November 28, 2015

Ray Stevens: Australian Import CD, Blog 2...

Hello one and late August I posted a blog entry centering around an import CD from Australia titled The Very Best of Ray Stevens. During that point in time there hadn't been much information about the CD beyond cover art on an Australian on-line store offering it for pre-order and a limited information product page on Amazon (featuring no cover art for the CD).

The CD had gone on sale in Australia on September 4th and then it became available on America's Amazon page the following week. Still, though, Amazon or other on-line stores in America never provided cover art or a track listing of songs. The Australian on-line stores hadn't provided a track list either. Out of curiosity I made a visit to the various Australian on-line stores and to Amazon and discovered that much more information about the CD had been made available. I don't know how long the information had been posted on-line and so a lot of this may not be breaking news but I've decided to create a blog entry about the CD regardless. In my late August blog entry I mentioned that once I find out more information about the import CD becomes available I'd post a future blog entry about it...and this is it.

The irony of offering an "import CD" at an on-line store based in America is the fact that a customer can visit an on-line store in whichever country has imported the CD to America and see their selling price and then tack on the extra cost of international shipping. If you Google the name of this CD along side the label it's on (Fanfare) you'll come across a number of Australian stores that are selling this CD. If you visit Amazon you'll see it there, too. Amazon, at the moment, is selling this import CD for $35.24 and you can visit their product page HERE. The product page itself doesn't provide a track listing but you can see the image of the back of the CD and click it for a larger view. There are 20 songs on the CD and it's singles-driven...there aren't any album tracks or B-sides among the selections. For those not aware of that terminology an album track is a song that exists on a studio album that never made an appearance on a commercially released single or wasn't issued on a promo single for radio station use only. Longtime fans of Ray's should know that "The Pirate Song" never appeared as a single-release on any 45-RPM but because of it's popularity among the fans it's become just as identifiable with Ray as "The Streak", "Ahab the Arab", or "Misty". Another example of an album track making an appearance on a Best Of collection released on Ray Stevens is "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head". Ray passed on recording the song, originally, and B.J. Thomas ended up recording the song and it's B.J.'s recording that appears on the Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid movie and soundtrack. However, around the time the movie appeared in theaters, Ray had ended up recording a version of the song and it appears on his 1970 studio album, Everything is Beautiful. Even though Ray's recording is just as great as B.J.'s and it retains the same music arrangement Ray's recording isn't the one that appears in the movie or it's soundtrack. Barnaby promoted Ray's version of the song, though...tying the song to the movie via a promo sticker that appeared on some releases of Everything is Beautiful.
I've read the fine print on the back of the CD and it lists Barnaby in the credits. This leads me to believe that the versions of "Ahab the Arab" (originally recorded in 1962) and "Harry the Hairy Ape" (originally recorded in 1963) are from the 1969 Gitarzan album. The recordings on that album have long been the property of Barnaby Records and it's family of labels even though the 1969 album had originally been released by Monument Records. The same holds true for Ray's other albums for Monument Records in both 1968 and 1969...and on this CD there are single releases from those Monument albums that routinely appear on compilation CD's such as this: "Mr. Businessman", "Unwind", "Along Came Jones", "Gitarzan", and "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down". If my assumption is correct and the versions of "Ahab the Arab" and "Harry the Hairy Ape" are from 1969 then the time-line of this compilation is the same as most others: 1968-1975. Given the selling price on Amazon of $35.24 I don't know if I'm willing to pay that much for a collection of songs I already have on other collections...but it bothers me not knowing if there are liner notes or not and if so are they accurate or filled with misinformation one may pick up on the internet or through word of mouth or if it's a personal essay about Ray Stevens and his style of music and entertaining. The 20 songs on the CD are listed below. If neither "Ahab the Arab" nor "Harry the Hairy Ape" are the original recordings from the early '60s then the earliest recording is 1968's "Unwind" with the latest being 1975's "Young Love" (issued as a single early in 1976). There are a couple of notable single-releases from this period missing from this collection...each one charted Country and Adult-Contemporary: 1973's "Nashville" (Top-40 Country; Top-30 Canadian Adult-Contemporary) and 1974's "Everybody Needs a Rainbow" (Top-40 Country; Top-20 Adult-Contemporary). Neither single crossed-over to the American Pop chart, though, and that's probably the reason they've been omitted from this collection (although "Nashville" made a brief appearance on Australia's pop chart!). It's inarguable, though, that "Young Love" had a better chart impact than either "Nashville" or "Everybody Needs a Rainbow". "Young Love" didn't even appear on the Australian music charts but it's featured on this CD. It's highest chart placing happened to be on America's Adult-Contemporary chart (peaking in the lower region of their Top-50).

