RCA's 20-track, single-disc 1995 collection The Essential Ronnie Milsap doesn't live up to the billing of its title, largely because it bypasses a huge portion of his career -- namely, the '70s. This doesn't dent the number of hits on the collection, since Milsap was one of country's most successful hitmakers of all time, charting toward the top until well into the '90s, but it doesn't necessarily provide the most accurate reading of his career, because many of his best songs -- along with his purest country -- are simply not here, including "Pure Love," "Please Don't Tell Me How the Story Ends," "Daydreams About Night Things," and "Smoky Mountain Rain," among others. To find those, turn to either the double-disc 40 #1 Hits or to the 2001 release RCA Country Legends. This disc concentrates on the poppier material and crossover hits, many of which are excellent, ranking among his best work: It's hard to deny that "He Got You," "Stranger in My House," and "Any Day Now" are not among the best smooth country-pop of the early '80s (or among the best soft rock, for that matter). Essential continues in that vein, pursuing it into the '90s as the productions got clearer and cleaner, but the hits only got a little smaller. For listeners that prefer that era, this is a terrific, even necessary, purchase. For those who want to follow the '70s-oriented RCA Country Legends, this is a good next purchase, although they may just be better off getting the double-disc set for a full-fledged, comprehensive overview.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
feat: Kenny Rogers