With Shocktober now behind us, I suppose it’s about time I return to writing about The People’s Albums again. Not that Shocktober had much to do with this long absence, but rather it had to do with this album not being as mildly awesome as I hoped it would be.
Album: Greatest Hits
Artist: Kenny Rogers
Release Date: September 3, 1980
Copies Sold In The U.S.: 12 Million
Why Was This Popular?
Because Sometimes America Likes To Keep It Casual
What exactly is the appeal of Kenny Rogers? As someone who was born in the wrong era and the wrong part of the country to be answering this question, I’m not entirely sure. Though he is after all one of the more successful country singers of all time, even if he might not get the same respect as some of his more badass contemporaries. But perhaps that’s where the appeal of Kenny Rogers lies.
Country singers like your Merle Haggard’s or your Waylon Jennings’ were beloved because they seemed like the kinds of rascals who would fuck you over, time and time again, just to end up calling you a few weeks later to bail them out of jail. But not Kenny. No, Kenny Rogers comes off as far too much of a gentle soul to pull that kind of stuff. And sure, we often like to mythologize the musicians that seem to be living on the edges of excess as well as their own sanity. But there’s still something to be said about guys like Kenny Rogers, who’d probably prefer to just have a nice quiet drink at home before going to bed early.
Did It Deserve To Be Popular?
Let’s just get this out of the way: “The Gambler” is a pretty awesome song. It quite perfectly epitomizes Kenny Rogers’ whole “you outta know better, boy” mentality, and the way it slowly builds and builds is pitch-perfect. So considering this was basically the only Kenny Rogers song I was previously aware of, I was hoping this Greatest Hits would just be an entire album’s worth of “The Gambler”.
Unfortunately, this is only partly true. Songs like “Coward Of The County” and “Lucille” have that same kind of laid-back shuffle, and “Rueben James” has a great outlaw boogie rhythm that runs through it. However, Kenny Rogers’ Greatest Hits is sadly weighed down by the sheer amount of cheese that overflows from ballads such as… well, all of them. All of the ballads on this compilation are so bland and so cheesy, that I kind of had a hard time making it through this album. And they don’t even sound like country ballads, they sound more like Barry Manilow or Air Supply. Who I suppose were also pretty popular artists around the same time, which might explain why Rogers was able to sell a bunch of records outside of his established country audience.
Would I Pay Money For This?
Perhaps if I was in some sort of dire situation where I was given the task of seducing an overweight, middle-aged Kentucky woman. So to set the mood, I’d put ol’ Kenny on the stereo and—
I don’t like where this is going. So I’ll just say no, I would not. Especially when I can just use YouTube to watch this gloriously low-key video for “The Gambler”, which appears as if it was filmed in about twenty minutes.
Next Time On The People’s Albums: I have my breath taken away by Kenny G’s Breathless, because people generally don’t breath any more after succumbing to saxophone-induced suicide.