If anyone out there has this CD let us know if there are liner notes and if song 1 and song 3 are the original recordings on Mercury Records or if they're the 1969 re-recordings. Seeing that song 2 is 1969's "Along Came Jones" I highly suspect that songs 1 and 3 are from 1969, too.

1. Ahab the Arab
2. Along Came Jones
3. Harry the Hairy Ape
4. The Streak
5. Gitarzan
6. Bridget the Midget The Queen of the Blues
7. Freddie Feelgood
8. All My Trials
9. Indian Love Call
10. A Mama And a Papa
11. The Moonlight Special
12. Sunset Strip
13. Mr. Businessman
14. Everything is Beautiful
15. Misty
16. Turn Your Radio On
17. Unwind
18. Young Love
19. America, Communicate with Me
20. Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down

November 26, 2015

Ray Stevens: Music to be Thankful for...

The entire catalog of music recorded by Ray Stevens is something to be thankful for on this Thanksgiving Day 2015. A career that goes back to the late 1950s and is still thriving to this day is a testament to durability and the ardent fans of which have remained fiercely loyal and devoted over the decades...a fan-base made up of all kinds of music listeners of all age groups...those that have been an appreciator of Ray's style of entertaining since the early years up through those that have discovered him fairly recently through video-sharing on social media outlets. No matter the manner in which Ray's music is discovered by the people the fact remains that, typically, once one discovers his brand of entertainment they remain fans for life. It's been my belief that should the unthinkable happen and one lose interest in Ray's music it's due to a listener being intolerable toward Ray's deliberately slow planning of music releases (whether it be in audio or video form). Oh yes...I've read many a commentary on-line over the last 10+ years from those that don't have the patience to wait for something to be released and their attention drifts elsewhere. A carefully thought out time-line has nearly zero acceptance to a lot of consumers whom, for the most part, want things instantly...and therefore recording artists have to push themselves onto their fans daily in order to retain attention. Ray Stevens, as far as I can tell, has never subscribed to that brand of marketing/advertising. Media overkill/saturation is wonderful for the fan (as they get to see their favorite appear on TV and see images of their favorite in magazines) and it's something that's necessary at some stage of an artist's career for the simple purpose of becoming established but prolonged saturation results in over-exposure. Those 3 cassettes that I'm holding in that photo are from's been 20 years (!) since Warner Brothers loosened their tight grip on the Ray Stevens catalog of music in their vault.

His studio albums for the label (Just for the Record, Feel the Music, There is Something On Your Mind, and Be Your Own Best Friend) have never been properly re-issued on CD or Mp3 format. They only exist on vinyl, 8-track, and in cassette; but finding cassette copies of those studio albums is a task...but they do exist in that format because I've seen copies become available at outrageous prices on eBay and I've posted images of the cassettes on this blog before. The picture over on the right is me and my LP copy of There is Something On Your Mind. I'm thankful having the LP because of it's under-appreciated and under-rated quality. It's an LP that I can introduce to other fans that more than likely are not aware that Ray's career goes farther back than the 1980s and "It's Me Again, Margaret" or that it existed prior to 2009 and "We The People" (yes, some people that discovered Ray's music video in 2009 thought that he happened to be some guy making a music video...totally oblivious to his lengthy career). Although vinyl copies of this 1978 album are abundant on eBay and other on-line sites it's an LP that just doesn't get much attention...even among fans of Ray Stevens...but it's a gem of an album. I post images of this LP anytime the subject of his late '70s period comes up.

