Ronnie Milsap – The Best of (review)

Ronnie Milsap – The Best of Ronnie Milsap (Craft Recordings)

An excellent, easy to digest overview of one of country music’s biggest crossover stars

Ronnie Milsap is one of the biggest-selling country music artists of all time, scoring an unbelievable 35 #1 hits on the country charts, placing him third all time, behind George Strait and Conway Twitty.  But Milsap’s true gift was his ability to cross over to other charts (something neither Strait or Twitty were particularly good at).  This puts him more in line with similar artists like Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton.  

Craft Recordings has just acquired a big chunk of Milsap’s catalog from the late 70’s to the early 90’s and intend on giving this legendary artist the proper reissue treatment.  While there have been a plethora of albums that have tried to compile his long career, The Best of is a mere dozen songs – concentrating on his crossover pop chart successes of the late Seventies and Early Eighties, arguably his most important period.  

The set opens with the lush “Smoky Mountain Rain,” which is a brilliant mix of country and pop – just listen to the way the strings enhance the song.  “(There’s) No Gettin’ Over Me,” with its slinky guitar and mellow delivery, hide the darker lyrics of a scorned lover – it became his biggest Pop hit (#5).  His excellent cover of Chuck Jackson’s “Any Day Now” yielded Milsap a crossover, Top 20 hit as well.  

“Lost in the Fifties Tonight (In the Still of the Night)” is another clever reworking of an old standard, borrowing the chorus of the classic song, but making something nostalgic, yet fresh, in the process.  “Don’t You Know How Much I Love You” is pure, bouncy pop, yet it wasn’t as big a hit.  Milsap had a knack for tooling things for a larger audience – just listen to the drums that pound on “He Got You” for proof.

“Stranger in My House” is a definite stand out – led by a pounding Rhodes piano and featuring a riff reminiscent of “Layla,” it stretched the boundaries of what was considered “country” at the time (and was actually banned on certain stations for sounding “too much like Led Zeppelin”). It does feature a fantastic guitar solo by Bruce Dees. 

While there have been more complete compilations of Ronnie Milsap’s music, Craft Recordings’ lean Best of is guaranteed to keep your attention, and offers a great introduction to more great reissues, hopefully coming soon. Tony Peters