Kenny Rogers has amassed his fair share of hits -- enough, in fact, to fill two CDs with more than three decades of chart history. It all begins with his 1968 breakout as lead singer in the First Edition, "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)," the Mickey Newburypenned tune that is a bit of a send-up of the whole psychedelic era, both in terms of the consciously pseudo-hip lyrics and the Beatlesque touches of backwards guitars. The First Edition, which was soon billed as Kenny Rogers and the First Edition, did go on to make some good records, and this collection gives them ample play: "Reuben James," Mel Tillis's sardonic "Ruby Don't Take Your Love to Town," and the intense stomper "Something's Burning" all have their merits and messages. After launching his solo career, Rogers became one of the top-selling country artists of all time, then branched out into pop before ultimately returning to country again, always successful no matter the style. His meal tickets are strong story-songs, such as the venerable "The Gambler" and "Coward of the County," and poignant love songs on the order of Lionel Richie's "Lady" and the gentle rocker "She Believes In Me." He also scored big with several powerful duets that pair him with Dottie West
(including "All I Need Is You"), Kim Carnes
, Sheena Easton
, Dolly Parton
(the Gibb brothers' fanciful "Islands in the Stream"), Alison Krauss
(the haunting pop-country entreaty, "Buy Me a Rose"), and Ronnie Milsap ("Make No Mistake, She's Mine"). Throughout his career, Kenny Rogers has struck a big chord with the public, and that note continues to resonate on this action-packed collection.