Gift Guide: Milsap collection covers three decades, 40 No. 1 hitsWritten by Jay Hathaway | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Sometime between the hard-drinking, hard-living outlaws of country music’s early days and the polished country-pop stars of today, the genre went through an era during which he tried to find its place in the music world.
During this time — primarily the 1970s and 1980s — country singers began to branch out into crossover areas, inspired by other genres such as R&B, rock and pop.
One of the most successful artists of that era was Ronnie Milsap, who boasted no fewer than 40 No. 1 singles, six Grammys and four Country Music Association Album of the Year awards.
For the 2014 holiday season, RCA — the label that released Milsap’s records during his prime — is releasing its complete catalog of Milsap albums in one box set, “The RCA Albums Collection” ($97).
Milsap is a 2014 inductee into the Country Music Hall of Fame, and he was also honored with the career achievement award from the Academy of Country Music this fall. The honors put the icing on the cake of an impressive musical career, most of which is highlighted in this box set.
Milsap was always known for being an early pioneer in crossover country music. Blind since childhood, Milsap looked up to artists like Ray Charles as he mastered the piano and embarked on a music career in the 1960s. His early works were heavily influenced by soul, rock, blues and R&B. A chance meeting with Charley Pride rerouted his career toward country music, where he essentially found his calling.
One can distinctly hear influence early rock and country pioneers such as Jerry Lee Lewis had on his first RCA album, “Where My Heart Is” (1973).
Milsap, who most often performed songs written by others during his early years, penned his own homage to the storytellers of country on “Country Cookin’” from 1975’s “A Legend in My Time.”
In 1977, Milsap released “It Was Almost Like a Song,” which marked his official arrival on the adult contemporary charts and further solidified his role as a crossover artist. The title track was one of two No. 1 hits from the album, and its piano-laden introduction is right at home next to any Linda Ronstadt or Elton John song of that era.
This collection chronicles Milsap’s continued success throughout the 1980s, and it includes his 1986 holiday release, “Christmas with Ronnie Milsap.”
Though Milsap’s chart power dwindled after 1985’s “Lost in the Fifties Tonight,” the collection includes some of his later works, right up through 1991’s “Back to the Grindstone” and his 2006 return to RCA after a 15-year split, “My Life.”
“My Life” featured a single, “Local Girls,” which proved Milsap’s adaptability to changing times. The song bears a distinct resemblance to many of today’s country hits and their typical subjects — beer and girls.
However, fans who remember the transitional years of country music will undoubtedly appreciate this homage to one of its premier acts.
Whether one prefers the heartache of old honky-tonk or the simplicity of pop-country, Milsap’s got it covered in these 21 albums from a span of 33 years.