Dolly Parton – Diamonds & Rhinestones: The Greatest Hits Collection (RCA Records/Dolly Records/Legacy Recordings)
Dolly Parton has released more than fifty solo studio albums in a glittering country and pop career – representing the canon of such a prolific songwriter in anything less than a comprehensive box set is always going to be a thankless task. The latest Dolly compilation, Diamonds & Rhinestones, is more of a generous stocking filler primer but even its 23 tracks demonstrate that Parton is about so much more than sparkly things.
The tracklist draws together recordings from four record labels, coming right up to date with her pandemic single ‘When Life Is Good Again’ and dance collaboration, ‘Faith’, with Galantis, which scandalously autotunes one of the truest voices in the popular canon. Better to drink in the unadulterated pop rapture of ‘Here You Come Again’, one of the big hitters frontloading this collection, alongside karaoke classic ‘Islands in the Stream’ and the spirited ‘9 to 5’ with its false nails-as-typewriter sound effects and smart allusions (“pour myself a cup of ambition” is such a tidy line).
Where her contemporary Loretta Lynn promised ‘Fist City’ if you messed with her man, Dolly chose to plead with her rival on the beseeching ‘Jolene’. ‘I Will Always Love You’, meanwhile, is an extraordinary love song, not least because it was inspired by the severing of a respected professional partnership rather than a more traditional romance.
These are classic examples of pop Dolly but it’s not surprising that her own pick of her catalogue is closer to her mountain music roots – the autobiographical ‘Coat of Many Colors’ is the oldest song here, a breathy tribute to her happy if hardscrabble upbringing.
Not everything is essential – the mawkish ‘Heartbreaker’ and handbag funk ‘Two Doors Down’ are skippable, and the manicured bluegrass of ‘Silver Threads and Golden Needles’ doesn’t do justice to Parton and her singing partners Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette. But if by some cruel oversight you are not already familiar with the songs selected here, revel in a youthful Dolly waving a flag for ‘My Tennessee Mountain Home’ and sample the goods in psych country cut ‘The Bargain Store’. Satisfaction guaranteed.