Titles are important, but not to the late Kenny Rogers. Life is like a song, he proclaimed. True. But the weaselly nature of simplicity rings through on Life Is Like a Song with glib fortunes in tow. At a time when listeners are less perceptible to wizened, loosely cobbled ideas on the meaning of a song and its impact, it helps to have some specifics. Have an idea of your range or impact, otherwise, you sound like Mother Theresa expressing the flow of rhythm in the life of the ordinary. Rogers, a man whose cemented country legend status gives him a free pass to flannel-wearing fans of later-stage Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young albums, comes back from beyond the grave to hit back out.
Enlisting fellow country veteran Dolly Parton for her act of musical jury service, a feat. appearance and a chance to work out her glory days, Life Is Like a Song sure is like a song. A clumsy one. It is hard to knock Rogers too much since he is not around for the release, which marks it as a stranger’s choice. Whoever is behind it, pulling away at the back catalogue of half-decent tracks Rogers had, is to blame here. A name sells beyond death and because of that Rogers will become one of the most prolific country artists of his time, after his time. Why else would Kim Keyes, her first album appearance since Ratatouille: What’s Cooking?, feature here? Anyway, the Rogers-only tracks are backwater bits of interest. Twanging banjos cooked up alongside country hall aesthetics which detail those usual thematic standards.
As great as it would be to move Life is Like a Song away from the haybales and Duck Dynasty imagery, it is right there and Rogers makes no attempt to move his country style to somewhere new. Love Is A Drug has all the intimacy and interest of its obvious lyrical movements on lightning strikes. At least there is confidence in the performance. Stick with it, though. Country indifference comes through on Am I Too Late, the Keyes-featuring track. Music made straight for a soundtrack is the impression all Life Is Like a Song gives. Talk on Hickory Lake as much as you like, Kenny lad, it does not make these songs all that interesting. Flat longing for country days and dreams. Flickers of consistency flow through, particularly for Catchin’ Grasshoppers, a delicate number which has nothing to do with the group of insects or cocktails, sadly.
For a man whose career was dominated by middling albums and the occasional classic track, Life Is Like a Song follows mediocre suit. History channel filler music from The Gambler. Warming toward the end and difficult to reduce the gorgeous strings and hopeful heart of I Will Wait For You down, Rogers’ likely final efforts in the studio take a bit of time to get going but are worth a listen. Choke down the scenery-chewing country ballads, for they are a guise to get the regular crowd onside. Later on in Life Is Like a Song, Rogers tries to prove himself and his vision of the meaning behind the music. He does it well enough, although there are spotty moments where things are missing. This is goodbye though, the rather apt and final track, Goodbye, is not open to interpretation. It is as it says.