I'm really thankful for the Losin' Streak's one of my priceless LP's in my Ray Stevens collection of vinyl. An interesting bit of personal information regarding this obscure LP is in order. Once upon a time I wasn't on-line...I didn't become an internet visitor until 2002. My first exposure to the internet came via a Web-TV...and I visited eBay and other places in those earlier years. I didn't get an actual computer until sometime in the mid 2000s...and I became more familiar with the internet as time marched on. On the primitive Web-TV that I had I couldn't visit (or didn't want to visit) too many places because of the dial-up nature and the long time it took to load pages and so for the first couple of years of my on-line experience I didn't get to explore the internet much until the purchase of the desktop. I remained on that computer until it eventually stopped performing...and I've been on this laptop for almost 2 years. The point of that story is the moment I got onto a high-speed, non-dial up computer I visited eBay and wouldn't you just know it...I couldn't find a copy of Losin' Streak!! I never made on-line purchases via the Web-TV and at that time the 1973 Ray Stevens LP had a lot of presence on eBay. Slowly but surely copies of the LP began surfacing on eBay once more and the moment I seen a Buy-It-Now option for the LP at a reasonable price I immediately purchased it. My elation caused me to take a photo of you can see it's on full display underneath the lid of my portable turntable. The 1973 LP has never been properly re-released on CD or Mp3. He recorded the album for Barnaby Records...his other studio albums for the label have since been issued in CD and Mp3 format but Losin' Streak remains a non-reissue.

My list of Ray Stevens recordings all of us fans should be thankful no particular order. Here goes... "Ahab the Arab", "The Streak", "Night Games", "Mary, My Secretary", "Gitarzan", "Party People", "Everything is Beautiful", "Make a Few Memories", "The Dooright Family", "Sir Thanks-a-Lot", "Ruby Falls", "Sunshine", "It's Me Again, Margaret", "Misty", "Nashville", "Gimme a Smile", "The Blue Cyclone", "I Need Your Help, Barry Manilow", "Everybody Needs a Rainbow", "Have a Little Talk with Myself", "America, Communicate with Me", "Workin' for the Japanese", "The Moonlight Special", "Along Came Jones", "Isn't It Lonely Together", "Virgil and the Moonshot", "Melt", "Comeback", "Don't Laugh Now", "The Mississippi Squirrel Revival", "Set the Children Free", "The Ballad of Jake McClusky", "One More Last Chance", "Can He Love You Half as Much as I", "Junkie for You", "Taylor Swift is Stalkin' Me", "Game Show Love", "Mama's in the Sky with Elvis", "Retired", "Marion Michael Morrison", "Shriner's Convention", "Osama Yo' Mama", "Mr. Businessman", "There Must Be a Pill For This", "Feel the Music", "My Dad", "Greatest Little Christmas Ever Wuz", "Blues Love Affair", "Caribou Barbie", "Your Bozo's Back Again", "Hair", "Southern Air", "Oh, Leo Lady", "Cap'n Trade the Pirate", "Sunset Strip", "You're Magic", "This Ain't Exactly What I Had in Mind", "The Deodorant Song", "There Is Something On Your Mind", "Sex Symbols", "Concrete Sailor", "Mama Sang Bass", "Just About Love", "Little By Little", "Tabloid News", "Just for the Hell of It", "This is Your Life", "It's Party Time", "Cooter Brown", "Bubble Gum the Bubble Dancer", "Glory Special", "Country Boy, Country Club Girl", "Never Ending Song of Love", "Lady of Spain", "Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens", "Would Jesus wear a Rolex?", "I'll Be In Atlanta", "Pretend", "Erik the Awful", "The Motel Song", "Mr. Baker the Undertaker", "Mr. President - Mr. President", "Speed Ball", "Sittin' Up with the Dead", "Talking", "Family Funeral Fight", "Come Around", "Pin the Tail on the Donkey", "Barbecue", "The Pirate Song", "If Ten Percent is Good Enough for Jesus", "Cool Down Willard", "Come to the U.S.A.", "Surfin' U.S.S.R.", "Idaho Wine", "Islands", "The Lady on the Radio", "Cornball", "The People's Court", "We The People", "Soap Opera", "Bridget the Midget", "The Last Laugh", "We Don't Take Nothin' Off Nobody", "Blood and Suede", "Obama Budget Plan", "You're Never Goin' To Tampa with Me", "Dream Girl", "Bionie and the Robotics", "God Save Arizona", "I Used to Be Crazy", "Santa Claus is watching You", "Bagpipes, That's My Bag", "The Global Warming Song", "Turn Your Radio On", "Bon Temps Roulette", "I Saw Elvis in a U.F.O.", "If Jesus is a Stranger", "Save Me From Myself", "A Handshake Will Do", "Kiss a Pig"...and so many more!!! 

