DOLLY PARTON – Rockstar (2023)
DOLLY PARTON = country music star. DOLLY PARTON… a rock music star? Well, entitled “Rockstar” is the upcoming collaborative project of Parton with a variety of legendary rock musicians, marking her first foray into that genre.
Parton was nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2022 and initially declined the honor as she has a background in country music and not rock. In response, she declared her intention to record an album of rock covers with a host of musical guests from that genre to justify her inclusion.
Well “Rockstar” features some originals (hard rockin’ songs if you ask), and a lot of classic rock songs with the original star singers making a duet. We find ”Open Arms” Ft. Steve Perry – yeah, believe or not, Parton singing a Journey song – ‘a new song titled ‘Bygones” featuring Rob Halford, Nikki Sixx and John 5, “Magic Man” featuring Ann Wilson, Aerosmith’s ”I Want You Back” Ft. Steven Tyler, and many, many more.
And you know? Most of these work. Of course session musicians are first rate and production polished, all pretty well done…
She wastes no time getting down to business. The opening title track starts with a rapid-fire pop-metal guitar solo by Richie Sambora as Parton declares her ambition to rock to skeptical parents. Slight hokeyness aside, the song serves as the latest messenger for the same philosophy she’s been pushing for more than five decades: “Don’t ever give up on your dreams.”
Highlights include the self-penned “World on Fire” (a rare political outing for the decidedly unpolitical Parton and one of the few tracks where she goes solo); an expanded take on Heart’s “Magic Man” (with the song’s co-writer, Ann Wilson) dedicated to Parton’s longtime husband; a sultry “Night Moves” with Chris Stapleton (Bob Seger was unable to join Parton due to experiencing problems with his voice), and a moving remake of her 1971 song “My Blue Tears” featuring Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran.
Parton sounds great on the downhome southern rock of ”Freebird” and duetting with goddaughter Miley Cyrus on ”Wrecking Ball”. Creedence Clearwater Revival’s ”Long As I Can See the Light” has a hymnal mood, which suits her perfectly.
”Bygones” is a hoot – Parton-penned stadium metal that doesn’t sound like pastiche, bolstered by appearances from Rob Halford and Nikki Sixx – but it does make you think: hang on, if you can write rock songs to this standard yourself, what on earth are doing trudging your way through Peter Frampton’s ”Baby, I Love Your Way”.
But is ”Rockstar” rock ‘n’ roll? The guitars often lean that way, even if Parton’s iconic honeyed voice isn’t always up for the task; she’s too nuanced a singer for some of these familiar and showy songs. Still, ”Rockstar”, while overlong, is too consistent and thought-out to be a mere curio in Parton’s extensive catalog. At the very least, she’s made good on her Rock & Roll Hall of Fame promise.
01. Rockstar Ft Richie Sambora
02. World On Fire
03. Every Breath You Take Ft. Sting
04. Open Arms Ft. Steve Perry
05. Magic Man (Carl Version) Ft. Ann Wilson
06. Long As I Can See The Light Ft. John Fogerty
07. Either Or Ft. Kid Rock
08. I Want You Back Ft. Steven Tyler
09. What Has Rock And Roll Ever Done For You Ft. Stevie Nicks
10. Purple Rain
11. Baby, I Love Your Way Ft. Peter Frampton
12. I Hate Myself For Loving You Ft. Joan Jett & The Blackhearts
13. Night Moves Ft. Chris Stapleton
14. Wrecking Ball Ft. Miley Cyrus
15. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction Ft. P!nk, Brandi Carlile
16. Keep On Loving You Ft. Kevin Cronin
17. Heart Of Glass Ft. Debbie Harry
18. Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me Ft. Elton John
19. Tried To Rock And Roll Me Ft. Melissa Etheridge
20. Stairway To Heaven Ft. Lizzo, Sasha Flute
21. We Are The Champions – We Will Rock You
22. Bygones Ft. Rob Halford, Nikki Sixx and John 5
23. My Blue Tears Ft. Simon Le Bon
24. What’s Up? Ft. Linda Perry
25. You’re No Good Ft. Emmylou Harris, Sheryl Crow
26. Heartbreaker Ft. Pat Benatar, Neil Giraldo
27. Bittersweet Ft. Michael McDonald
28. I Dreamed About Elvis Ft. Ronnie McDowell
29. Let It Be Ft. Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr
30. Free Bird Ft. Lynyrd Skynyrd