by: Dolly Parton

Once again the Australians put the Nashvilleans to shame when it comes to packaging the finest tracks of a country music artist for reissue. This three-CD collection of Dolly Parton's hits, near misses, and cornerstone tracks is a finer compilation than any that has been released in the United States -- and the price is right, too; a triple for about the price of a single disc. Here are the classics such as "Coat of Many Colors," "Jolene," "The Good Old Days (When Times Were Bad)," "One of Those Days," "Old Flames," "The Last Thing on My Mind," with Porter Wagoner, and literally dozens more. But, as if the country classics weren't enough, the compilers sought to present a well rounded portrait of Parton by offering many of her pop hits, such Carl Smith's "Higher and Higher" (whose definitive version was done by Jackie Wilson) and her duets with Kenny Rogers ("Real Love" and "Islands in the Stream"), as well as her attempts at rock & roll ("Great Balls of Fire") and swinging for the popular standards fences ("Downtown," "We'll Sing in the Sunshine," "We Had It All," etc.). There are also glimpses of her return to the deep roots music of her early years with covers of "Mule Skinner Blues" and her own "Joshua." Parton's own formidable songs are well represented among this collection's 50 tracks, and there are many surprises included, such as "Baby I'm Burnin'" and "Traveling Man." The only off points are a lack of documentation of when songs were released, what albums they're from, and whether or not they charted, but this is for those of us who don't feel complete without such things. For those illuminated souls who are merely seeking a definitive Dolly Parton collection because her voice is what moves them, this is the one to get. ~ Thom Jurek

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