BUTTERFLY RECORDS/DOLLY PARTON RECORDS
When Dolly Parton was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2022, she seemed somewhat surprised, however, she nor anyone should have been shocked with this honour. The only thing that was surprising was that it took so long for her to be inducted. Over her career, Parton has called the shots and she made many ‘rock and roll’ decisions for her own career. Who but Dolly Parton would name an album Backwoods Barbie (2008) and get away with it? She always directed her own career, with a great deal of success.
Parton decided that since she was inducted into The Hall Of Fame, she would make a rock album. For her 49th studio solo album she called on some friends and recorded Rockstar, a sprawling four-album set full of classic rock songs. While there is a lot of material here (even more if you buy all the various limited edition versions), and not all of it works, it is pure Dolly and pure fun. When it works, it is quite a remarkable album, when it doesn’t work, well, it just doesn’t work.
Some of the best songs are with just Dolly singing by herself. Her version of “Purple Rain” is stirring and moving. And at eight minutes, it takes its time to play out and is quite brilliant. The same with “World On Fire”, one of a handful of songs Parton wrote, and hearing it one wishes she had written more. “Now I ain’t one for speaking out much,” she sings. “But that don’t mean I don’t stay in touch”. Parton sings with passion, anger and sadness. It is one of her best songs. “How do we heal this great divide? Do we care enough to try?”
She also co-wrote some songs with producer Kent Wells. “I Want You Back” features some fine vocals from Steven Tyler. But it is her covers that are drawing a great deal of attention. One of the highlights is “Long As I Can See The Light”, with John Fogerty and “Heart Of Glass” with Debbie Harry. Stevie Nicks, with her “What Has Rock And Roll Ever Done For You” is a treat and a lot of fun, while “What’s Up” with Linda Perry is an unexpected highlight. Of course, the song that has gotten a great deal of attention is “Let It Be”, featuring Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. Parton turns in a lovely and sincere vocal and McCartney providing harmony is nothing short of brilliant.
The songs that don’t come off as planned are somewhat filler on the album. That is not to say they won’t find fans, because they will, but “Stairway To Heaven” with Lizzo and Sasha Flute does not come off as planned and is really nothing special. The same can be said of “Keep On Loving You” featuring REO Speedwagon’s Kevin Cronin never takes off and “Bittersweet”, which was written by Parton, would have sounded better without Michael McDonald.
To be clear, there are 30 songs in this collection, more with various formats, so not every song can knock it out of the park. But what is clear is that Parton had a great deal of fun with Rockstar. It is an opportunity for Parton to show off her still strong vocals and her own takes on some very iconic song. It is an album that Parton was destined to make, and now seemed to be the right time for her. It is one of those albums that you simply have , hear to appreciate.
Parton has earned her place in the Hall Of Fame, country, songwriter, or rock ‘n’ roll. She continues to push herself and after all these years can still surprise her fans and the general public at large. She takes her craft very seriously, but she also puts a great deal of fun and energy into everything she does. This is no exception and given its length, this is one that will be sticking around and played for some time to come.
SPILL ALBUM REVIEW: DOLLY PARTON – ROCKSTAR