September 26, 1988 12:00 PM

Ray Stevens

One main reason Stevens’ parodies are so often successful is that he is such a talented mimic. At his best, both his arrangements and his style effectively evoke his targets. On Surfin’ U.S.S.R., for instance, he blends just the right harmonies and Beach Boy bounce to William Martin’s tune about Russian sailors who sing, “We got a Soviet sub, she’s a ’79/ She’s got a nuclear reactor and it runs real fine.” On the inspired Cinde Borup-Bruce Innes send-way-up Mama’s in the Sky with Elvis, Stevens mixes hints of Presley tunes in a tale about a lady who’s so entranced by the King’s music that she falls off a high-rise balcony while dancing with her inflatable Elvis doll. On the sublime Blood and Sand, he offers a smattering of Marty Robbins and a bit of spaghetti-Western effect to Martin’s updating of a Western showdown. There’s this country singer who lives in Beverly Hills, “Where a guy and his Porsche/ Can survive a divorce/ But not the drivers they got in L.A.” The confrontation comes when the singer encounters another car: “A black Mercedes barreled toward Gucci’s/ Its driver crazed on a rare cabernet.” Some of this album seems like padding. Stevens’ version of Michael Jackson’s Bad, for example, is a straight, if countrified rendition of the song. (It recalls Stevens’ more successful Misty.) The Booger Man, by Stevens and C.W. Kalb Jr., is another uninspired track without any satirical point. This leaves an ultimate challenge—parodying Stevens—to someone like Weird Al. Meanwhile, there’s easily enough fun on this record to tide us over. (MCA)

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