11.Joshua (RCA, April 1971) – A standout collection. The title song was Dolly's first No. 1 single, and the album is filled with additional treats, including the heartbreaking "Letter to Heaven," the clever "J.J. Sneed" (about an couple of outlaw lovers in the Old West), sweet "The Last One to Touch Me," and the slightly soulful "You Can't Reach Me Anymore." Buy Joshua!
10.Hungry Again (Decca, August 1998), The Grass is Blue (1999 Sugar Hill/Blue Eye) and Little Sparrow (2001 Sugar Hill.Blue Eye) – Greatest work in years, full of beautiful songs. From Hungry Again: "Salt in My Tears" is feisty and has a great beat; "Honky Tonk Songs" is cute; other jewels include "Blue Valley Songbird," the clever "The Camel's Heart" (as in "the straw that broke"), the expansive melody of "I Still Lost You," and "Shine On" (even if its melody sounds very much like "Amazing Grace"). From The Grass is Blue: Dolly proves herself a more-than-capable bluegrass chanteuse will the thrilling "Train, Train," a country cover of Bill Joel's "Travellin' Prayer," a more mature "Will He Be Waiting" and the riveting a capella "I Am Ready." Sparrow features a wonderful all-female version of "Seven Bridges Road," the chilling Dolly storysong "Mountain Angel," and a re-recording of her classic "Down From Dover" complete with a verse which had been cut from the original. Both Sparrow and Grass won Grammy Awards. Buy The Grass is Blue! Buy Hungry Again!Buy Little Sparrow!
9.My Blue Ridge Mountain Boy (RCA, September 1969) – The title song is one of Dolly's most memorable, and "Gypsy, Joe, and Me" is one of her best. Other treasures include her cover of Elvis' "In the Ghetto" (better than the King's), a cover of "Games People Play," and the riveting "Daddy" (about a young adult confronting her father about his affair with a much younger woman).
8.Here You Come Again (RCA, October 1977) – Dolly's first pop effort, the title song was her biggest solo country hit ever, staying at No. 1 for five weeks, and the album went platinum. "Me and Little Andy" is a classic. And the original version of "Two Doors Down" (available only on the first pressing of the album) is much superior to the single version (and contains an additional verse). Other highlights include "It's All Wrong, But It's All Right," "Cowgirl and the Dandy," "As Soon As I Touched Him," a cover of Kenny Rodgers' "Sweet Music Man" better than his original, and a soulful "Lovin' You." Buy it!
7.Hello I'm Dolly (Monument, July 1967) – Her first full-length album for a label, it is a must for any true fan. Included is her timeless first version of "Put It Off Until Tomorrow." Also included are the humorous "Dumb Blonde" and "I Don't Want to Throw Rice" ("I want to throw rocks at her"), the rambunctious "I Wasted My Tears," "Fuel to the Flame," and "The Little Things."
6.Halos & Horns (Sugar Hill/Blue Eye, July 2002) – Every cut on the album is a winner, but the standout is Dolly's acoustic cover of Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven," which is out of this world! Other highlights include "These Old Bones," where she performs two different characters, including one where she is imitating her mother's voice; the soul-jarring "Hello God," which was written in response to the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks; the bouncy "Sugar Hill;" and the toe-tapping "I'm Gone." Buy it!
5.Trio and Trio II with Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt (Warner Brothers, February 1987; Asylum, February 1999) – I find it surprising that the best cuts on Trio feature Dolly on harmony and either Linda or Emmylou singing lead, but they are the chilling "Telling Me Lies," Jimmy Rodgers' "Hobo's Meditation," and the hit "To Know Him is to Love Him." Other great tunes here include covers of two Porter & Dolly numbers, "The Pain of Loving You" and "Making Plans," as well as two great traditional songs, "Rosewood Casket" and "Farther Along." On Trio II, stand-out cuts are "High Sierra" with Linda's powerhouse vocals on lead, the enchanting "After the Goldrush" with Dolly on lead, and Emmylou's turn at lead on the Dolly standard "Do I Ever Cross Your Mind." Buy Trio!Buy Trio II!
4.Just Because I'm a Woman (RCA, April 1968) – Her first RCA solo album, it is amazing how mature and full her sound is. The title track was one of the first country "women's lib" songs, written in response to her husband's reaction when he learned she had not been a virgin when they married. "The Bridge," about a young pregnant girl whose lover abandoned her, ends abruptly, no final notes, no final sounds, as the character jumps off the bridge where they first met. Her cover of "Try Being Lonely" (which had been recorded earlier by Porter) is haunting. Also memorable is "Love and Learn."
3.Touch Your Woman (RCA, March 1972) – From Dolly's prime writing/recording years (1971-1975), this album contains some of her greatest compositions and recordings. The title song is timeless, filled with love and sensuality. "Will He Be Waiting" drifts on a traditional mountain melody. "Loneliness Found Me" is gracefully despondent. Another prime cuts is "Love Is Only As Strong (As Your Weakest Moment)."
2.Coat of Many Colors (RCA, October 1971) – Many critics argue that this is one of the top three best country albums ever recorded. The title track, telling a sanitized version of a truly traumatic experience from her childhood, could stand along side some of the greatest poets of England. "She Never Met a Man (She Didn't Like)" is striking, with a great melody and a wonderful lyrical twist on the Will Rodgers line. "My Blue Tears," as some of her best songs, again relies on the strong traditional mountain sounds. "Early Morning Breeze" (superior to the version on "Jolene" and with less instrumentation) is simple and beautiful. The version of "Traveling Man" cut here is more boisterous than the one on "Bubbling Over" (which is the version in "Best of Dolly Parton"). "Here I Am" is belted out like Dolly thinks she's Aretha. Even "A Better Place To Live," a peppy songs which would seem at first glance at the lyrics to be cheezy, fits in nicely here. Buy it!
1.Jolene (RCA, February 1974) – Dolly's most timeless and professional release, this album is an aural feast. The title song, which remains an often covered classic today, is breathtaking. The original version of "I Will Always Love You" outshines both Dolly's latter versions and any by the dozens of artists who have recorded it since. "Lonely Coming Down," arguably the best song Porter Wagoner ever wrote, is wonderfully eerie. "Early Morning Breeze" makes another appearance here. "When Someone Wants To Leave" is a gem. Other greats include "River of Happiness" and "It Must Be You." This is THE BEST THERE IS! Buy it!
The Rest of The Top 30
(*: with Porter Wagoner)
30. Porter Wayne and Dolly Rebecca* (RCA, 1970)
29. The Fairest of Them All (RCA, 1970)
28. Just the Two of Us* (RCA, 1968)
27. Sings My Favorite Songwriter: Porter Wagoner (RCA, 1972)
26. Burlap and Satin (RCA, 1983)
25. 9 to 5 and Odd Jobs (RCA, 1980)
24. White Limozeen (Columbia, 1989)
23. Treasures (Rising Tide/Blue Eye, 1996)
22. Heartbreaker (RCA, 1978)
21. Dolly (aka The Seeker/We Used To) (RCA, 1975)
20. Love and Music* (RCA, 1973)
19. Eagle When She Flies (Columbia, 1991)
18. Say Forever You'll Be Mine* (RCA, 1975)
17. Once Upon a Christmas (RCA, 1984) (with Kenny Rogers)