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Country - Released February 4, 1974 | RLG - Legacy

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Of the three 2007 Dolly Parton reissues from Sony, Jolene is the most absorbing musically and the most problematic lyrically. A sparkling production creates a rich backdrop for both "Jolene" and "When Someone Wants to Leave" (both Parton originals), mixing acoustic guitar, country instruments (steel guitar, dobro), and light percussion. This tasteful mix, nicely spread across the stereo spectrum with Parton front and center, is a joy to listen to. Lyrically, however, these songs are a long way from Loretta Lynn's "You Ain't Woman Enough to Take My Man." Parton's female protagonists are downright pitiful, adrift in a world where a more attractive woman might take their man, where a woman cannot let go of a man who no longer loves her, and where a man is the "highlight" of her life ("Highlight of My Life.") Jolene, originally released in 1974, feels like a shot across the bow of the feminist movement, a reaffirmation that many women still liked the men to wear the pants (women, presumably, who listened to old-fashioned country music). This seems somewhat peculiar now, in that no one -- looking at her long, distinguished career and commanding stage presence -- would accuse Parton of being a weak-kneed songbird. Still, the music and Parton's vocal prowess are in top form on Jolene, and "I Will Always Love You" is one of her best performances (which is saying a lot). Like it or loath it, Jolene offers a fascinating snapshot of an era in transition, and captures Parton at the top of her game. © Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr. /TiVo
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Country - Released October 4, 1971 | Buddha Records

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Dolly Parton had a number of hits in the late '60s as Porter Wagoner's duet partner, yet solo success eluded her until her 1971 album Coat of Many Colors. The title track was a Top Ten single, and it effectively became her signature song, largely because it was a sweetly autobiographical tune about her childhood. That song, along with its two hit predecessors, "Traveling Man" and "My Blue Tears," were evidence that Parton was a strong songwriter, but the full album reveals the true depth of her talents. She wrote seven of the ten songs (Wagoner wrote the other three), none of which is filler. There isn't really a theme behind Coat of Many Colors, even if its title track suggests otherwise. Instead, it's a remarkably consistent album, in terms of songwriting and performances, but also remarkably diverse, revealing that Dolly can handle ballads, country-rockers, tearjerkers, and country-pop with equal aplomb. And while it is very short, clocking in at under a half-hour, there isn't a wasted moment on the album. It's a lean, trim album that impresses because of succinctness -- with its ten songs, it announced Parton as a major talent in her own right, not merely a duet partner. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Country - Released March 29, 1982 | RLG - Legacy

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Country - Released June 28, 2005 | Columbia Nashville Legacy

There have been many, many Dolly Parton compilations over the years, but RCA/Legacy's 2005 set The Essential Dolly Parton is one of the handful that gets it right. Spanning two discs and 37 tracks, this set covers her entire career, from her 1967 debut, Hello, I'm Dolly, to her 2001 bluegrass comeback album, Little Sparrow, but the bulk of this set concentrates on her hitmaking years for RCA in the '70s and '80s. Since Dolly had so many hits, not all of them can be included even on a double-disc collection, but this does a tremendous job of picking the biggest and the best of them. Roughly, the first disc covers her first decade of recording, including a healthy dose of her inventive country-folk material from the early '70s, while the second disc covers her slicker crossover hits from the '80s. Dividing her material in this fashion makes each disc consistent within itself, and helps make this a more listenable set than such similar career-spanning collections as 1993's The RCA Years. While Raven's excellent Mission Chapel Memories: 1971-1975 documents her most creative period more effectively, this tells the story of her entire career, and it's the best of its kind of compilation yet assembled. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Country - Released September 9, 2016 | Rhino

Talking about the first time she harmonized with Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt in 1975, Dolly Parton said, "We all got to singin' and it was absolutely incredible. It gives me chills, even now." Given Parton's remarkable life and career, one would imagine it would take a lot to prompt that reaction, but there's no false modesty in Dolly's words. Parton, Harris, and Ronstadt were all splendid vocalists on their own, but they'd also shown a talent for collaborating with others throughout their careers. And when the like-minded women decided to make an album together, they created something rare, a collaboration between three major stars that never smacks of ego. Parton, Harris, and Ronstadt brought out the best in one another on their brilliant 1987 album, Trio, with the group harmonies sounding even more glorious than their lead vocals. (Trio also found Parton and Ronstadt working with better and more flattering material than they'd had on their solo albums in quite a while.) Trio was enough of a success that the singers carved out time in their busy schedules to make another album together, 1999's Trio II, with similarly impressive results. Ronstadt's health prevents her from making another Trio album in the 21st century, but Rhino Records have given us the next best thing with The Complete Trio Collection. This three-disc set brings together Trio and Trio II in full with a bonus disc of 20 outtakes and alternate versions recorded during the sessions for the original albums. Both Trio and Trio II have aged quite well, especially the first album with its emphasis on acoustic, bluegrass-influenced arrangements that blend well with three-part harmonies. (As Harris quips in the liner notes, they were playing Americana music before it had a name.) And if disc three often covers material that appears elsewhere in the set, Parton, Harris, and Ronstadt tried enough different approaches to these songs that the variants still sound fresh, and the performances are a knockout throughout. At the end of an unreleased take of "You Don't Knock," Harris quietly says, "That one felt real good," and like Dolly, she speaks the truth. For fans of the original Trio albums, buying The Complete Trio Collection to get the disc of unreleased takes might seem a bit excessive, but for anyone with a taste for great country or folk singing who has never heard Parton, Harris, and Ronstadt's work together, this set is nothing less than essential. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Country - Released March 2, 1987 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Country - Released November 30, 2018 | RCA Records Label Nashville

