Kenny Rogers had yet to complete his soft-rock-to-country metamorphosis in 1978, but that would change forever by November with the release of The Gambler, propelled by a Grammy-winning title cut that

Kenny Rogers had yet to complete his soft-rock-to-country metamorphosis in 1978, but that would change forever by November with the release of The Gambler, propelled by a Grammy-winning title cut that topped both the country and pop singles charts. Outside of that fatalistic single, which Rogers nails with world-weary perfection and one of the most savvy interpretive instincts in the business, the album is fairly uneven. On the plus side, lush strings and a blockbuster Rogers vocal totally sell the set's other standard and crossover success, "She Believes in Me," which remains one of Rogers' best-ever studio performances. Much less effective is a strange echo effect that permeates "I Wish That I Could Hurt That Way Again" and the misguided, disco-inflected Tony Joe White ripoff "The Hoodooin' of Miss Fannie Deberry." In total, The Gambler is a milestone if for no other reason than it produced a brace of career songs for a country icon.—RW

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