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The Gambler‘ by Kenny Rogers – Album Rating: 5/5 ★★★★★

This November marks 43 years since the late country legend Kenny Rogers released one of his most iconic albums, ‘The Gambler’. It has since sold more than 35 million copies. In anticipation of its anniversary, we take a quick look at what makes this album one of the all-time greats.

Honey Notes and Timeless Tales

Although it came out in 1978, the messages and artistry that Rogers delivers in this album remain evergreen. From the second track ‘I Wish That I Could Hurt That Way Again’, Rogers flaunts his powerful yet seemingly effortless singing style. Crooning about lost love, a relatively simple instrumental accompaniment lets the pain and melancholy in Rogers’ voice shine through. It’s definitely a bittersweet ballad that deserves its praise.

Another hit single from the album that gets our thumbs-up is the ballad ‘She Believes in Me’. Granted it’s not for everyone. But, the tale of a musician and his supportive wife who he inadvertently overlooks tugs at the heartstrings. It’s one of the album’s more vocal-forward tracks. Also, there is little of Rogers’ signature vocal fry, which does make it stand out. In Rogers’ 2017 farewell concert, Lady Antebellum, who have also headlined at the UK’s Country 2 Country Festivals, faithfully covered the song.

A few other songs on the album like ‘Tennessee Bottle’ and ‘Makin’ Music for Money’ can be polarising tracks. While die-hard fans of the singer will admire them; others may find the tracks a little off-brand for the rest of ‘The Gambler’, given their bluesy flourishes. Regardless, it is enjoyable to hear Rogers pay tribute to his jazz roots.

A Deserved Hall of Famer

Among all the tracks in ‘The Gambler’, the most celebrated is its title track of the same name. Originally written and performed by Don Schiltz, ‘The Gambler’ was given new life—and fame—in Rogers’ resonant voice. In his signature husky timbre, Rogers delivers the story of two men sharing life lessons aboard a train. Peppered with poker terms, the real depth and meaning behind the song’s lyrics are better understood when the listener has a basic understanding of the card game’s lingo. In the most basic rules of poker, holding and folding refer to when a player chooses to stay in the game and when they opt to submit, respectively. In the song, this is used as a metaphor when the older man tells the younger to know what’s worth fighting for and what’s better off being let go of.

This track and its clever analogies made it a chart-topping hit that continues to be lauded today. In 2007, ‘The Gambler’ charted at #22 on the sales charts after the England Rugby Team adopted the song during the World Cup. More recently, ‘The Gambler’ made its way into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2020, as per Deadline’s list of official inductees. Aside from this, ‘The Gambler’ has also spawned a TV series. The television show, which shares the same name, also starred Kenny Rogers. He later shared that this foray into acting saved his career.

Though the great Kenny Rogers passed away last year, there is no doubt that his legacy will live on for generations to come.

Do you agree with this review? Has Kenny Rogers and ‘The Gambler’ played a role in your life? Let us know.

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Emily Harris