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Country - Released January 1, 2006 | Sugar Hill Records

It was inevitable, especially considering her recent albums, that Dolly Parton would eventually go all the way back to the mountains with a bluegrass project. A child of the southern Appalachians, Parton would have absorbed this music straight through her skin during her formative years. And, indeed, her performance on this CD is impeccable, as is her choice of material. Producer Steve Buckingham has taken care to bring together a group of accomplished bluegrassers to accompany Parton. Alison Krauss, Stuart Duncan, Dan Tyminski, Jerry Douglas, Rhonda Vincent, and Bryan Sutton are major contributors, as is Patty Loveless. Parton wrote two songs for the CD -- the title tune and "Endless Stream of Tears" -- and she also reworked two of her previously recorded numbers, "Will He Be Waiting for Me" and "Steady As the Rain" as bluegrass pieces. She convinced her producer that Billy Joel's "Travelin' Prayer" and Blackfoot's hard-rocking "Train, Train" could work as bluegrass songs and, sure enough, they do. She also reached into the traditional folk repertoire and crafted a beautiful, haunting version of "Silver Dagger." Parton shows a terrific knack for this genre and, as always, her approach is a bit eccentric, but that's one of her gifts as a musician. She's always followed her own muse; this time it has led her to a singular interpretation of bluegrass that is one of the important bluegrass releases of 1999. © Philip Van Vleck /TiVo
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Country - Released January 23, 2001 | Dolly Records

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Country - Released January 24, 1969 | RCA - Legacy

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Country - Released June 2, 2003 | RLG - BMG Heritage

Dolly Parton has had countless collections, including many billed as either "definitive" or "ultimate," which is the billing given BMG Heritage's 2003 release. Running 20 tracks over the course of a single disc, this Ultimate Dolly Parton keeps its focus on the big hits, including a large stretch of hits from the late '70s and early '80s, including "Here You Come Again," "It's All Wrong, But It's All Right," "Heartbreaker," "9 to 5," and "Islands in the Stream." In addition to this, there are a couple of latter-day tracks, her Trio recording of "To Know Him Is to Love Him" and early hits "Joshua," "Coat of Many Colors," "I Will Always Love You," and "Jolene." So, in short, it's her most familiar material on one disc, something that has certainly been done before in her catalog, but it's done particularly well here. As a roundup of her hits, it works very well and it's also a good introduction, although listeners who are interested in her purer country and more ambitious music are advised to pick up Raven's superb Mission Chapel Memories: 1971-1975 instead. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Country - Released January 26, 1999 | Rhino - Elektra

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Country - Released November 17, 1980 | RCA Records Label

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Dolly Parton has never been an albums artist, and RCA has always been adept at shoving poorly organized products onto the market (look how they've treated Elvis Presley). Hence, though she is an important country figure, most of Parton's albums are hard to recommend. This one contains the title hit, plus a few other Parton originals and a version of Woody Guthrie's "Deportee" among its eight tracks. But that's enough to put it a notch above most of Parton's RCA catalog. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo
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Country - Released May 9, 2014 | Masterworks

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The Blue Smoke comes rolling across the Smoky Mountains, the area of Tennessee that Dolly Parton calls home. She named her 42nd studio album after that smoke -- she also used it for the name of her 2014 tour of Australia and New Zealand, where this 2014 album first appeared (it saw stateside release later in the summer) -- and while it's not autobiographical, it certainly adds up to a tidy portrait of Parton in 2014. Unlike some of her new millennial albums, Blue Smoke doesn't specialize in one specific sound -- it is neither a bluegrass nor pop record but rather splits the difference, touching upon each sound, along with threading in other signatures like superstar duets with old friends (Kenny Rogers and Willie Nelson both show up, singing songs that appear on their own 2013 albums) and splashy, silly covers of recent pop hits (this time, it's a version of Bon Jovi's "Lay Your Hands on Me"). Compared to 2011's Better Day, the album this follows, this is heavier on covers -- in addition to the Bon Jovi hit and Rogers' commissioned nostalgia, there's the traditional "Banks of the Ohio" and a bluegrass take on Bob Dylan's "Don't Think Twice" -- but Blue Smoke is anchored on Parton's originals, which run the gamut from the steady-rolling old-timey title track through the super-slick pop "Home" to "Lover du Jour," a clever spin on Guy Clark's "Texas Cooking." Perhaps there are no permanent additions to her canon here, but the remarkable thing is how satisfying an album this is: it sounds good and the songs are sturdy, proof that Parton is far from resting on her laurels. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Country - Released February 13, 1967 | Monument - Legacy

