.

3. Just For The Record; 1976 Warner Brothers- Ray's debut on a different label after 5 years at Barnaby. The music he recorded on this album, country-pop, fit in nicely among the other songs on country radio and he enjoyed a pair of Top-30 country music hits in the process... "You Are So Beautiful" and "Honky Tonk Waltz". A non-album single, "In the Mood", hit in December of 1976 and it became a novelty hit in the early part of 1977 in America, Canada, and in the United Kingdom. The single, clucked like a choir of chickens and initially released as The Henhouse Five Plus Too, is one of those rare instances of a single hitting the market out of the blue without any advanced publicity to speak of. It never appeared on any LP but the label promoted the single, heavily, to pop music markets and it became an international Top-40 hit. It's long been said by historians that being primarily a West Coast music company, Warner Brothers didn't necessarily know how to market to country music outlets (especially the southern markets in the Eastern portion of the United States). Also, the label hadn't been in the business of marketing music for too long. Legendary country music artist Buck Owens, also signed to the label around the same time, seen a dramatic drop in his album sales, too, compared to his previous albums for Capitol. In fact, Buck's first 2 studio albums for Warner Brothers never even appeared on the sales charts. Ironically, this Ray Stevens album happened to be a success, however...

4. Feel the Music; 1977 Warner Brothers- For this album Ray penned 9 of the 10 songs! He also, as usual, produced and arranged the music from his own recording studio and contributed his musical prowess on keyboards/piano. Unfortunately the extreme lack of publicity for the LP caused it to literally anchor the Top-50 album chart during an all too brief visit. The label's continued publicity for "In the Mood" may have also hurt this album's potential (commercially speaking, of course). The number of positions on the Country album chart at the time happened to be 50. Even though, by comparison, one of the single releases from the LP titled "Dixie Hummingbird", managed to peak just outside the radio-oriented Top-40 portion of the Country singles chart; however, the funky audio sound effects in "Get Crazy With Me" and it being marketed to country music outlets as it was, well, obviously, the song seen resistance from programmers unwilling to add it. One gets the sense that there wasn't any clear direction, from a label stand-point, as to which way to market his music. He remained just as popular as ever on tour but clearly the label's inability to market/promote his records properly certainly must have caused strained relations...

5. There Is Something On Your Mind; 1978 Warner Brothers- This is a covers album featuring Ray paying tribute to classic rhythm and blues artists and groups. The album is one of his most personal given that he supplied his own liner notes (a rarity) and discussed, song by song, his thoughts and opinions about each of the songs and how he became familiar with them during his child-hood/teenage years. It's a marvelous collection but it never reached the album charts and no song became a single release...almost as if it's a ghost album that existed at one time but yet there's no trace of it's existence in music trade publications. I've yet to come across any article in Billboard from 1978 (via Google archive research) to mention the LP in any write-up or any promo ad from Warner Brothers. If anybody has any publicity about the LP let me know! I've got the LP in my collection but as a fan I like seeing advertisements/publicity for Ray's music at the time it originally surfaced.

6. Be Your Own Best Friend; 1978 Warner Brothers- This is the fourth and final studio album Ray recorded for the label. Surprisingly the album received publicity in a more traditional sense by appearing in a large print ad in Billboard. The album never reached the charts but the title track became a Top-40 country music hit in America and a Top-20 country music hit in Canada. In Canada it happened to be a fairly decent hit...peaking in the Top-20 on October 14, 1978 (after leaping from the lower half of the Top-40 a week earlier). It can be said that the single peaked too soon because, for a Top-20 hit single, it was only among the Top-20 for one week before falling back into the upper Top-30. One also could say the single either had massive sales spikes or enormous airplay during an 8 week period (September 9, 1978-October 28, 1978).

1979's release, The Feeling's Not Right Again, is a compilation album consisting of 9 songs taken from Ray's previous LP's for Warner Brothers and one brand new song, the satirical "I Need Your Help, Barry Manilow". That particular single, chart-wise, is his biggest single release for the label. It charted country (ironically enough) and it peaked in the Top-50 on the Hot 100 pop chart but more ironically is it's performance on Adult-Contemporary/Easy-Listening radio (the format ruled largely by Barry Manilow during the latter half of the 1970s). The single peaked just outside the Top-10 on Billboard's Adult-Contemporary chart. The single reinforced his reputation as a novelty artist, though. His biggest selling hits for the label happened to be this and 1977's "In the Mood". Not long after the success of "I Need Your Help, Barry Manilow" Ray quietly left Warner Brothers and joined the roster of RCA Records. His move to RCA took place in the latter half of 1979...and publicity surrounding his arrival appeared in Billboard that same year. The blurb mentioned that he'd soon be in the studio to start working on his debut for the label.

