Kenny Rogers: The First 50 Years

KennyRogers_TheFirst50YearsExcellent 3-CD collection divided into duets, stories and love songs

Time Life’s 3-CD, 45-song set includes most of the hits you’d expect, but presents them in an original order. Rather than dividing Rogers’ career into eras (pre-fame doo wop and jazz groups, New Christy Minstrels, First Edition, solo success), the discs each present a facet of his artistry: duets, stories and love songs. It’s an interesting way to listen to Rogers’ catalog, focusing first on the flexibility with which he partnered with a diverse range of country, pop and soul stars that include Dolly Parton, Sheena Easton, Gladys Knight and Kim Carnes. Disc two demonstrates Rogers’ talent for telling dramatic and humorous stories, bringing characters to life in well-known country and pop hits and lesser-known album tracks like Mickey Newbury’s “San Francisco Mabel Joy.”

Disc 3 looks at Rogers’ way with a love song, which typically found him singing ballads and moving from country to pop. Rogers was particularly successful in this vein in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s with hits that include “She Believes in Me,” “You Decorated My Life” and “Lady,” and also found success with mid-tempo numbers like “Love Will Turn You Around.” Most of Rogers’ biggest hits are here, stretching from the First Edition’s “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town” through his most recent #1, “Buy Me a Rose,” with Alison Krauss and Billy Dean, and his most recent chart entry, “Calling Me,” with Don Henley. There are only a few missing chart-toppers, “Daytime Friends,” “Love or Something Like It,” “Share Your Love With Me” and “Tomb of the Unknown Love.”

If you’re after the hits, you might prefer 42 Ultimate Hits, but if you want to get an overall sense of Rogers’ artistry in a very listenable program, this is an excellent package. Fans will find three new recordings here, one on each disc, including a duet with Dolly Parton, “Tell Me That You Love Me,” that’s good enough to be Rogers’ next hit, a cover of Lionel Richie’s “Goodbye,” and the love song “Loving You is a Natural Thing to Do.” The discs are packaged in a 5.5 x 10-inch cardboard folder that slips inside a sleeve. The 24-page booklet includes photos, excellent notes by Colin Escott, and chart details. This is a good buy for anyone who loves Rogers’ music but hasn’t upgraded their vinyl to CD, and would make a nice gift. [©2009 hyperbolium dot com]

Kenny Rogers’ Home Page
Time Life Records’ Home Page

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