An Early Christmas Present to Play Games to or Lame Country Rock? Rockstar by Dolly Parton + Famous Artists Living and Dead

By Todd Russell Dec24,2023

Music is very much a part of games, and some (many?) like listening to music while playing games — and not necessarily the soundtrack of the games themselves. Let’s chat about an early Christmas music present that if you’ve been nice maybe Santa will drop under your tree this holiday season. Hint: pictured above.

Who doesn’t smile when they think of Dolly Parton? She was already a legendary country music artist in the 70s, with hit songs like “I will Always Love You” (yes, younger readers, she wrote and originally sang that song, as a message to Portner Wagoner that it was time for her to go alone and leave his show). Dolly is not only beautiful, glamorous with the signature busty look and mega, ridiculously talented. She’s written literally thousands of songs and many hit songs.

This was in 1974, nearly 50 year ago! Just one of countless Dolly stories is how Elvis wanted to record this song, but his manager the Colonel wanted the song rights which a very smart Dolly said, “sorry, no.”

Yes, Dolly told Elvis no! And look at how brilliant this was, because later when Whitney Houston covered the song, Dolly made the bucks Elvis’s estate would have made.

A personal sidenote to share: Dolly was my mother’s favorite artist. I grew up listening to all kinds of Dolly Parton with Dolly’s favorite personal song also my mother’s favorite song. It’s about how Dolly’s mother, when she was a child, gave her a coat that was hand-made and meant the world to her. “The Coat of Many Colors” It cover topics of acceptance, tolerance, bullying. It means a lot to Dolly. It’s Ok to be different.

My mother also loved “Jolene” and the one that mom played so many times, I thought it would wear out the album was “Here You Come Again”

My mother passed away in 1996, but Dolly will always make me think of her. Dolly is filled with love and embodies the human spirit. As prolific a songwriter, Dolly has also done a ton of other things in/around her home area, charitable work (her work with libraries and books for children are more fascinating stories). With all that Dolly has done musically through the years, she’s largely considered to be a country and pop artist.

That is until last year when something fascinating happened in the music awards scene.

Dolly was nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — and at first she politely declined, because she didn’t think of herself as a rock artist, having never made a rock album. There was pushback, too, even for the amazing Dolly Parton. A fair amount of rock music fans didn’t get the connection. Many were surprisingly polite with their discourse on Dolly’s legitimacy for the Rock Hall.

Then, Dolly reconsidered and accepted the nomination and instead of just sitting on her legendary history, she decided to do something only Dolly Parton could do in 2023. Something many artists don’t bother doing any more, because they make most their money playing overpriced shows. Dolly decided to make her first rock and roll album.

And not just any rock and roll album. Not a single studio album with 10 or so songs, heck, not even a double album with 20 songs. Nope, Dolly pushed for more.

The album is called, Rockstar, and clocks in at a whopping Dolly-powered 30 songs! 9 songs are original and 21 are covers including some of the most famous artists ever: the two living Beatles: Paul McCartney & Ringo Starr (and if Lennon and Harrison were alive you can bet Dolly would have had them, too), Sir Elton John, Lynyrd Skynyrd (including guitarist Gary Rossington’s final studio performance of Dolly-inspired “Freebird”), Sting, Anne Wilson, Joan Jett, Pat Benatar & Neil Gerado (also went in the Hall of Fame with Dolly), Rob Halford?!!?!?!?! (and an original song duet with Dolly) and the list goes on!

Here’s the complete Rockstar track list:

