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Country - Released December 2, 1983 | EMI Music Nashville (ERN)

When Kenny Rogers paired up with Scottish pop songstress Sheena Easton for "We've Got Tonight," the hit title track from this 1983 album, one could quibble about Easton's occasionally overwrought and bombastic performance, but there are a few moments of truly sublime vocal interplay. The album provides a little of Rogers' trademark storytelling with "Scarlet," and quite a bit of soaring balladry as heard on "All My Life," both of which were hits. You will be forgiven for thinking the album sounds a bit like Lionel Richie in places, since Richie contributes the song "How Long." Rogers ends the album with "You Are So Beautiful," a loving tribute to his legions of female fans, but male listeners may want to cut out early. ~ Greg Adams

Country - Released October 23, 1977 | EMI Music Nashville (ERN)


Country - Released January 1, 2012 | Capitol Nashville

If Eyes That See in the Dark represented a high watermark for Kenny Rogers, getting everything about a pop crossover right, its 1984 sequel, What About Me?, pretty much gets everything wrong. First of all, losing the writing talents of the Brothers Gibb is a major blow, since they not only gave Kenny indelible singles with "Islands in the Stream" and "Buried Treasure," they gave him a strong, consistent set of songs. This, released just a year later, is a return to singles 'n' filler, which is not unheard of in either country-pop or in Rogers' catalog, and sometimes it can even make for an enjoyable listen, provided that the singles are strong enough and that the overall sound of the record is appealing. Neither is the case here. The singles are not memorable -- the closest is the title track, featuring not just Kim Carnes but James Ingram in a song that doesn't quite make sense as a duet, let alone a trio -- and the production, which abandons any pretense at country, is too calculatingly adult contemporary; instead of having a nice, soothing, synth-heavy feel like Eyes That See in the Dark, this sounds cold and clean, typifying the worst in mid-'80s adult contemporary. And make no mistake, this is not a country album at all -- it may have charted on the country charts, but that was due to career momentum, because this is an adult contemporary album, and a bad one at that. It's a depressing comedown after the splendid Eyes That See in the Dark. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Country - Released March 13, 2015 | ZYX Music


Country - Released January 29, 2013 | Intersound


Pop - Released November 2, 2018 | Madacy Special Products


Country - Released July 22, 2008 | eOne Music

Despite his best efforts, Kenny Rogers spent almost all of the '90s hitless. Toward the end of the decade, he formed his own label, Dreamcatcher, and began to spend more time constructing his albums, starting with the adult contemporary Across My Heart. Its follow-up, She Rides Wild Horses, continues in the same direction, albeit with a slightly stronger country influence than before. There aren't any of the All-4-One cameos that cluttered Across My Heart, and the song selection, while still a bit uneven, is stronger -- enough to give the impression that She Rides Wild Horses is some sort of a comeback. And in a way, it is. It's been a while since Rogers has delivered an album with as many appealing songs as he does here -- "The Kind of Fool Love Makes," "Love Don't Live Here Anymore," "Let It Be Me," "The Greatest," the title song -- and the sound of the record is smoothly pleasurable, even if it can get a little bland. That doesn't mean it will be a hit -- after all, this is basically a return to his hitmaking sound of the early '80s -- but for fans awaiting an album that harks back to his classic period, this will be welcome. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Country - Released May 13, 1978 | Capitol Nashville


Country - Released January 1, 1992 | Geffen*


Country - Released November 2, 2018 | Suite 102


Country - Released January 1, 1979 | Capitol Nashville

Kenny arrived two years after his last eponymous album Kenny Rogers and those were eventful years for Rogers. During that time, he became a major star, largely due to his version of "The Gambler," a song by Don Schlitz that Kenny turned into his own on his 1978 album of the same name (although it has to be said that Rogers' version bears a startling similarity to Bobby Bare's version released that very year). Kenny was the follow-up to The Gambler and it's clear from how the album glistens and shimmers, Kenny was intended to be a consolidation of his crossover success. Actually, it could even be seen as the album where Rogers leaps from his self-created pigeonhole as a country singer -- a distinction that always seemed a bit like a commercial necessity by Kenny, as it was the easiest market for him to conquer in the mid-'70s -- and became a middle of the road pop star, a move aided considerably by this album's lovely smash hit "You Decorated My Life." Apart from the "Gambler"-esque "Coward of the County," there aren't many flat-out country tunes here, and even that tune is a bit cartoonishly country in both its story and arrangement. The rest of the album is heavy on grandiose ballads like "I Want to Make You Smile" and splashy showpieces like "Tulsa Turnaround," which blasts and blares like a Vegas showstopper. That's not the only tune that feels a bit campy: "Santiago Midnight Moonlight" is a breezy beach tune that cribs from Jimmy Buffett and "In and Out of Your Heart" pulsates with a TV-show disco beat, while "Old Folks" -- whose electric piano recalls Billy Joel -- lays on the schmaltz pretty heavily. Of course, the appeal of Kenny is that it is a schmaltzy, shameless album, perhaps the most schmaltzy and shameless of Rogers' career, but what's endearing about it is that he had yet to sink into the formless adult contemporary that turned his albums after Eyes That See in the Dark into snooze-fests, yet he had sharpened and broadened his tastes from his too-soft and sleepy early country albums, making Kenny the almost perfect mid-point between his first pop hits and his complacent latter-day ones. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Pop - Released June 26, 2015 | Chrome & Nickel


