Monday, January 6, 2014

Dolly Parton - The Great Pretender

This month marks the thirtieth anniversary of The Great Pretender, the twenty-sixth studio album from Dolly Parton. The collection of cover tunes went to number 73 on the US Billboard Album chart, number 69 on the Canadian Album chart, number 9 on the Swedish chart and number 7 on the US Billboard Country charts back in 1984.

Side one begins with “Save the Last Dance for Me”, first recorded by the Drifters in 1960. As the first single, Parton’s version went to number 45 on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 31 in Australia, number 12 on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, number 3 on the Canadian Adult Contemporary chart and the US Billboard Country chart, and number 2 on the Canadian Country chart. This version features a synth-heavy accompaniment with a rhythm that reminds me of those old Casio keyboard’s four-four beat.

In 1956, Johnny Cash first recorded “I Walk the Line”. Parton however lightens the song up a bit with an 80’s synth-rock rendition. You can almost picture her strutting around the stage as she performs this one live.

Next, Parton takes flight on the Byrd’s 1965 hit “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season)”.

In 1964, Petula Clark took “Downtown” up the charts. As the second single, Parton’s thoroughly updated version went to number 80 on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 36 on the US Billboard Country chart, number 20 on the Canadian Country chart and the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, and number 8 on the Canadian Adult Contemporary chart.

Jumping up to 1973, Parton next takes on Waylon Jennings’ “We Had It All”. I like that the arrangement here uses a simple piano as it allows her vocals a chance to shine.

Side two opens with a cover of Tony Orlando and Dawn’s 1975 hit. Parton’s “She Don’t Love You Like I Love You” swaps the pronoun throughout so it can be sung from a woman’s perspective.

“We’ll Sing in the Sunshine” was recorded in 1964 by Gale Garnett. This version has a light swing to it thanks to the bass. I like that the arrangement here is simple and straightforward, hitting into Parton’s country wheel-house.

The Four Tops hit the sweet spot in 1965 with “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)”. Her version here sticks pretty close to the original arrangement without too much 80’s embellishment.

American folk singer Bob Lind recorded “Elusive Butterfly” in 1966. The original was one I remember from the radio growing up though I probably never knew its name or who performed it. Parton’s version served as the B-side to the first single from the album.

The album closes with the Platters’ 1955 hit that serves as the title track. Parton‘s version of “The Great Pretender”, with its somber gospel accompaniment, was also the B-side to the second single. I think it works very well with the organ and the backing chorus.

Using YouTube to give these a listen, I really liked half of the tracks on The Great Pretender. Past listens to Dolly Parton's albums has shown me she can often put new spins on older songs, making them fresh and new. I think the over use of the synthesizers to fit the 80's pop sound did not favor her though. I much more preferred the simpler approach on the tracks.

For 1980's 9 To 5 and Odd Jobs, click here.

For 1982's Heartbreak Express, click here.

For the 1982 soundtrack to The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, click here.

For 1983's Burlap & Satin, click here.

For her 1987 album Trio with Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt, click here.

No comments: