Kenny Rogers

They Don't Make Them Like They Used To

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Kenny Rogers' They Don't Make Them Like They Used To album's title track does what one critic said of Neil Young's Time Fades Away: remove the word "time" and the album reviews itself -- "Neil Young Fades Away." The Burt Bacharach/Carole Bayer Sager song and production feels forced -- the only track sounding like classic Kenny and kicking in as it fades. With five producers total it may have been a case of too many cooks, the music here a far cry from the string of hits put together by Larry Butler on Liberty Records for the former lead singer of the First Edition. No, they don't make 'em like they used to, but that doesn't mean this is a bad record; in fact, it's a very good album from a country-pop singer trying his hand at the slick adult contemporary associated with Whitney Houston and Celine Dion. Either of those artists could have sang Dave Loggins' "Anything at All," and it may have hit, same with "You're My Love," which features El Debarge on backing vocals. For Rogers it is a wonderful experiment that sounds good but may have been too much of a paramorphism -- there's just not the balance that the Bee Gees struck with Kenny on Eyes That See in the Dark. Not including songwriters, almost four dozen individuals lent their talents to this underrated and pretty much forgotten 1986 album, Jay Graydon picking up where his colleague David Foster and George Martin left off on other RCA releases. The label didn't seem to be the company to keep this artist at the forefront, despite its fine work with his friend Dolly Parton. You'll find Rogers' co-hort Kin Vassy singing backing vocals on "Life Is Good, Love Is Better," Mike Boddicker on the title track, and Steve Lukather on the tune he co-wrote with Randy Goodrum, "If I Could Hold On to Love," but somehow quasi-disco wasn't going to work for an adult contemporary/country artist. Despite Rogers' friend Kim Carnes' success with "Bette Davis Eyes" at the beginning of the decade, Jay Graydon's guitar work with Alice Cooper and proficiency on Earth, Wind & Fire albums are where the producer leans towards here rather than drawing from his skills with artists like Parton. Make no mistake, this is Graydon's baby and it is admirable, from the stunning portrait of the star surrounded by pastels on the cover to the superbly slick presentation. Rogers is a total professional and pulls it off somewhat, but he does feel out of place. A reunion of the First Edition or the New Christy Minstrels may have been more interesting for the mid-'80s. Those voices would be certainly able enough to bring the title track home, the song "They Don't Make Them Like They Used To" the biggest disappointment here as it has so much to offer. It feels like Bacharach and Sager were going through the motions, and that's the pity, as the success of that soundtrack tune might've given the rest of this adult contemporary work a better chance.

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