Country - Released March 20, 1980 | EMI Music Nashville (ERN)

Kenny Rogers has released some tremendous albums, so giving him the opportunity to stretch and explore his music through a concept project like Gideon is something the artist deserved. Unfortunately, it isn't the classic epic it could have been, though there are some fine moments here. Written entirely by Kim Carnes and her husband Dave Ellingson, it's easy to see why a great vocalist like Carnes found her most lasting fame recording the timeless renovation of a Jackie DeShannon country-pop tune rather than as a songwriter. It's that essence of fun on "Bette Davis Eyes" that's missing here, as the album gets bogged down in seriousness. "Going Home to the Rock" is a terrific intro, but the title track is labored, and "No Good Texas Rounder" is forced, like much of this recording. Redemption comes in the form of the Top Five hit from 1980, "Don't Fall in Love With a Dreamer." This was a great moment, not only for Rogers, but for Carnes as a songwriter, as she duets with her friend from the New Christy Minstrels on the hit, garnering her second biggest of ten Top 40 entries, second only to the aforementioned "Bette Davis Eyes." The problem is the songwriting. "Call Me Up (The Phone Is in the Cradle)" has a decent hook but not much in the verses, relying heavily on the superb production from Larry Butler and Rogers, with engineering by the legendary Billy Sherrill. Songwriting should never rely solely on the production; it's like having all frosting and no cake. Ambitious, with a three-page fold-out insert featuring a photo of the cowboy-dressed Rogers and all the lyrics, the pity here is that all the participants had the talent to come up with a country music version of Tommy. They miss the mark, and it just feels like everyone was too comfortable and too self-conscious of the work. Had Rogers combined with Tommy James and re-recorded that pop artist's Nashville album from the 1970s, My Head, My Bed & My Red Guitar, it would have been a special moment. That gem fell under the radar screen, and Rogers' huge popularity could have given that material the chance to be heard. Instead there are OK compositions like "These Chains" and "Somebody Help Me," material that feels like Kim and Dave were sitting around the campfire with their old friend Kenny and trying to imagine what happened a hundred years before. "One Place in the Night" is decent pop, keyboards and production making it feel out of place on this experiment, and one of the better tracks. "Requiem:Going Home to the Rock" is also a nice touch, but face it, singles were the game for Rogers. In just two months he would have a hit from the film Urban Cowboy, and four months after that he would find phenomenal success with a Lionel Richie tune. Gideon served a great purpose during Rogers' heyday, but its promise was unfulfilled. ~ Joe Viglione

Pop - Released August 25, 1989 | Warner Records - Nashville

A reissue from 1989, produced by Jim Ed Norman, featuring Rogers and ensemble performing a selection of standards, along with the Dolly Parton-composed title track. It's sequenced in such a way that you can simply pop the album into the player and leave it on auto-repeat (though at that length it'll quickly drive you batty.) Rogers' homey voice fits well with the songs and the arrangements avoid being too syrupy, though they're a bit uninspired at times -- "Winter Wonderland" is rendered down to a clockwork sound, for example. Short, unfortunately, but not horrible. ~ Steven McDonald

Pop - Released November 16, 2018 | Suite 102


Ambient/New Age - Released January 1, 1981 | CMCapNash (N91)


Country - Released September 3, 1976 | EMI Music Nashville (ERN)

