If I say to you ‘Kenny Rogers’ and you think of hitzzzzzzzzz like Coward Of The County or The Gambler then this may well be a pleasant surprise for you. Because the first several albums by his band The First Edition are really rather good. And very cheap.
Their 1967 debut album contains the excellent Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In), penned by fellow county up-and-comer Mickey Newbury. Apparently Jimi Hendrix once told Kenny it was his favorite song, and that’s a pretty damn good bit of praise right there. I’m not posting it here because you know it already, suffice to say it was a number 5 hit and is the best track on the LP. But the whole record is worthy of your aural attention, and as evidence I offer you the girl-group sounds of Hurry Up Love, sung by Thelma Camacho and co-written by the album’s producer Mike Post.
Next up is the first track on the first side of The First Edition’s second LP. This 1968 album didn’t chart and yielded only flop singles, one of which was indeed this song, Charlie the Fer De Lance. It’s got flute, fuzz guitar, and heavily effected vocals. What more do you need?
1969’s follow up album was the first to be credited to Kenny Rogers And The First Edition, paving the way for that solo success we all know about. The LP is an enjoyable listen, and one of the better tracks from it got an even better outing on a contemporary b-side. This 45 recording of Girl, Get Ahold Of Yourself is more upbeat and rocking than the long player version, mixing that same weird vocal effect from Charlie, an infectious country-funk groove and some lovely psychedelic guitar noodling.
And there we have it. Kenny Rogers: way more than just a country mega-star.
Dig these records out of a dollar bin then dig the sounds contained therein.