As fans of Ray Stevens we should all be thankful that he continues to release music and appears in concerts. If you have a copy of his memoir, Ray Stevens' Nashville, you'll learn some things about his frame of mind in the middle part of the 2000s after his "Osama Yo' Mama" single and it's accompanying album ran it's course on the charts in late summer of 2002. His current CD, Here We Go Again!, has yielded 2 on-line video hits: "Taylor Swift is Stalkin' Me" and "You Didn't Build That". The lead-off single received a fair amount of publicity upon it's release on February 24th in music video form, obtaining 436,963 unique views to date, and he performed it several times as a guest on the Grand Ole Opry earlier this year but the second release, a political song, hasn't gotten much publicity outside of it's presence on political-leaning blogs. The official upload on YouTube of "You Didn't Build That", posted at Ray's YouTube channel, has the video currently sitting at 65,277 unique views. It debuted on May 19th...half a year ago. The video totals don't reflect repeated plays by the same visitors. Some visitors to a music video may watch it multiple times on the same day or frequently re-visit the video clip throughout the month or year. All of the repeated plays by the same visitor is still counted as "1 visit". You can read about unique visitors and unique views by doing a Google search. A couple weeks ago Ray appeared as a guest on the Grand Ole Opry and he performed "There Must Be a Pill For This"...this could be the third single from his current CD but so far there hasn't been a music video issued. He may have performed it just to spotlight it but then again it may become a future video clip. If a music video becomes available I'll blog about it, of course! Ray is much more busier promoting his RFD-TV series, Ray Stevens' Nashville, a half hour series that airs Saturday nights at 8:30pm Eastern. The series is less than a month old but the first season's already taped.

The focus and concentration on this program no doubt caused the halt of additional music video releases on YouTube. The Taylor video arrived in February, 3 months later the political video arrived in May, and if the pattern had been kept intact a potential third YouTube video would've debuted in August...but the nature of his career is unpredictable. For you see, just as it appeared a YouTube video from him would surface every 3 months during the 2015 calendar year, it didn't happen exactly as it appeared it might.

From a 1973 LP to a fascinating 2014 memoir...this is Ray Stevens' Nashville...

And from a fascinating 2014 memoir to a ratings success on RFD-TV in 2015...this is Ray Stevens' Nashville...

November 20, 2015

Ray Stevens...Diamonds and Pearls a-Plenty...

Oh yes, 2015 couldn't slip us by without giving some spotlight to one of Ray's hilarious, hysterical comedy recordings from his vast catalog of comedy recordings. The pirate chest is busting over with diamonds, pearls, gold doubloons, necklaces and bracelets, etc. etc. As is the case with so many of Ray's comedy songs this one didn't even see a release in single format. The song sort of became a word of mouth hit over the decades. Ray obviously realized it's impact on his audience because he recorded it a second time in 1991. "The Pirate Song", sub-titled "I Want To Sing and Dance", originated in 1985 on the comedy album I Have Returned. That album hit in the fall of 1985 but it didn't reach it's maximum peak until the spring of 1986...going all the way to the #1 spot on Billboard's Country Albums chart. The album's success, at the time, stemmed from a couple of single releases: "The Haircut Song" and "The Ballad of the Blue Cyclone"; but during the Christmas season the updated "Santa Claus is Watching You" received a special release. The song is track number 10 on the 1985 album. A music video became available, too. The song is an update, both musically and lyrically, of the original recording of "Santa Claus is Watching You" that Ray released as a single in 1962. The original recording had children as it's target audience but in the 1985 update the story shifted from the playful "better behave kids 'cause Santa's watching" idea to a tale of a man that warns his wife that she better be faithful and treat him right because Santa's out there and he's watching. It's one of the most lighthearted approaches to the subjects of adultery, cheating, and unfaithfulness that you'll probably ever here.

"The Pirate Song", as mentioned, didn't have a single release on vinyl but by 1991 it had firmly become established as one of his modern classics. The 1991 re-recording (on the CD titled #1 with a Bullet) is a rushed performance. Once you hear the 1985 original recording and then listen to the 1991 re-recording you'll immediately notice the change in tempo. The song's still funny because the story and his bickering back and fourth as a couple of pirates remains the same. On one side of the pirate deck is a gruff, traditional pirate...yearning for the thrill of attacking any ship that sails their way and making off with the loot. The pirate's name is a parody of traditional pirate names heard throughout history- Long John Blackbeard Peg Leg Patch Eye Hook. On another side of the pirate deck is a much less gruff and none too traditional pirate whose got a penchant for femininity and detests the gross lifestyle of his fellow pirates and the captain. The feminine pirate prefers to eat only the finer things and in his spare time longs to sing and dance instead of attacking, plundering, and killing anybody. So much demand for a music video of "The Pirate Song" throughout the 1990's led Ray and company to put together a music video in 2000. Several other songs from Ray's 1985 comedy album debuted in music video format in a 2000 VHS release called Funniest Video Characters. Ray re-recorded "The Pirate Song" for a second time exclusively for this music video production. In the 2000 re-recording for the music video he returned the song back to his original tempo and delivery. 15 years after the original recording the timing remained perfect and his mimicry of the 2 pirates was as great as before.

