Moving from the truly ridiculous to the utterly sublime, I thought I would focus on one of the year's best releases. I spend so much time bitching about incompetent record companies, it seems only fair to applaud one that has actually listened to fans and produced a great package for a very reasonable price. I'm talking about RCA's decision to re-release a bunch of rare Dolly Parton albums as double CDs. The selection is fantastic and the CDs are a godsend for fans who have been relying on ancient vinyl copies. All three double CDs are worth purchasing but my favourite is the almost unbearably fabulous duo of pop albums, "Great Balls Of Fire" and "Dolly, Dolly, Dolly".
I love just about everything that Dolly has recorded in her long and varied career but Ms Parton's pop/disco phase is by far my favourite. While Dolly experimented with pop music, she never really left her country sound behind. This makes her material from the late 70s and early 80s a truly delightful musical hybrid. It's a little bit pop, a little bit country, a tad disco and totally fabulous! The best example of this unique musical hybrid is perhaps Dolly's "Heartbreaker" album. However, "Great Balls Of Fire" is not too far behind. The album is as consistently excellent as it is varied. Dolly gives Jerry Lee Lewis a disco tinged makeover but pares back The Beatles for a wonderful cover of "Help!". There are a couple of great upbeat numbers, notably the diva anthem "Star Of The Show", and some of Dolly's finest ballads. "Do You Think That Time Stands Still" and "You're The Only One" are exquisite cuts that hold up as some of Dolly's finest recordings.
While "Great Balls Of Fire" was deemed a success by record buyers and most critics, its follow-up "Dolly, Dolly, Dolly" was panned by just about everyone except her most ardent fans. "Dolly, Dolly, Dolly" does not live up to the greatness of "Great Balls Of Fire" but it is a completely enjoyable listening experience and I'm thrilled to finally own it on CD. The album is probably best known for the Donna Summer penned hit "Starting Over Again", which is a sappy delight. Left to anyone else, the song would be completely unbearable. Yet in Dolly's capable hands, "Starting Over Again" is tender and heartbreaking - if you ignore the Humpty Dumpty lyric! The album continues with a succession of mid-tempo pop songs, all of which seem to focus on heartache. My favourites are "Old Flames Can't Hold A Candle To You", "Say Goodnight" and "Sweet Agony". Rock & Roll Dolly unexpectedly emerges for the final track, with the awesome "Packin' It Up". Self-respecting drag queens across the globe should be incorporating this into their acts!
The Dolly double albums were first released in Germany but are now readily available in Europe and the US. Typically, Dolly's Australian record company is yet to pull its finger out. But who cares when Amazon UK is currently selling "Great Balls Of Fire/Dolly, Dolly Dolly" for the bargain price of 5.97 pounds?! You can also order the album from German Amazon and American Amazon.