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Ronnie Milsap

40 #1 Hits – 2000 (Virgin)

Reviewed by Robert Loy

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CDs by Ronnie Milsap

Like just about every other artist who had a hit before 1990, Ronnie Milsap has been rejected by radio and banished to Branson. It's an especially unjust sentence in Milsap's case because he was more than country's token blind guy, more than just a better piano player than anybody, even Jerry Lee Lewis. Milsap gave country music something it desperately needed in 1974 when "Pure Love" climbed to the top of the charts, and something it needs even more in today's white bread environment a touch of blue-eyed soul. (Most people don't know that before he moved to Nashville, Milsap had a top five hit "Never Had it so Good" on Billboard's soul chart.)

That soul is evident in all of Milsap's work, whether he's exploring the joys of monogamy ("Only One Love in My Life"), reveling in nostalgia ("Lost in the Fifties Tonight") or making heartbreak sound more beautiful and desirable than anybody other than Roy Orbison ("Almost Like a Song.") This two-CD set showcases all 40 #1 hits (second only to Conway Twitty) and one song "Stranger in My House" that was a little too ahead of its time to hit the top. It also contains a 16-page booklet where Milsap gives background and history of each song, so you can learn which of his songs was briefly banned on radio and just what Olivia Newton John had to do with the writing of "Daydreams About Night Things."

On the two new tracks, Milsap does what he does best, merges rhythmand blues and country on "Livin' on Love" and takes a song written by another artist (Sherrie Austin's "Time , Love and Money") and makes it his own. Both tunes are worthy of inclusion on this album, and that is high praise indeed. Listen to any of the songs on either of these CDs and you'll see why there ain't no getting over Ronnie Milsap.