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The charismatic Dolly Parton came on strong with these early session for Monument. At least half the songs are among her classics, while the rest of the material is hardly weak. The pedal steel playing is fantastic, and it would be worth the research to find out who the session men were, as they have gone uncredited on the original release, as well as subsequent repackagings. (In one two-fer release combining this album with As Long as I Love, the label squandered the inner gatefold on self-advertising rather than provide any information about these wonderful sessions.) The personality that Parton brought to her material is here in full force. "Dumb Blonde" and "Something Fishy" are the wisecracking, smart-cookie side of Parton, while "The Company You Keep"and "I've Lived My Life" show how adept she is at cramming country songs full of moralizing while providing the listener with plenty of enjoyment. © Eugene Chadbourne /TiVo
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Country - Released October 3, 1977 | RCA - Legacy

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It might be the short length of Dolly Parton's Here You Come Again that inevitably makes it feel like it just didn't quite all come together, yet there are plenty of high points, such as the catchy title tune, the grooving "It's All Wrong, But It's All Right," "Two Doors Down," and the typically Parton-esque charm of "Cowgirl and the Dandy." Some problems originate with the studio backup, which just isn't country enough. Sure, there's some pedal steel here and there, but an effort is obviously being made to steer her away from the hardcore country sound to whatever might have been perceived as being popular in the late '70s. This is still a few years before disco was to temporarily monopolize her aesthetic. The musicians here represent a smooth Los Angeles sound, with pickers such as David Lindley aboard. There are even synthesizer contributions from Ian Underwood, but from what he does one would hardly know that he had been a member of the avant-garde rock outfit the Mothers of Invention. © Eugene Chadbourne /TiVo
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Country - Released July 9, 2002 | Dolly Records

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Country - Released October 4, 1982 | RCA - Legacy

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Country - Released October 16, 2015 | Rhino

Talking about the first time she harmonized with Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt in 1975, Dolly Parton said, "We all got to singin' and it was absolutely incredible. It gives me chills, even now." Given Parton's remarkable life and career, one would imagine it would take a lot to prompt that reaction, but there's no false modesty in Dolly's words. Parton, Harris, and Ronstadt were all splendid vocalists on their own, but they'd also shown a talent for collaborating with others throughout their careers. And when the like-minded women decided to make an album together, they created something rare, a collaboration between three major stars that never smacks of ego. Parton, Harris, and Ronstadt brought out the best in one another on their brilliant 1987 album, Trio, with the group harmonies sounding even more glorious than their lead vocals. (Trio also found Parton and Ronstadt working with better and more flattering material than they'd had on their solo albums in quite a while.) Trio was enough of a success that the singers carved out time in their busy schedules to make another album together, 1999's Trio II, with similarly impressive results. Ronstadt's health prevents her from making another Trio album in the 21st century, but Rhino Records have given us the next best thing with The Complete Trio Collection. This three-disc set brings together Trio and Trio II in full with a bonus disc of 20 outtakes and alternate versions recorded during the sessions for the original albums. Both Trio and Trio II have aged quite well, especially the first album with its emphasis on acoustic, bluegrass-influenced arrangements that blend well with three-part harmonies. (As Harris quips in the liner notes, they were playing Americana music before it had a name.) And if disc three often covers material that appears elsewhere in the set, Parton, Harris, and Ronstadt tried enough different approaches to these songs that the variants still sound fresh, and the performances are a knockout throughout. At the end of an unreleased take of "You Don't Knock," Harris quietly says, "That one felt real good," and like Dolly, she speaks the truth. For fans of the original Trio albums, buying The Complete Trio Collection to get the disc of unreleased takes might seem a bit excessive, but for anyone with a taste for great country or folk singing who has never heard Parton, Harris, and Ronstadt's work together, this set is nothing less than essential. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Country - Released March 7, 1991 | Columbia Nashville

She confirms that she's fully returned to the country fold, and is rewarded with her first million-selling album that wasn't a greatest-hits package. The title song is a powerful female anthem. © Michael McCall /TiVo