Eddy Raven was one of those country artists whose success was a long, long time coming. He started his career in the early 1960s, cutting a few singles in his native Louisiana, but not recording a full album until the decade's end. He signed to a major label in the early '70s, but didn't really break through until the '80s, when he had a string of chart-topping hits. Although he has always been a rootsy country singer at heart, Raven has also recorded regional music like cajun and swamp pop. Here's a quick look at his career...
Eddy Raven "I Got Mexico: The RCA Singles A's And B's 1984-1988" (Westside, 2000)
This is an excellent, handsomely programmed set which gathers 21 of Raven's best material taken from the height of the '80s synth-pop crossovers. The thing is, Raven is a darn good country crooner, with a relaxed Southern drawl reminiscent of Gary Stewart, and a remarkable capacity to integrate potentially cheesy production touches (old-school synths and electric keyboards, Parrothead-y marimbas, etc.) in ways that are tasteful and untrendy. Plus his songs, most of which he wrote, are pretty good, and emotionally impactful. Lotsa songs about how hard it is to leave a dying relationship... or even to figure out when "it's over." Raven may come as a big surprise for hard country snobs (like me) who thought all the '80s Top-40 mullets'n'polyester types were hopeless frauds: here's a guy who was a real country singer! This is a fine collection, well worth checking out.
Eddy Raven "The Best Of Eddy Raven" (RCA, 1990)
Eddy Raven "Best Of" (Curb, 1997)
Eddy Raven "Greatest Country Hits" (Curb)
Eddy Raven "That Cajun Country Sound" (La Louisianne, 1969)
Eddy Raven "Bayou Boys" (ABC/Dot, 1972) (LP)
Eddy Raven "Thank God For Kids" (ABC/Dot, 1972) (LP)
Eddy Raven "This Is Eddy Raven" (ABC/Dot, 1975)
Eddy Raven "Eyes" (Dimension, 1980) (LP)
Eddy Raven "Desperate Dreams" (Elektra, 1981) (LP)
Eddy Raven "I Could Use Another You" (RCA, 1984) (LP)
(Produced by Eddy Raven & Paul Worley)
Raven is one of the few artists I'd consider a "real" country artist who actually sounds good, covered in the glossy, synthy style of mid-'80s production. Sure, I'd rather hear him with out all the tinny guitars, smooth synthesizer sounds and sterile, vacuum-packed percussion... But he makes these songs work despite the format. Raven has a bedrock core of soulful, bluesy sincerity, reminding me quite a bit of Gary Stewart, just with a bigger budget and arguably weaker material. This album kicks off with "I Got Mexico," a chart-topper that was one of Raven's biggest hits; the title track and "She's Gonna Win Your Heart" were blander, less-memorable follow-ups, each peaking just inside the Top Ten. But even though there's a lethargic, overproduced feel to much of this album, Raven always manages to sing with conviction and bring the lyrics home, and there are a couple of album tracks on here that are winners, the best of which is "Looking For Ways," one of several Raven originals. Glossy, but worth a spin.
Eddy Raven "Love And Other Hard Times" (RCA, 1985)
Eddy Raven "Right Hand Man" (RCA, 1986)
(Produced by Don Gant, Eddy Raven & Paul Worley)
His last album for RCA... A very glossy, synthy-sounding set of pop-country (with engineering assist by Billy Sherrill...) This '80s-ied-out album feels pretty distant from country's roots, but Raven does have a way of selling these songs -- once you get past the first few songs, including the perky opening track, "Shine, Shine, Shine" (which almost sounds like an old Jackson Five song...) the emotional resonance of some of the ballads starts to come through. Even so, some songs start out well, like "Neon Row," but get overbaked, with ridiculously humongous production and layer after layer of pure, schlocky goo. (Please, somebody -- kill that saxophone!!) I'm actually rooting for Eddy Raven, but like a lot of '80s Nashvillers, sometimes he makes it hard to stick with him. Of course, this yielded several Top Five hits, including "Shine, Shine, Shine," which hit #1. Go figure.
Eddy Raven "The Best Of Eddy Raven" (RCA, 1988) (LP)
Eddy Raven "Temporary Sanity" (Capitol, 1989)
Eddy Raven "Right For The Flight" (Capitol, 1991)
Eddy Raven "Wild Eyed And Crazy" (Intersound, 1994)
Eddy Raven & Jo-El Sonnier "Cookin' Cajun" (K-Tel, 1996)
Eddy Raven "Live At Billy Bob's" (Smith Music Group, 1999)
It's too bad Eddy brought such a big-sounding band to back himself up... It woulda been really cool to hear him in a more stripped-down setting. Anyway, fans will be happy to hear him still in fine form, but I wish this'd had more of an "unplugged" sound to it, and less of a country fair feel to it... Butt-ugly artwork, as is usual for these Billy Bob's records...
Eddy Raven "Living In Black And White" (Row Music, 2000)
(Produced by Ron Chancey)
He's still plugging away, and still way better than you'd imagine... The arrangements are slick, but the album is soulful. You wouldn't think to look at it, but this is a pretty nice record! Fans'd be pleased... but I like it, too. (Hmmm... maybe I am a fan!)
Eddy Raven "Live In Concert" (Row Music, 2002)
Eddy Raven "Knowin' How To Live" (Intersound, 2005)
Hick Music Index