"Laura (What's He Got That I Ain't Got)" and "I Wasn't Man Enough" start off this 1976 self-titled album from the star of the First Edition gone solo. As chronicled in his book, Making It With Music, Rogers figured out how to capitalize on his many years in the recording industry, and these vignettes helped bring country-style story songs to the mainstream Top 40 and adult contemporary radio. While country fans might have had an issue with Aussie lass Olivia Newton-John infiltrating their world back in the day, Rogers' tenure in New Christy Minstrels certainly gave him credibility, as did the earthiness of these performances. Songs like "Mother Country Music" and "While I Play the Fiddle" have an authenticity no alleged carpetbagger could bring to the format. "Why Don't We Go Somewhere and Love" lifts note for note the intro to Harriet Schock's "Ain't No Way to Treat a Lady," the big number one adult contemporary hit for Helen Reddy from the year before. While letting the melody veer off, the songwriters keep the flavor of the Schock masterpiece intact, and it's a good study in songwriters rewriting in a style they admire while giving a tip of the hat (or the hand) in the process. Tom Jones' 1967 hit "The Green Green Grass of Home" gets a more-mellow reading with a less-sweeping arrangement. The formula stretches Count Basie singer O.C. Smith's first hit, "The Son of Hickory Holler's Tramp," almost beyond recognition. Rogers' voice is at the peak of its powers, stronger than before and on par with the superb musicianship behind him. "Till I Get It Right," with its lush strings, becomes almost a theme song for the ups and downs of his previous musical endeavors. All this leads up to "Lucille," that breakthrough hit six and a half years after he charted seven popular songs with his group First Edition. "Lucille" has all the elements of greatness -- a potential one-night stand evaporates and the singer trades sex for heart, becoming a hero in the process. The premise and its hook are unforgettable; simple music dresses up the melody and story by not getting in the way. "Son of Hickory Holler's Tramp" is the reverse of "Lucille," the guy leaving the girl with 14 kids rather than the girl leaving the guy with four. Interesting song order, smart enough to cross genres and open the door to Rogers' impending superstardom. "Lay Down Beside Me," "Puttin' in Overtime at Home," and "While I Play the Fiddle" may not have the genius of "Lucille," but they are consistent with stellar arrangements and can't be called filler. Kenny Rogers worked hard for all he achieved as an entertainer and this album provides any proof that might be needed to silence the skeptics. ~ Joe Viglione

Country - Released September 20, 1979 | EMI Music Nashville (ERN)


Miscellaneous - Released January 1, 1970 | Elite Special


Country - Released January 1, 2006 | Capitol Nashville

If there was ever a record that sounded like a swan song, Kenny Rogers' fine, vulnerable Water & Bridges is it. The cover is a bit startling; who thought he'd ever age? He always looked like he was somewhere in his middle to late fifties. But that look is traceable if you look deep enough, while Rogers seems to wear his age proudly, like Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson. The disc sounds like a goodbye to all the illusions, regrettable mistakes, and foolhardiness brought by living into the wisdom brought by the golden years. Rogers' career has seen so many heights, it's dizzying to think about. And he's still hanging out on Capitol while many of his contemporaries are struggling on independent labels, if they're recording at all. Water & Bridges isn't a perfect record, but it's a sincere one, and there are many tracks here that no other singer could pull off. And to be truthful, as in his very best material, Rogers has this uncanny ability to make everything on this record sound like it came from his own pen. It's a melancholy record about passage, from one stage to the next, of life, of love, of youth, of ignorance, of spirit. The 11 tracks here are all slow, all reflective. It's that particular brand of slick, soft, modern country and pop that he does better than anyone. There is one true dud in the bunch called "The Last Ten Years (Superman)," which is merely a novelty song about all the famous ones who passed on in the last decade. But there are so many tracks here where one can hear the spirit of mortality railing against the dying of the light. There is the title cut, which opens the disc and charts generations of fathers hurting their sons both born and unborn, where the protagonist finds himself as guilty as anybody he's charged; "Someone Is Me," about taking on civic responsibility; the killer "Someone Somewhere Tonight," which finds magic in the mere presence of everyday life. Don Henley joins Rogers on "Calling Me." It's a white man's country-soul tune that sounds too much like Curtis Mayfield's classic "People Get Ready." (Litigants get ready, set, go!) The vocal performances are stellar. "I Can Feel You Drifting" is a fine pop song, and it's a true heartbreaker. In the now thinning grain of Rogers' awesome voice, all the emptiness and sorrow and confusion in the world comes to call. Water & Bridges is as good as anything out there in 2006 and a whole lot better than most of the dross Nash Vegas shovels out. Hopefully Rogers scores big one more time. ~ Thom Jurek