The tracks bookending Ronnie Milsap’s new album Summer Number Seventeen sum up its concept.
Coming-of-age titletrack/first single “Summer Number Seventeen” leads the way.
“You look back at your life, at your 'Summer Number Seventeen,' and tell me what it means--and it means something good,” Milsap suggests.
“It’s by a new writer here in town, Sam Hunter,” he continues. “He wrote it and said, ‘I want you to hear it,’ and played it for me, and I said, ‘God, I can sing this--and I like it! It’s a song that’s really made for me.’ So we put it together with some background vocals, and ooh-ooh, aah-aah, ting, tang, wallawalla bingbang, we got a hit!”
Summer Number Seventeen ends with a remake of his 1985 country chart-topper “Lost in the Fifties Tonight (In The Still of the Night)”—which also provided the album’s template.
“I was thinking of all the songs that were popular back when I was 17, and ‘Lost in the Fifties Tonight’ obviously fits in that mold,” says Milsap, said mold also including period hits that he covers on the album, such as Lloyd Price’s 1959 hit “Personality” and Bobby Darin’s “Mack The Knife” from the same year—when Milsap was in fact 17.
“The producers [Summer Number Seventeen was co-produced by Rob Galbraith and Richard Landis] said, ‘Damn! You sing that song really well,’ and that was good to hear! A playback is worth a trillion words: You get in there with your favorite microphone and the other audio stuff that you love to sing through, and it comes back right and everybody goes, ‘Man, that’s it!’--that’s what you’re looking for, that pat on the back. That’s the only thing I really ever need."
"I’d venture to say it’s worth even more than the royalty check, but of course I won’t say that!” Milsap adds.
He also turns to Ray Charles with “Georgia on My Mind,” included on Summer Number Seventeen as something of a turnabout: Charles had a big hit with the Ashford-Simpson-Armstead penned “Let’s Go Get Stoned,” originally the B-side of Milsap’s 1965 R&B hit “Never Had It So Good,” which was also written by Nick Ashford, Valerie Simpson and Joshie Jo Armstead.
“Ray said, ‘I love that record you got out, but the B-side I like so much I’m going to cut it myself!’” Milsap recalls. “I wanted to flip the record and have another hit with it, but his version was extraordinary.”
Summer Number Seventeen includes two duets with celebrated Nashville songstress Mandy Barnett—a cover of The Stylistics’ classic “You Make Me Feel Brand New” and a new song, “Make Up.”
“She’s the best voice out of Nashville,” says Milsap, likening his duets with Barnett to his “Love Certified” pairing with Patti LaBelle on his 1991 album Back to the Grindstone. “We blend so well, it’s like we’re the new 'Conway & Loretta.' Let’s go on tour!”
Speaking of which, Milsap will embark later this month on his 40/40 Vision Tour, commemorating his 40 chart-topping hits over 40 years--while supporting the release of Summer Number Seventeen.
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