Kenny arrived two years after his last eponymous album Kenny Rogers and those were eventful years for Rogers. During that time, he became a major star, largely due to his version of "The Gambler," a song by Don Schlitz that Kenny turned into his own on his 1978 album of the same name (although it has to be said that Rogers' version bears a startling similarity to Bobby Bare's version released that very year). Kenny was the follow-up to The Gambler and it's clear from how the album glistens and shimmers, Kenny was intended to be a consolidation of his crossover success. Actually, it could even be seen as the album where Rogers leaps from his self-created pigeonhole as a country singer -- a distinction that always seemed a bit like a commercial necessity by Kenny, as it was the easiest market for him to conquer in the mid-'70s -- and became a middle of the road pop star, a move aided considerably by this album's lovely smash hit "You Decorated My Life." Apart from the "Gambler"-esque "Coward of the County," there aren't many flat-out country tunes here, and even that tune is a bit cartoonishly country in both its story and arrangement. The rest of the album is heavy on grandiose ballads like "I Want to Make You Smile" and splashy showpieces like "Tulsa Turnaround," which blasts and blares like a Vegas showstopper. That's not the only tune that feels a bit campy: "Santiago Midnight Moonlight" is a breezy beach tune that cribs from Jimmy Buffett and "In and Out of Your Heart" pulsates with a TV-show disco beat, while "Old Folks" -- whose electric piano recalls Billy Joel -- lays on the schmaltz pretty heavily. Of course, the appeal of Kenny is that it is a schmaltzy, shameless album, perhaps the most schmaltzy and shameless of Rogers' career, but what's endearing about it is that he had yet to sink into the formless adult contemporary that turned his albums after Eyes That See in the Dark into snooze-fests, yet he had sharpened and broadened his tastes from his too-soft and sleepy early country albums, making Kenny the almost perfect mid-point between his first pop hits and his complacent latter-day ones.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine