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Despite its all-encompassing title, the first of RCA’s two essential Parton titles doesn’t encapsulate her most inspired period, though it provides an obliging overview of the commercial payoff that came on the high heels of her initial creative rush. This 20-song best-of set consists of sides cut between 1976 and 1984, including “9 to 5,” “Islands in the Stream,” “Two Doors Down,” and the overblown 1982 remake of “I Will Always Love You.” In contrast to Volume Two, most of the songs here come from hired guns; the winning sincerity Parton brings to her own material is much missed, though she remains an irresistible vocalist. The arrangements frequently stray from her country-folk roots into radio-friendly pop (listen to “Rear Love” to hear ’80s production at its most hackneyed). Still, this album provides a useful snapshot of Dolly the superstar. Just make sure you buy Parton’s second Essentials set before the first. –Steven Stolder
I Will Always Love You: The Essential Dolly Parton, Vol. 1 Review
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If you love Dolly Parton, you will love this CD/mp3s