Kenny Rogers has released some tremendous albums, so giving him the opportunity to stretch and explore his music through a concept project like Gideon is something the artist deserved. Unfortunately, it isn't the classic epic it could have been, though there are some fine moments here. Written entirely by Kim Carnes and her husband Dave Ellingson, it's easy to see why a great vocalist like Carnes found her most lasting fame recording the timeless renovation of a Jackie DeShannon country-pop tune rather than as a songwriter. It's that essence of fun on "Bette Davis Eyes" that's missing here, as the album gets bogged down in seriousness. "Going Home to the Rock" is a terrific intro, but the title track is labored, and "No Good Texas Rounder" is forced, like much of this recording. Redemption comes in the form of the Top Five hit from 1980, "Don't Fall in Love With a Dreamer." This was a great moment, not only for Rogers, but for Carnes as a songwriter, as she duets with her friend from the New Christy Minstrels on the hit, garnering her second biggest of ten Top 40 entries, second only to the aforementioned "Bette Davis Eyes." The problem is the songwriting. "Call Me Up (The Phone Is in the Cradle)" has a decent hook but not much in the verses, relying heavily on the superb production from Larry Butler and Rogers, with engineering by the legendary Billy Sherrill. Songwriting should never rely solely on the production; it's like having all frosting and no cake. Ambitious, with a three-page fold-out insert featuring a photo of the cowboy-dressed Rogers and all the lyrics, the pity here is that all the participants had the talent to come up with a country music version of Tommy. They miss the mark, and it just feels like everyone was too comfortable and too self-conscious of the work. Had Rogers combined with Tommy James and re-recorded that pop artist's Nashville album from the 1970s, My Head, My Bed & My Red Guitar, it would have been a special moment. That gem fell under the radar screen, and Rogers' huge popularity could have given that material the chance to be heard. Instead there are OK compositions like "These Chains" and "Somebody Help Me," material that feels like Kim and Dave were sitting around the campfire with their old friend Kenny and trying to imagine what happened a hundred years before. "One Place in the Night" is decent pop, keyboards and production making it feel out of place on this experiment, and one of the better tracks. "Requiem:Going Home to the Rock" is also a nice touch, but face it, singles were the game for Rogers. In just two months he would have a hit from the film Urban Cowboy, and four months after that he would find phenomenal success with a Lionel Richie tune. Gideon served a great purpose during Rogers' heyday, but its promise was unfulfilled.
by Joe Viglione