Dolly Parton

Great Balls of Fire/Dolly Dolly Dolly

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In the late '70s, Dolly Parton made the jump from country stardom to the pop charts, and a pair of her biggest albums from her crossover period come together on this two-fer CD. Both LPs show Parton putting her country influences in the background in favor of more radio-ready sounds, but Great Balls of Fire works more to her favor. While leading off with the disco-fied "Star of the Show," most of Great Balls of Fire features Parton stretching her boundaries with R&B and rock-oriented material along with some fine love ballads, though the big surprise is a marvelous bluegrass-influenced cover of the Beatles' "Help" with guest appearances from Ricky Skaggs and Herb Pedersen. While Great Balls of Fire featured only four songs written by Parton in favor of cover tunes and outside composers, she didn't get a single songwriting credit on Dolly Dolly Dolly, and the absence of worthy material is clearly felt. However, like Great Balls of Fire, Dolly Dolly Dolly demonstrates Parton's ability to sing nearly anything and sing it with skill and feeling, and her lovely cover of "Old Flames Can't Hold a Candle to You" saves the day (though if you've ever wanted to hear Dolly get funky, you should cue up "Sweet Agony"). This disc hardly represents Dolly Parton at her best, but it is surprisingly fun listening and the star of the show walks away smelling like a rose.

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