Ray Stevens

Osama-Yo' Mama: The Album

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"When September 11th came, we were all horrified, outraged and we all just wanted to do something. Our president said, 'We need to go on with out lives and all of us need to do what we normally do.' I write songs and make records, so that's what I did. It was just my natural response. Maybe my doing what I do will help others focus some of their frustrations or have an appropriate way to laugh in these times when there's not that much to laugh about." -- Ray Stevens, in his liner notes for his February 2002 release, Osama-Yo' Mama.

Or, to put it another way, if Ray Stevens hadn't released an album after the worst attack on the United States in history, then the terrorists would have won. Nevertheless, Stevens didn't lie in his liner notes -- with this record, he does exactly what he's always done, which is to turn everything from the trivial to the profound to either a novelty song or treacly pop. Both are in display here, with most of the copyrights dating from 2000, suggesting that this album wasn't just in the pipeline before the world stopped turning, it was pretty much completed and only three songs were added once we all slowly returned to normalcy -- the 2002 copyright "The Lady on the Radio," a version of "United We Stand," and, of course, the title song. And, of course, if anybody pays any attention to this record, it's because of "Osama-Yo' Mama," which is pretty much exactly what you'd think it would be, but a little bit worse since it crawls along on a sub-"Little Egypt" rip with backing vocals out of the Hollywood Argyles, with no jokes outside of, "Osama, yo Mama didn't raise you right/She must have wrapped your turban too tight." Hardy har har. It's a novelty that's timely in its topic but pretty backward in its approach, sounding as if it came out of the late '50s, which may be why it didn't really take off (unlike Alan Jackson's ubiquitous "Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning" or Charlie Daniels' priceless piece of deliberately offensive redneck rage, "That Ain't No Rag, It's a Flag"). The rest of the album is typical latter-day Stevens -- immaculately produced, bouncy, mid-tempo numbers that are mildly catchy but not memorable, outside of titles like "Hang Up and Drive" and "Freudian Slip," which are about what you think they're about. It's one of those albums that's not good but not bad, either, and nobody would be paying attention if it wasn't for the grab for attention in the title song.

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