August 10, 1987 12:00 PM

Ray Stevens

Stevens has made a career of satire-filled tunes, from his 1961 breakthrough, Jeremiah Peabody’s Poly Unsaturated Quick Dissolving Fast Acting Pleasant Tasting Green and Purple Pills, to Ahab the Arab, The Streak and his god-awfully countrified version of Misty. Never has he had better timing though than he did this year when he released Would Jesus Wear a Rolex. It was recorded long before the start of the PTL Follies, but it otherwise is close enough for an “Amen.” Written by Margaret Archer and Chet Atkins, it concerns a TV preacher who makes one wonder how close he is to Christ: “Would He wear a pinky ring?/Would He drive a fancy car?/Would His wife wear furs and diamonds?/Would His dressing room have a star?” The rest of the LP isn’t just filler either. (It certainly didn’t need a laugh track dubbed in; that’s the sort of thing Stevens ought to be making fun of, not using.) On C.W. Kalb Jr.’s Sex Symbols, Stevens sings a duet with himself. In one guise, he’s a Willie Nelsonish good ol’ boy who twangs, “Did you know, Julio/I’m a sex symbol too?” In the other he’s a Julio Iglesias type, who has an uncontrollable vibrato. A Kalb-Stevens collaboration, Gourmet Restaurant, is about crossing over into fancy food and encountering such things as steak tartare: “Friend, I thought I’d seen rare meat/But this wasn’t even hurt real bad./Couple of Band-Aids and that boy’d be out there grazin’.” Add a good-natured put down of Willard Scott (Cool Down Willard) and such standbys as I’m My Own Grandpaw and you have a most amiable, clever but not too cutting LP. (MCA)

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