My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Album Review: Kenny Rogers – ‘We’ve Got Tonight’

1983’s We’ve Got Tonight was Kenny Rogers’ final album for Liberty before moving on to RCA. By this stage of the game, his priority was maintaining his position on the adult contemporary and pop charts; he and his producers having long since figured out that country radio would stick with him regardless of what kind of music he released. That approach is apparent in both the choice of material and the choice of a duet partner to perform the album’s title cut. Instead of partnering again with Dottie West or another well-known country artist, Kenny was matched up with Scottish pop singer Sheena Easton. At the time Easton was signed to Liberty’s parent company EMI. She was best known to American audiences for her hit “9 to 5 (Morning Train)” which had topped the Hot 100 three years earlier. Since then, her chart success had been inconsistent, and pairing her up with Rogers may have been EMI’s attempt to increase her visibility in the US market.

If so, the strategy proved successful. Despite a complete lack of country instrumentation, “We’ve Got Tonight” quickly rose to #1 on the Billboard country charts (Easton’s only entry on that chart) and landed at #2 on the adult contemporary chart. It also reached #6 on the Hot 100, outdoing its composer Bob Seger’s original version, which had reached #13 five years earlier. Although not country, this ballad about a lonely couple seeking to justify and rationalize a one-night stand is a very good song and Rogers’ and Easton’s voices blend well together. One suspects that they might have teamed up again for future projects had Rogers remained with an EMI label.

“We’ve Got Tonight” was followed by another AC ballad “All My Life” another song that I liked though it is not even remotely country. Country radio balked a bit at two AC-leaning ballads in a row; “All My Life” topped out at #13 on the country charts, marking the first time Rogers failed to make the country top 10 since his pre-“Lucille” days. The song performed better on the adult contemporary charts, where it reached #2. It got to #37 on the Hot 100; I’d venture to say that today this is one of Rogers’ least-remembered songs.

It was relatively unusual in those days for a Kenny Rogers album to produce more than two singles, but Liberty sent a third track from this collection to radio. “Scarlet Fever” was perhaps a response to “All My Life’s” lack of success on the country charts. My favorite song on the album, it is one of the albums few nods to country music and marks a return of sorts to story songs like “Lucille”, “The Gambler” and “Coward of the County”. It tells the story of a middle-aged man who is infatuated with a much younger exotic dancer that he sees at a gentleman’s nightclub. It charted at #5 country but saw no action on the AC charts.

The upbeat rock-tinged “Farther I Go” was probably country enough by 1983 standards to have had a reasonable shot at country radio. The only other cut with any country appeal is “What I Learned From Loving You”; Lynn Anderson had a competing version on the charts at the time. Her rendition reached #18 and was something of a comeback hit for her. Randy Goodrum’s “No Dreams” is a very nice ballad that was probably too pop for country radio but could have been a bit hit on the AC charts.

The album closes with a “You Are So Beautiful”, a nice ballad that had previously been rendered unlistenable by Joe Cocker’s rough-as-sandpaper vocals. It’s too bad Kenny didn’t get to this one first.

Albums like this are always difficult to evaluate. It’s more pop than country, but that was hardly unexpected from Kenny Rogers by this stage of his career. I’d become interested in his music a few years earlier from listening to my father’s vinyl copy of his 1980 Greatest Hits album. We’ve Got Tonight was the second (after Love Will Turn You Around) Rogers studio album that I’d ever bought. It’s one that’s been with me for a long time and I’ve always found it enjoyable despite its pop leanings. It has certainly aged better than most of the albums in Rogers’ UA/Liberty catalog.

Grade: B

3 responses to “Album Review: Kenny Rogers – ‘We’ve Got Tonight’

  1. Ken October 24, 2017 at 11:40 am

    By the time the “We’ve Got Tonight” album was released in early 1983 Liberty had been anticipating Kenny’s departure for more than six months. Kenny signed a deal with RCA Records reportedly worth more that $20 million in mid-July 1982. Clearly Kenny knew when he did the sessions for this album in late 1982 that they would be his last for that imprint. Eight of those recordings were included on the “We’ve Got Tonight” LP including the title track. According to Kenny he had considered recording that song as a solo but the head of Liberty Records suggested that he record it as a duet with Sheena Easton to further differentiate it from Bob Seger’s version. The two remaining songs on that album dated from earlier sessions. “Love, Love, Love” was recorded in May 1982. “You Are So Beautiful” recorded in December 1981 was also issued as the “B” side of the ‘We’ve Got Tonight” single.

    Kenny’s move to RCA was likely the reason that a third single “Scarlet Fever” was issued from that LP. Liberty wanted to wring out every possible dollar from their investment by increasing sales for that album because during the late 1970’s and early 80’s Kenny was their top selling act by a country mile. “Scarlet Fever” was issued in July 1983 just a few weeks before Kenny’s RCA debut and performed surprisingly well considering the cringe worthy story line. It peaked at #5 in mid-October just one one notch above “Islands In The Stream” Kenny’s RCA duet with Dolly Parton that was already at #6 and heading for #1.

    “We’ve Got Tonight” was Kenny’s last brand new album for Liberty but they continued to milk Kenny’s catalog by releasing five more singles and four LP’s during the next two years.

    You Were A Good Friend [#20/1984] originally released on the 1980 “Gideon” LP was added to the late 1983 album “Kenny Rogers Twenty Greatest Hits.”

    Together Again (with Dottie West) [#19/1984] originally issued on the 1979 “Classics” album was included on the 1984 “Duets” compilation LP featuring eight songs with Dottie plus Kenny’s duets with Kim Carnes and Sheena Easton.

    Love Is What We Make It [#37/1985] & Twentieth Century Fool [#57/1985] are both from the 1985 “Love Is What We Make It” album comprised of previously unreleased tracks

    Goodbye Marie [#47/1986] is from the 1985 Short Stories album. Original producer Larry Butler added overdubs & remixed the previously released tracks.

    For the past thirty years Kenny’s United Artists/Liberty Recordings have been continually repackaged and reissued into new compilations that now include downloads.

  2. Luckyoldsun October 25, 2017 at 8:47 pm

    I have to admit I’d never heard of “Scarlet Fever” (I was thinking of “Scarlet Ribbons In Her Hair” when I saw the title), but I looked up “Scarlet Fever” and….Wow!
    I’m not sure if that record could be made today by a mainstream middle-aged artist on a mainstream label, but I’m pretty sure of one thing: Toward the end of the song, the singer lets out that Scarlet, the exotic dancer that he’s got the hots for is “only 16.” If that song were made today, they’d have had to change the lyric to “19”…at a minimum, and even that would be pushing it. But it’s a good song.
    There’s even a version by the songwriter–Having Kenny Rogers do that song was a life-changing event for Mike Dekle!

  3. Dionisius Endy July 10, 2020 at 6:49 am

    Randy Goodrum – Love (lyrics)

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