In celebration of 9 to 5: The Musical's Broadway debut, RCA/Legacy has reissued Parton's 1980 album with a trio of bonus tracks. Building on the 1977 pop breakthrough, "Here You Come Again," 9 to 5 (as a film, album and single) cemented Parton's draw beyond her core country audience. She'd released Dolly, Dolly, Dolly earlier in the year, and its orchestrated AOL covers freed her to indulge more country sounds here. The 9 to 5 album topped the country chart and the title single topped the country, pop and AC charts. The album's second single, a light-pop cover of the First Edition's "But You Know I Love You" (originally sung by future duet partner Kenny Rogers) also topped the country chart, and a disco cover of "The House of the Rising Sun" made the top twenty.
The hit singles provide a fare representation of the album's variety. Parton's originals include the hopeful, country gospel "Hush-A-Bye Hard Times," the unapologetic portrait "Working Girl," and the homespun values of "Poor Folks Town." The covers are more diverse, including a delicate reading of Woody Guthrie's "Deportee" and a solemn take on Merle Travis' "Dark as a Dungeon." Less successful is the pedestrian Nashville backing given to Mel Tillis' "Detroit City" and Mike Post's badly aging arrangement of "Sing for the Common Man." Yet even when backed by hackneyed keyboards, liquid guitars and by-the-numbers strings, Parton's voice still shines.
The struggles and successes of working people provide the album a theme, but the album never musters the artistic force of Coat of Many Colors, My Tennessee Mountain Home or Jolene. Parton's in excellent voice throughout, but her bid for broader commercial success leaves several tracks uncomfortably laden with pop clichés. Legacy's 2009 reissue adds a previously unreleased session cover of Sly and the Family Stone's "Everyday People," a beat-heavy 2008 house remix of "9 to 5," and a lead vocal-free remix of "9 to 5" that puts you in Dolly's rhinestone-studded high-heeled shoes. Bonuses aside, it's the album's originals and selected covers that make this an essential entry in Parton's catalog. [©2009 hyperbolium dot com]