Ronnie Milsap

Ronnie Milsap

Warner, 1971

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Anyone who grew up in the ’70s and early ’80s who had a regular diet of AOR radio is undoubtedly familiar with the crossover country music of Ronnie Milsap. For a good portion of that time, it was impossible to escape the reach his music had. I remember our family going to some radio station appearance at a car dealership in Niles, and someone—it might have been my mom—won a copy of Milsap’s then-current album Only One Love In My Life. (Yes, I’m eventually going to get to reviewing that one… so much nostalgia to revisit from my life, so little time.)

It might surprise some people, then, if they were to pick up Milsap’s self-titled debut album. If anything, this disc captures Milsap’s musical roots—and they weren’t necessarily country music, though one can still hear tinges of it among the influences. It’s a bit of an eye-opener, but a surprisingly welcome one.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

If one had to describe Milsap at this early stage in his career, I’d have to compare him to Elvis Presley, both in terms of the material he covered and his vocal delivery. Now, that’s not meant to be an insult; it simply means that Milsap wasn’t following any particular musical genre at this point, but was choosing material both close to him and befitting his musical and vocal style. In that regard, he’s extremely successful.

Listening to tracks such as “Sunday Rain,” “Sweet Little Rock And Roller,” his cover of “Crying” and the humorous asides of “The Cat Was A Junkie,” you have to be honest. If you were to put these on as background music at any party, someone would more than likely think you put an Elvis record on. Milsap’s vocal delivery is smooth enough to make such a comparison a compliment, and he is able to take the material—none of which he had a hand in writing—and make it pretty much his own. (The sole exception might be “Crying,” on which he does seem to channel Roy Orbison at times—again, not an insult.)

But anyone pining for Milsap the crossover country artist will likewise find enough to enjoy on Ronnie Milsap. The first version of one of his early hits, “Please Don’t Tell Me How The Story Ends,” might not be a true country song per se, but it has the overall feel that should make some listeners be right at home with it. Likewise, “Blue Skies Of Montana” tells the story of Native Americans pining over the loss of ancestors and their land; while the ending of the song drags on a little too long, it’s still a decent effort.

In fact, Ronnie Milsap overall is a surprisingly solid disc, though it’s been eclipsed by the later-day success Milsap had upon switching to RCA Nashville and narrowing his musical focus a tad. Yes, if you pick this one up expecting early renditions of songs in the vein of “Smoky Mountain Rain,” you’re going to be disappointed. However, if you go into the album with few preconceived notions about either Milsap or his music, you should be in for a real treat.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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