Those Were the Days
First Appeared in The Music Box, November 2005, Volume 12, #11
Written by John Metzger
Since resuscitating her career in 1999 with The Grass Is Blue, Dolly Parton has earned as much attention for the unusual array of selections that she has opted to reinterpret as she has for returning to her bluegrass-hued roots. On Little Sparrow, for example, she tackled Collective Soulís Shine, while Halos & Horns featured renditions of Led Zeppelinís Stairway to Heaven and Breadís If. Itís not surprising, then ó at least from a market-driven perspective ó that her latest effort Those Were the Days is composed entirely of cover tunes, all of which originally were recorded between 1958 and 1971, nor is it a shock that the results are unequivocally mixed. Paired with an all-star cast that includes Norah Jones, Cat Stevens, Nickel Creek, and Alison Krauss, Parton glides through the material by applying her quavering, country twang to gently lilting arrangements. At times, her approach is unimaginative, and her versions of John Lennonís Imagine, Bob Dylanís Blowing in the Wind, and Pete Seegerís Where Have All the Flowers Gone suffer from being polite, saccharine, and lifeless. Faring better are her spry renderings of Kris Kristoffersonís Me and Bobby McGee and Joni Mitchellís Both Sides Now, her organic and down-to-earth transformation of Tommy Jamesí Crimson and Clover, and her mournfully haunting performance of The Cruel War. What binds the album together and makes it truly resonate, however, is its lyrical depth, which fuses protest songs with a sense of innocence and optimism. Indeed, for all its faults, Those Were the Days is a genuinely subversive act that serves as the perfect antidote to Toby Keithís jingoistic fervor.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2005 The Music Box