1. “Rockstar” (special guest Richie Sambora)
2. “World on Fire”
3. “Every Breath You Take” (feat. Sting)
4. “Open Arms” (feat. Steve Perry)
5. “Magic Man” (feat. Ann Wilson with special guest Howard Leese)
6. “Long As I Can See the Light” (feat. John Fogerty)
7. “Either Or” (feat. Kid Rock)
8. “I Want You Back” (feat. Steven Tyler with special guest Warren Haynes)
9. “What Has Rock and Roll Ever Done for You” (feat. Stevie Nicks with special guest Waddy Wachtel)
10. “Purple Rain”
11. “Baby, I Love Your Way” (feat. Peter Frampton)
12. “I Hate Myself for Loving You” (feat. Joan Jett & The Blackhearts)
13. “Night Moves” (feat. Chris Stapleton)
14. “Wrecking Ball” (feat. Miley Cyrus)
15. “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” (feat. Pink & Brandi Carlile)
16. “Keep on Loving You” (feat. Kevin Cronin)
17. “Heart of Glass” (feat. Debbie Harry)
18. “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” (feat. Elton John)
19. “Tried to Rock and Roll Me” (feat. Melissa Etheridge)
20. “Stairway to Heaven” (feat. Lizzo & Sasha Flute)
21. “We Are the Champions”
22. “Bygones” (feat. Rob Halford with special guests Nikki Sixx & John 5)
23. “My Blue Tears” (feat. Simon Le Bon)
24. “What’s Up?” (feat. Linda Perry)
25. “You’re No Good” (feat. Emmylou Harris & Sheryl Crow)
26. “Heartbreaker” (feat. Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo)
27. “Bittersweet” (feat. Michael McDonald)
28. “I Dreamed About Elvis” (feat. Ronnie McDowell with special guest the Jordanaires)
29. “Let It Be” (feat. Paul McCartney & Ringo Starr with special guests Peter Frampton & Mick Fleetwood)
30. “Free Bird” (feat. Ronnie Van Zant with special guests Gary Rossington, Artimus Pyle and The Artimus Pyle Band)

Now, just to present a balanced viewpoint, one of the purist rock and roll YouTubers I watch from time to time, is not a fan of this album. You can watch him talk about this from a rock and roll perspective here:

You can listen to all 30 tracks on Spotify here: Rockstar – Album by Dolly Parton | Spotify

With this amount of music, I’m still listening to and evaluating all the tracks, but do agree with Dave’s video above on the cover of “Open Arms” – this cover compared to the original Journey version is not even remotely as good as the original.

Covers are a tough business, as most of the time they aren’t as good as the original. I was excited to hear Steve Perry singing, but he sounds just too rasp and what little of him on the “Open Arms” track is just not the Steve Perry we love and remember.

This might explain why Perry isn’t out singing these Journey songs any more. As for Dolly? Well, she sounds like Dolly Parton singing Open Arms, but I’m detecting some auto tune in the recording, which I hope is not the case. Dolly’s voice should not be auto tuned. Let her sing, she can still sing, and while I’m not giving her a pass at age 77, her voice is more country sweet than hard-edged rock and roll. Maybe this particular song isn’t really her, but I appreciate her effort, even if it comes up short in the mix.

My son and I on our way to play pinball Saturday 11/18/23 listened to “Free Bird”. He said he liked it. As Dave mentions above, it seems a bit strange to hear Ronnie Van Zant singing on this cover, but this was with his estate’s permission.

Yes, that’s really Ronnie, lead singer of Skynyrd, that died in that tragic plane crash in October 20, 1977. Also, backing music on the track includes Artemis Pyle, an original Skynyrd drummer, and one of the few survivors of that plane crash. Ending Dolly’s Rockstar album with this track is both fascinating and a bit sad. It’s like everybody always screaming, “free bird!”

What I have listened to is a Dolly-inspired energetic, friendly effort for a rock and roll, but just doesn’t have the edge I look for in a rock album.  I mean when Dolly screams in the original song Rock Star, it’s not the rock angst of say a Rob Halford.

Speaking of Halford, I do kind of enjoy the original track “Bygones” with Halford and Dolly. That might be the most rocking track I’ve heard of the 30. Do I recommend to others buying this album? If you love Dolly, you might find this effort interesting, but listen to it for yourself and see if it’s for you. I’m not sure there is much here that I’ll listen to beyond this holiday season.

That said, who doesn’t love Dolly Parton? She’s got the energy of somebody 30 years younger. At the end of the day, I will likely pick up this CD and add to my collection, maybe cherry picking a few songs to listen to. It’s not really grabbing me in a “must relisten to this” way, but I’ll keep giving it some more time to gel.

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