7.  Shriner's Convention; 1980 RCA- This is Ray's debut album for the RCA label and it's an all-comedy project. It marked the first all-comedy album from Ray in 6 years (his previous being the 1974 album spotlighting "The Streak"). This album also reached the Top-10 on the Country album chart...a major success in both sales and publicity. It's big hit, "Shriner's Convention", also became a Top-10 hit on the country music singles chart. The album contained another single release, "Hey There", but it never charted. The title track and "The Dooright Family" have consistently appeared on numerous compilation albums released by RCA and their family of labels.

8. One More Last Chance; 1981 RCA- Like the other LP's this one is also unavailable on CD and Mp3. This collection of songs are meant to compliment the Urban Cowboy craze that had been sweeping the nation for the last couple of years. Even though Ray's previous LP happened to be a Top-10, all-comedy smash hit he immediately began to work on this album. In fact, during a couple of print interviews that surfaced in newspapers at the time of the album and single's success, Ray defiantly took the stance of distancing himself from comedy as soon as possible so he could get back to serious recordings once more. The album's first single, "Night Games", appeared in the latter half of 1980 and it climbed into the Top-20 on the country singles chart in America...but at the time there happened to be no LP in the stores featuring the single and so it remained a single-only release until this album appeared in 1981. In a show of the times Ray is decked out in western attire and on the back of the album he's wearing a cowboy hat. "Night Games" did even better in Canada...peaking 9 positions higher than it's peak position in America. The album's title track reached the country singles Top-40.

9. Don't Laugh Now; 1982 RCA- Ray's third studio album for the label carries a bit more Rhythm and Blues and pop-country than the previous collection as the opening track, "Such a Night", clearly demonstrates. This album didn't reach the charts (neither did the 1981 LP) but it contained a Top-40 country hit in "Written Down in My Heart" and a gospel-tinged novelty single titled "Where The Sun Don't Shine", which also reached the country chart. In contrast to the 1981 LP, this one carried a much more uptempo feel and an optimistic one. Most of the songs on the 1981 LP happened to be ballads and the feel of the collection had an overall melancholy flavor in spite of several rousing uptempo songs. For the 1982 LP there's the fair share of ballads but not all of them are slow ballads...a couple of them are mid-tempo, actually, such as "Country Boy, Country Club Girl" and "Oh Leo Lady" and then there's "Why Don't We Go Somewhere and Make Love". Even though it's a romantic ballad the chorus picks the song up delivering an easy-listening sing-a-long. The only slow ballad is "This Old Piano" close second is the title track.

10. Me; 1983 Mercury-  Lastly there's this 1983 studio album on Mercury Records...the label that made Ray Stevens a recording star in the early '60s. This time around Ray delivered an album of songs mostly self-written but like his last 2 studio albums for RCA this one didn't make the charts, either. It did contain one single that reached the country charts...the majestic "My Dad", from the pen of Dale Gonyea (the one that wrote "I Need Your Help, Barry Manilow"). The LP didn't receive much publicity and beyond the brief chart run of "My Dad" it didn't get much notice except for an extremely rare promo by Ray Stevens on an episode of The Fall Guy titled 'The Pirates of Nashville'. In that episode Ray plays a character named Covington, a country music artist estranged from his son. There's a performance of one of the songs from the album at the end of the episode but there's no mention of the album's existence or anything. The album hit in the last half of 1983 and the single releases didn't arrive until 1984. "My Dad", "Love Will Beat Your Brains Out", "Mary Lou Nights", "Game Show Love", "Me", and "A Piece of Paradise Called Tennessee" appeared on single releases from Mercury throughout the first half of 1984. Once his contract expired Ray set his attention on MCA Records and an incredible run of commercially successful albums and singles soon followed.

And there you have it! Those 10 studio albums have never seen a re-issue of any kind on CD or Mp3. Some may say it has to do with the lack of major hit recordings contained on those albums....some may say the albums themselves aren't worthy of re-issue...and some may say the albums had no commercial value then so why would there be any audience all these years later. I think there's an audience...a built-in audience of fans that are familiar with his songs but hadn't actually heard the various styles of music those albums represent because the complete studio albums are hard to come by and if found can only be heard on vinyl or cassette tape.