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“Ghost Riders in The Sky” • Various Artists (review)

“Ghost Riders in The Sky”
Various Artists
Jasmine Records

 

Celebrating its 71st birthday in 2019, “Ghost Riders in the Sky” is a song that nearly everybody knows yet not many can pinpoint exactly when they first heard it.

Was it on an old Country & Western album, on TV, in a movie, or at a mall?

For most of us, the song has existed in one form or another all our lives. It has become an essential piece of Americana over the years and may be more familiar to suburban America – and the world – than anything penned by acknowledged Folk/Country legends such as Hank Williams and Woody Guthrie.

In many ways, it is a song that defines both Country & Western music and our fantasies of the Old West. It has become more than just a song – it has become an anthem of sorts. It may be a slightly menacing cautionary tale yet it has inspired and influenced many generations since it was first released at the tail end of the ‘40s.

Commonly known under the title “Ghost Riders in the Sky,” the song’s official title is “(Ghost) Riders in the Sky: A Cowboy Legend.” It has also been released as “Riders in the Sky,” “(Ghost) Riders in the Sky,” and simply “Ghost Riders.” Written by Stan Jones and recorded by Stan and His Death Valley Rangers back in 1948, the song was quickly covered by Burl Ives and a host of other artists.

“Ghost Riders in the Sky” has been reimagined numerous times over the decades in a myriad of musical styles. From Surf to Swing, Easy Listening to Rock ‘n’ Roll, “Ghost Riders…” is a song that has never loses touch with its Country & Western roots. With the haunting refrain ‘Yippie-Yi-Yay, Yippie-Yi-Yo,’ the song will forever be associated with cowboys. Oh, and red-eyed cows and fire snorting horses but those are far less common these days…

Celebrating the song’s history, Jasmine Records has just released GHOST RIDERS IN THE SKY, a collection devoted entirely to cover versions of the song. While one might think that 30 different versions of the same song is overkill, one spin of this disc will most certainly change your mind.  From the Stan Jones original to inspired covers by Peggy Lee, The Original Surfaris, Eddy Arnold, Bing Crosby, Roger Williams, Dean Martin, Scatman Crothers, Kay Starr, The Ventures, and Frankie Laine (among others), this is a wonderfully eclectic listen from beginning to end. Alongside a few light-hearted nods (Mickey Katz’s “Borscht Riders in the Sky” is a classic novelty spin on the song), you’ll also find artists that chose to reinterpret the song in a unique way to appeal to their audience.

This collection features different Surf interpretations alongside Jazz, Folk, Country, and Rock reworkings of the song as well. Spanning the song’s first 13 years of existence – 1948 to 1962 – GHOST RIDERS IN THE SKY is a wonderfully curated set that brings the song to life once again.

Beware of fire snorting horses!

 

 

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