KENNY ROGERS' gritty, soulful voice will endure. It has, after all, gotten him through almost every door there is in popular music, since his earlier, rockier days with First Edition through the last decade of corporate country-pop nirvana, wherein a Rogers hit can simultaneously reach the top of the country, pop and soul charts -- and then be made into a TV movie and a USFL franchise.
But don't be letting your voice -- or your other investments -- sit around, folks: Put them to work. Go on and hire that famous producer George Martin to surround you, on your latest album "The Heart of the Matter," with strings and synthesizers and studio celebs like jazz guitarist Stanley Jordan and flutist James Galway, and see what happens.
Of course, you could wind up with an intriguing, exotic but ultimately meatless stew: a little bit country, a little bit jazz, a lot of Yamaha DX-7 keyboards stuck in the Chiming Piano mode. Rogers is in there somewhere -- and actually scrapes through on two intimate, fetching ballads, the big single "Morning Desire" and electronic, erotic "The Best of Me" -- but most of the arrangements here are more suited to a higher-sap-factor singer.
Speaking of Yamaha. On their latest album, "Smile," Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers give "special thanks" to the maker of the DX-7 -- which has become almost a pat trademark of so many studio-bound LPs lately, country-pop and otherwise.
Yamaha's biggest presence here is unfortunately on the album's most breezy, bluesy and forgettable love songs, most of them collaborations with superguitarist Larry Carlton. There is hardly any of that familiar, robust Gatlin storytelling here, except maybe for the socially redeeming "Runaway Go Home" and the curiously refreshing Larry Gatlin-Barry Gibb-Roy Orbison joint effort "Indian Summer."
KENNY ROGERS -- "The Heart of the Matter" (RCA AJL1-7023); LARRY GATLIN & THE GATLIN BROTHERS -- " (Columbia FC40068). Both appear Friday at Patriot Center.