The Heart of the Matter

by: Kenny Rogers

By 1985, when The Heart of the Matter was released, Kenny Rogers was making absolutely no pretense about being a country artist, and felt free to indulge his desire to make straight adult contemporary albums, confident that his audience would follow him. This would be the last time a mass audience would turn up for his album, sending it to the top of the country charts even if it never sounded country. Rogers doesn't hide the fact that he's made a pop album with The Heart of the Matter -- after all, he hired the Beatles' producer, George Martin, to helm the affair. Martin gives the album focus, something its haphazard predecessor, What About Me?, lacked, and a nice commercial sheen. It also helps that song for song, this is a much stronger effort than What About Me?; it lacks the skillful songwriting of Eyes That See in the Dark, his best album (in either the pop or country idiom), and the singles aren't nearly as good as those he had at the turn of the '80s, but they are sturdy and consistent, making this a very pleasant listen. But pleasant isn't necessarily memorable, and while the songs aren't bad, they aren't catchy enough to stick around long, and the production is so state of the art circa 1985 (in other words, not sounding like classic George Martin), it will really appeal only to a select group who enjoy recordings that sound dated. So, The Heart of the Matter is far from Kenny Rogers' worst adult contemporary record, nor is it his best -- it's in the middle ground and middle of the road, and it's likely that only dedicated fans will find this worth exploring. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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