This 21-track compilation is fairly similar to the most widely available previous Dottie West anthology, RCA's The Essential Dottie West. It might have the edge, however, for the inclusion of all of the chart hits from her artistic prime (though it stops short of the commercial peak she reached with five number one country singles in the late '70s and early '80s). Despite her commercial success, West is not often hailed as one of the more notable singers of the era, and her work does fall on the more middle-of-the-road side of the 1960s/early-'70s Nashville country-pop sound. But this is pretty good music of its kind, with fairly strong, tuneful material and musical settings (produced by Chet Atkins prior to 1969) that fall short of the genre at its most saccharine and bombastic. West doesn't have as much personality as the better country stars of the period, but relays the songs with sincere dignity, starting with her earliest chart entry, 1963's "Let Me Off at the Corner" (one of the tracks not included on The Essential Dottie West). Hit duets with Jim Reeves ("Love Is No Excuse"), Don Gibson ("Rings of Gold" and "There's a Story"), and Jimmy Dean ("Slowly") are here too. The minor 1964 hit "Mommy, Can I Still Call Him Daddy," sadly, is a candidate for the most painfully mawkish country 45 of the era, with extended sections spotlighting excruciatingly out-of-tune, shamelessly pathetic vocals by a young child wondering if he'll be able to see his daddy again after their parents' separation. Fortunately, that's an aberration in the overall pleasing consistency of this collection, which makes some mildly adventurous moves beyond the usual Nashville format with the Tex-Mex "Reno" and the surprisingly extensive electric sitar soloing on "Rings of Gold."
Country Sunshine: The RCA Hit Singles 1963-1974 Review
by Richie Unterberger