These Discs Offer Too Few Songs

TIMES POP MUSIC CRITIC

One of the main selling points of RCA's new two-disc Dolly Parton retrospective is that it contains the original version of Parton's composition "I Will Always Love You."

Far more intimate than the melodramatic Whitney Houston interpretation, Parton's rendition was a No. 1 country single twice--when first released in 1974 and again in 1982 when it was featured in the film "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas."

But that track is not the only reason to sample the new "Dolly Parton: The RCA Years 1967-1986."

Though her early career accomplishments have been overshadowed by all the attention directed at Parton the actress and Parton the pop personality, the Tennessee native was once one of the most exciting female artists ever in country music--someone with extraordinary vocal purity and songwriting instincts.

In fact, the biggest problem with the new RCA set is its brevity. Though CDs can hold approximately 75 minutes of music, the two discs in the Parton set average only 45 minutes. That means they contain only 30 songs instead of a potential 45 to 50.

The package includes such essential early hits as "My Tennessee Mountain Home," "Coat of Many Colors" and "Jolene"--as well as such interesting non-hits as 1972's "The Letter" and the pop-country breakthrough "9 to 5."

But the set omits numerous Top 10 country singles and such overlooked gems as "To Daddy."

Even more disappointing, in terms of completeness, is RCA's two-disc salute to the late Jim Reeves. The actual title is "Welcome to My World: The Essential Jim Reeves Collection." A more accurate title: "Welcome to My World: The Skimpy Jim Reeves Collection."

The music on the two discs totals only 73 minutes--less than could fill a single disc. That means we only get 16 of Reeves' more than 50 Top 10 singles.

Though Reeves' smooth, romantic vocal style didn't have the kind of influence on other singers that such rival country stars as George Jones and Johnny Cash did, his recordings were important in the '70s in spreading country music's popularity around the world. He was voted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1967.

One of the remarkable aspects of Reeves' career, which took off in 1953, is that he had almost as many Top 10 hits after his death in a 1964 plane crash as he did before it. Reeves had almost three-dozen hits while alive and almost two dozen posthumously--thanks to the warmth of his singing, the loyalty of the country audience and aggressive marketing campaigns.

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