Pearl and Diamond represent a "30th anniversary" and so it makes sense to title this blog entry in the manner in which I titled it. The official music video is on YouTube and I've embedded it. Keep your eye on one of the pirate members and see if you recognize him...I'll give a hint...he's one of the legendary figures in country music both in radio and television and later authored a series of best-selling books about his experiences in country music as an interviewer/host. I may have given it away with that last hint.

Fast-forwarding to 2015...Ray's guest appearance on the Opry last Friday is available as a podcast on the Opry's site. Earlier this morning it wasn't available but it's there no. I can't provide an isolated link to the podcast and so once you click the link you'll have to go to the podcast marked 11/13/2015 Friday Night Opry and click the play button underneath the date. Ray appears during the second segment hosted by Mike Snider (following the opening segment hosted by Connie Smith). Ray sings "Such a Night" and then he sings "There Must Be a Pill For This". It's as if he had read my mind...I've been hoping that he'd perform that song in his concerts or at the very least create a music video for it. It's a very funny song.


Ray Stevens Nashville...a Ratings Triumph...

Hello all!! It's been almost a month since my previous blog entry but I've been adjusting to this new job of mine. It's a 10 hour, 4 day a week job at bizarre hours: 2am-12pm. I find myself sleeping most of the rest of the day as a result and only having sufficient internet time on my days off...but yet instead of using the free time to keep the blog page current I find myself sleeping even more...but I decided to at least post a blog entry for the month of November.

As you should all know by now Ray Stevens hosts a weekly television series on RFD-TV called Ray Stevens' Nashville. It debuted on November 7th (my last blog entry in October promoted the upcoming series debut) and this coming Saturday marks the 3rd episode's air-date. There have been several promo articles surrounding the program's debut and at least 3 interviews with Ray giving details about the series. One of those interviews can be listened to by clicking HERE.

The interview originated on November 4th on radio station WYMG in Illinois. The phone connection isn't the sharpest (perhaps that being the reason for the lack of publicity) but it's an engaging interview. I came across it by accident, actually, as I was reading up on some of the latest Tweets about Ray Stevens.

It's conducted by an on-air personality named Liz Willis and she described herself as one of his fans, ever since "Gitarzan", and so the style of the interview is more in the mold of fan-gushing (which is highly understandable!!).

RFD-TV, on November 16th via Twitter, announced that Ray's television series had the highest ratings of any of their other series currently airing. Have you all noticed several of the banners that have popped up on-line pertaining to the series? I posted a banner in my previous blog entry...that one originated from Ray's Facebook page. There are a couple of others you can see if you do an image search. The one I like the best is the image of the Nashville skyline in black, the title of the program in white all-caps lettering, Ray's name in red, and a caricature illustration of Ray's face on a yellow circle (presumably a full moon). You can see that image in all it's glory by clicking HERE.

Last Friday (November 13th) Ray made another guest appearance on the Grand Ole Opry. Why in the world hasn't he become an official member of the Opry by now is anybody's guess. He appeared during the 7:30-8:00pm segment hosted by Mike Snider. The podcast hasn't been posted in the archive section of the radio station's website yet.

Ray's previous guest appearance had come in late September of this year during a segment hosted by Mel Tillis. Earlier still Ray guested on the Opry and around the same time he was the star performer on Larry Gatlin's Opry Country Classics recurring radio series. I'd say in the last 5 years or so Ray Stevens has guest starred at the Opry (either on a Tuesday, Friday, or Saturday) at least 10 times.

In my previous blog post I didn't include a link to the home page at the RFD site because, at the time, Ray's series hadn't debuted and there wasn't a show page available. Since the November 7th debut RFD has posted a page detailing Ray's series and you can view it by clicking the link below...