It’s hard to believe that it’s been more than two decades since Ronnie Milsap’s twenty year run of chart-topping success (including 35 #1s) finally faded. He’s continued to record albums and release occasional singles, branching out from mainstream country into standards, gospel, and with his latest release, oldies. Milsap visited his pop music roots before with 1985’s Lost in the Fifties Tonight, and that album’s #1 title song (which played off the Five Satins’ 1956 doo-wop hit “In the Still of the Night”) is reprised here as the album closer. The opening title tune provides another slice of nostalgia with its memories of teenage years, lush harmony vocals and a honking sax solo.
The track list is mostly given to covers of 1950s and 1960s chestnuts, transforming pop ballads, R&B, doo-wop, Motown, Philly soul and country into adult-contemporary productions filled with easy tempos, strings and cooing backing vocals. Lloyd Price’s “Personality” and Bobby Darin’s “Mack the Knife” each get a kick from horn charts, and a funky arrangement of “Mustang Sally” energizes Milsap’s performance. Mandy Barnett shows surprising talent for singing ’70s soul on a duet of “You Make Me Feel Brand New,” and Hank Williams’ “I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still in Love with You)” is stretched into a compelling croon. Milsap doesn’t really challenge the material, but his thoughtful readings connect deeply with songs he obviously loves. [Â©2014 Hyperbolium]