Kenny Rogers – The Gambler

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Released: December 1978

When I think of Kenny Rogers, I think of a storyteller. He wasn’t known for being a songwriter, and a 2020 Billboard article quotes him as saying, “Most (of the story songs that writers sent me) were stupid and not well-written, but boy, when you found a good one, it made it all worthwhile.”

There are some good ones here. The title song is superb and “The King of Oak Street” is a lovely reflection on the pedestals we create and from which we inevitability fall. There are a few outlaw songs (for those of us who like our outlaws to own chicken joints; I’m looking at you, Gus Fring) and a few stories that let you color in the details as you see fit.

There are also a few stupid songs on the album. “Making Music for Money” is laughably bad and “The Hoodooin’ of Miss Fannie Deberry” sounds like Kenny interpreting Hot Buttered Soul.

My biggest surprise is discovering that “She Believes in Me” is essentially the same song as “Beth.” It’s a good story song and Kenny’s protagonist shows more love and empathy than Peter Criss, but it’s ultimately a celebration of temptation and thin apologies. Perhaps living in LA during the hair metal years made it impossible for me to love a song about musicians neglecting their partners.

Temptation is a theme on The Gambler: the temptation of cheating on your wife, the temptation of the old guitar, the temptation of holding onto your cards. It’s a theme that makes the album worth hearing once or twice, but know when to walk away.

About Chuck

Chuck is a lifelong music lover. He spent his 20s working as a professional musician before discovering he enjoys listening to music more than playing it. He knows a little bit about most genres, though electronic dance music, rock, and hip-hop are his favorites. Eleven albums/shows that transformed how he sees and hears the world (in order he encountered them): Fleetwood Mac Rumours; Van Halen Fair Warning; The Cure Standing on a Beach; John Coltrane Crescent; De La Soul Three Feet High and Rising; Puccini La Boheme (de los Angeles, Bjorling, Beecham); Everything but the Girl Walking Wounded; Carl Cox, Twilo, NYC, May 2000; Godspeed You! Black Emperor Yanqui U.X.O.; Grateful Dead. Fillmore East, NYC, April 1971; Taylor Swift 1989.

3 thoughts on “Kenny Rogers – The Gambler

  1. bobvinyl

    There is no song on the world that I want to check out more than “The Hoodooin’ of Miss Fannie Deberry” right now. I hate Isaac Hayes, but the thought of Kenny Rogers as Isaac Hayes may make my evening.

    Reply

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