Kenny Rogers: 21 Number Ones' is back-to-back chart-topping hits that include his greatest duets, 'Islands In The Stream' with Dolly Parton, which this year was named Country's Greatest Duet by CMT, 'We've Got Tonight' with Sheena Easton, 'Every Time Two Fools Collide', 'What Are We Doing In Love', 'All I Ever Need Is You' as well as 'Lady' and many more. Capitol. 2006.
The gravel-and-grits voice of Kenny Rogers ultimately came to define the "Urban Cowboy" era of pop excess, even as the earlier "Lucille" and "The Gambler" were some of the most galvanizing story songs in country music's history. Looking back at this body of hits, it's easy to poke fun at the treacley "You Decorated My Life" or wince at the cheesy string arrangements on "Through the Years." It's also natural to wish Rogers had never heard of Sheena Easton, his misguided duet partner on "We've Got Tonight," and recorded more with the soulful, sad Dottie West ("Every Time Two Fools Collide") and the randy Dolly Parton ("Islands in the Stream"). (A bonus track, "Don't Fall in Love with a Dreamer," pairs him with old pal Kim Carnes.) As the years went by, Rogers got fatter, lazier, and more content to make crappy TV movies and wallow in the flaccid sentimentality of adult contemporary pop ("Buy Me a Rose"). He also got smug--the worst of sins for a man in his business. But behind the microphone, he always knew how to make even the hoariest of lyrics resonate with feeling. And at his peak, he was the perfect male country superstar, equal parts swagger and sweet, sweet promise. --Alanna Nash