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Country - Released August 30, 1983 | EMI Music Nashville (ERN)

This is a masterpiece of a pop recording from Kenny Rogers. It is clear that Barry Gibb, Maurice Gibb, and co-producers Karl Richardson and Albhy Galuten remembered Rogers' pop roots with the First Edition and, despite the country twang of "Buried Treasure," the slick musicianship and modulation are not your typical country & western. There are four tracks written by Barry and Maurice and five more by Barry, Maurice, and brother Robin Gibb, including the stunning number one hit from September 1983, "Islands in the Stream." It hit number one across the board on adult contemporary, country, and the Top 40, and deservedly so -- the melody is infectious, impeccable, and perfectly recorded. Keep in mind this was five years after they created Frankie Valli's biggest-selling solo record, "Grease" -- the pairing of Dolly Parton with Rogers makes for an amazing vocal sound to carry the melody. "Living With You" features the Bee Gees -- it is Rogers fronting the Bee Gees, and why they didn't seek out more artists, new as well as established, to work their magic on is a pity. It's a lush setting for the country superstar, and as Barbara Streisand and Dionne Warwick enjoyed success thanks to this creative team, Eyes That See in the Dark stands as an important piece of the Rogers catalog and a really timeless recording. The Gatlin Brothers add their magic to "Evening Star" and "Buried Treasure," and these elements bring the Barry Gibb/Richardson/Galuten thousand-tracks production down to earth. "Evening Star" doesn't have the complexities of Samantha Sang's "Emotion," the producers being very careful to keep it simple, something they just weren't doing on all their other records. There are only ten tracks on Eyes That See in the Dark, Jimmie Haskell's strings the major instrument next to Rogers' sympathetic vocal performance. "Midsummer Nights" is co-authored by Barry Gibb and Galuten, making Barry the catalyst and driving force, as he is the only person with a hand in every tune. "Midsummer Nights" brings things back up after "Hold Me," and it is more adult contemporary than country. It would have made a great single but, as it was, the opening track, "This Woman," went Top 25 in early 1984, and by the end of that year Rogers would post his 27th Top 40 hit, ending a string started 16 years earlier in 1968. It isn't clear why they didn't, but the pretty Barry and Maurice Gibb tune "I Will Always Love You" (not to be confused with Parton's hit of the same name) and the title track certainly should have found some chart action as well. Eyes That See in the Dark is not the definitive Kenny Rogers album but, outside of greatest-hits packages, it is absolutely one of his most consistent and one of his best. ~ Joe Viglione

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


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 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 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