Mickey Gilley had a long run as a country hitmaker, reaching the top spot twice in 1974 with "I Overlooked an Orchid" and "Room Full of Roses" and then staying in the Top Ten for nearly a decade, logging his last Top Ten country hit in 1986 with "Doo-Wah Days." Raven's comprehensive 2007 compilation Too Good to Stop: Greatest Hits 1974-1985 stops a year earlier than that, but none of the handful of hits he had after 1985 are missed. If anything, this is a perfect example of a compilation that is too generous to its detriment. To be sure, this is as exhaustive a Gilley collection as can be assembled: it has all the big hits, and it paints a portrait of the progression of his career. The problem is, as his popularity grew, his music grew stale. During the first part of his career he pretty much devoted himself to mimicking his cousin Jerry Lee Lewis -- and to his credit, he did it splendidly, capturing the Killer's cadence and energy so well that it never seemed like copying, it seemed as if they were coming from the same place. Which, of course, they were: they shared much of the same background, and he could do honky tonk balladry with the same easy touch as he could rock & roll, and that made his '70s records real treats. As the '70s gave way the '80s and Urban Cowboy mania spread through the land, bringing Gilley's nightclubs huge popularity along with it, Mickey turned toward slick, smooth ballads -- love songs that became indistinguishable in sound and style, yet still topped the charts. These were occasionally interspersed with oldies numbers reminiscent of Ronnie Milsap's "Lost in the Fifties Tonight," but the overall effect was to turn Gilley into something opposite of what he was at the outset: all calculation, no heart. It's possible to hear this all unfold on Too Good to Stop, but anybody wanting to hear Mickey at his peak should turn to Koch's two-fer of his first two albums, or Epic's 1984 double-LP Ten Years of Hits collection, which has a higher concentration of Gilley at his peak.
Overnight Sensation: Country Hits 1974-1984 Review
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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