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Ronnie Milsap owed his success to slick productions, love songs and a faultless singing voices. His effortless delivery won him favour during most of the 1970s and 1980s. It is most fitting that this four-LP (1981-1984) set squeezed onto 2 cds opens with his tribute to a man who possessed the finest and smoothest set of pipes to represent country music, Gentleman Jim Reeves. No one, just no one apart from a few songs from Milsap and of a more diverse nature, Vince Gill have come close to matching the man with the velvet tones.
With four string interludes, and one piece featuring guitar and Dobro the 12-song set has stood the test of time better than anticipated. Plus the fact there’s some tasty pedal steel (Hal Rugg, John Hughey) and piano (Hargus ‘Pig’ Robbins, Milsap) in the mix doesn’t harm it none. As for the songs, Milsap pulls out all the stops on “I’m Getting Better”, it sounds and feels like the song was written for him. The title-track “Out Where The Bright Lights Are Glowing” is one of two songs added to songs from the Jim Reeves’ songbook, “I Won’t Forget You” is the other. “When Two Worlds Collide” likewise has the feeling that it was made for him. Milsap was most certainly in his element recording this album. Buoyed by his success of many hit singles and CMA Awards, his other three albums likewise enjoyed success as country music was going through a big cross-over period. The Country Traditionalist era was yet to take place, his music combined country, pop and slices of soul to give him a good living.
His music was slow, a little laboured as the slickness goes one-step too far for traditional country music fans, but as noted it reflected the times. As you had the likes of Barbara Mandrell, Lee Greenwood, Mark Gray and Earl Thomas Conley among other slick performers enjoy country single success. Going back to Out Where The Bright Lights Are Glowing Milsap does a solid version of “He’ll Have To Go” (although my favourite has to be that of Ry Cooder!). There’s No Getting’ Over Me contains the jaunty title-track "(There’s) No Getting’ Over Me” to go with a like-minded up beat “Jesus Is Your Ticket To Heaven”. Joined by a nicely shaped heavenly choir the latter sets a good benchmark. On partnered with smooth, warm and friendly pop country song “I Wouldn’t Have Missed It For The World” and delicate love ballads “It’s Written All Over Your Face” and “Happens Every Time (I Think Of You)”, and a steel guitar warmed lazy paced “I Live My Whole Life At Night” he performs music steeped in big productions, and pop leaning. A fashion his followers admired most.
After closing the first disc with the hit “Stranger In My House” (from Keyed Up) the second CD continues with a series of outstanding performances. Ranging from “Don’t Your Mem’ry Ever Sleep At Night” to fun number “I’m Just A Redneck At Heart”. This as he performs something most different for him, and though it does sound more like something Hank Williams Jr would have been more comfortable with lyrically, it is never-the-less a pleasing diversion. Big ballad “Like Children I Have Known” is a clever song (Daduario, Pfrimmer), and one Milsap performs immaculately. His sensitive handling is a demonstration that given the material, he could deliver a powerful ballad. Albeit, a little more feeling wouldn’t have come amiss, and though my remark might sound a little random John O’Regan’s liner notes point out that in Milsap’s autobiography he states, ‘I’m a singer, not a vocal stylist. My breathing is correct; my enunciation is precise. Because of that I can sing anybody’s music. I can sing whatever the times, and the trends demand.’ Who am I to ague. However, the fact remains, he didn’t allow himself to become lost in the lyrics, and live the scenario. Something that undoubtedly lost him a bunch of country fans.
One More Try For Love follows the theme, lots of production and a selection of mellow love songs performed in the style he was known for Milsap’s offers another effortless set of work. Nothing exceptional, but it was the 1980s and gentle pop was in vogue, just perfect for his songs. “She Loves My Car” has him up the tempo, and it works well, and it has in “Prisoner Of The Highway” a worthy compatriot as a feel of both motion and evening time is prompted. He closes the record with a smooth duet with the rarely heard, Lisa Silver. If nothing else it brings another voice to the record, though musically nothing changed even though a little sax is utilised to go with his piano. Interesting to a point, but not to the degree I wished they had made an album together.
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