Ronnie Milsap has been a professional musician for more than fifty years and a chart-topping genre-hopper for over forty, and his vocal and keyboard chops blend country and R&B with a fluid grace that’s become his own unique signature. Summer Number Seventeen isn’t much of a stretch for his talents, but more a leisurely stroll through the sounds that influenced him at each stage of his career. Bookended by two originals, the set begins with slightly syrupy doo wop and vocal pop and carries through to ’70s-vintage adult contemporary by way of two duets with Mandy Barnett, which showcase each singer’s skill at polite seduction.
Milsap shines brightest on tracks that engage the more raucous side of his personality, with “What Becomes of The Brokenhearted” from the Motown camp, “Mustang Sally”from the Atlantic side, and a take on “Mack the Knife” that rivals Frank Sinatra’s rendition. The point where all of Milsap’s skills converge is the gospel-inflected take on Hank Williams’ “I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still In Love With You).” It encapsulates the spirit of the whole production, owing more to Ray Charles than the version of “Georgia On My Mind” also included.