Dolly Parton

New Harvest...First Gathering

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In 1977, Dolly Parton broke ties with her mentor, Porter Wagoner, moved to Los Angeles, and began mapping out the career that would take her out of the country market and transform her into a star of practically all media. New Harvest...First Gathering was Parton's first album working with her new management, and she produced it herself (with Gregg Perry assisting on two tracks), and though it isn't as calculated a piece of radio-ready product as her next set (Here You Come Again) would be, the record makes clear that Parton was interested in moving on to a larger stage. The opening track, "Light of a Clear Blue Morning," is a sophisticated piece of adult contemporary songcraft that suggests practically zero Nashville influence, and her covers of two soul chestnuts, "My Girl" (reworked into the gender-free "My Love") and "(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher," dispel any doubts that Parton's voice would work outside of strict country boundaries. However, Dolly doesn't turn her back on her country audience with this set; "Applejack" is a cheerfully corny bit of backwoods nostalgia, "Holdin' on to You" and "You Are" are lovely and delicate love songs, and "There" is a spiritual number that's as sincere and passionate as it is inventive. In retrospect, New Harvest...First Gathering sounds like a dry run for Dolly's later crossover career, but it's also full of fine songs and produced with intelligence and restraint, and it has stood the test of time far better than much of her work of the 1980s.

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