Dolly Parton – The Great Pretender (1984/2015)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/96 kHz | Time – 35:31 minutes | 723 MB | Genre: Country
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Front Cover | © RLG – Legacy
The Great Pretender is Dolly Parton’s 26th solo studioalbum, released in January 1984, and is composed ofcovers of hits from the 1950s and 1960s. The albumwas produced by Val Garay. It made heavy use ofsynthesizers and had a decidedly pop sound. The firstsingle, a remake of The Drifters’ 1960 hit “Save theLast Dance for Me” was a top ten country single forParton in early 1984 and came close to making thepop Top 40 as well. Dolly Parton’s cover of the 1965 Petula Clark hit”Downtown” was the album’s second single. The title song was originally ahit for The Platters in 1956.
Dolly had recorded plenty of covers on her earlier albums, but this was the first devoted exclusively to such songs. Since then, Dolly has recorded several covers albums including Home for Christmas, Treasures, Precious memories and Those were the days. The songs here mostly date from the sixties, with a few earlier or later, which pattern was repeated on Treasures and Those were the days. Home for Christmas and Precious memories are themed albums and most of the songs on those albums are somewhat older.
The big hit and opening track from this album was Save the last dance for me, a cover of the famous Drifters song, which made the top three in the country charts. It doesn’t sound remotely country and some might say that it’s over-produced. I confess that I’m not particularly keen on Dolly’s cover of this song, my favorite being the outstanding cover by her friend Emmylou Harris, which was itself a top five country hit and was originally released on Blue Kentucky girl. Buck Owens recorded another excellent country version, which was also a country hit when first released. I also love the original version and the French versions by Petula Clark and Dalida. Jazz-pop singer Michael Buble also recorded a distinctive cover that I enjoy hearing, but somehow, Dolly’s version just doesn’t excite me. Still, the rest of the album is of an extremely high standard and more than makes up for Save the last dance for me.
The Johnny Cash classic, I walk the line, also gets a distinctive treatment that borders on over-production, yet for some reason, it works much better than Save the last dance for me. Things get better still with the next track, Turn turn turn. First recorded by Pete Seeger but most famously associated with the Byrds, Dolly clearly loves this song as she re-recorded it for Those were the days. Next comes Downtown, which is Petula Clark’s most famous song, with Dolly’s cover being faithful to the original. Released as a single, it only became a modest country hit. This is followed by We had it all, which has been recorded by many other country singers, but Dolly’s version is as good as any of the others that I’ve heard. As originally released on vinyl, the five tracks mentioned made up Side 1.
Tony Orlando and Dawn had an American chart-topper with He don’t love you like I love you, though it didn’t chart in Britain. Dolly’s gender-adapted cover of this song opened Side 2 on the original vinyl release, but follows We had it all on the CD version. We’ll sing in the sunshine (a cover of Gale Garnett’s only hit song) and I can’t help myself (a cover of the Four Tops classic) both find Dolly in top form. Indeed, at the time I bought this in 1984, I hadn’t got round to buying a Four Tops compilation although I`d been meaning to for ages, but I did exactly that soon afterwards.
To my ears, Dolly’s outstanding performance here is with her cover of Elusive butterfly, which was Bob Lind’s only significant hit. Although it’s a great song anyway, I thought Dolly’s version was unbeatable. I still do, but when I eventually heard Petula Clark’s version of the same song, I was surprised to find that I consider it the equal of Dolly’s version. At that point, I became a huge Petula fan, having previously only bothered with compilations of her hits. I’ve heard a few good versions of Elusive butterfly, including Bob Lind’s original and Val Doonican’s UK hit version, both of which are excellent, but Dolly and Petula remain equal best on this song.
The album closes with the title track, which is a cover of a Platters song, though it eventually also became a UK hit for Freddie Mercury. Overall, this is a brilliant album, with several outstanding covers making up for one that disappointed me, though it obviously didn’t disappoint everybody based on its commercial success.
01. Save The Last Dance For Me
02. I Walk The Line
03. Turn, Turn, Turn (To Everything There Is A Season)
05. We Had It All
06. She Don’t Love You (Like I Love You)
07. We’ll Sing In The Sunshine
08. I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)
09. Elusive Butterfly
10. The Great Pretender