I don't know if there are any Dolly Parton fans here, at least fans of her primo early work, but I sampled three sets of CD's:
The RCA Years 1967-1986 (2 CD box set)
Mission Chapel Memories 1971-1975 (Australian import)
The Essential Dolly Parton (2 CD jewel case compilation)
Glenn Meadows mastered the The RCA Years 1967-1986 box set. It is indeed a box set - a long box and booklet with matching dimensions - they just limit it to two discs. Anyway, it can be found for cheap, so don't pay more than $10 (including taxes and shipping) for it. The back has the CEDAR logo on it and this certainly sounds like Meadows's work. The hiss has been wiped clean and the music sounds pretty thin. It also sounds sharp meaning a top end boost has definitely been applied - standard practice for NR, to "restore" the lost music, which is kind of like dumping more phosphoric acid into a flat soda to make up for the lost carbonation.
I should point out that the box set has some key songs currently unavailable anywhere else, like "Down From Dover." (A remake can be found on Little Sparrow, which is possibly Parton's best album since the early to mid 70's.)
The Australian comp was issued by Raven Records. Aesthetically, the track selection is haphazard, but you can understand why: with the exception of three songs (the hit singles "Coat of Many Colors," "Jolene," "The Bargain Store"), the compiler basically packed in tracks from Parton's peak era (1971-1975) that are tough to find on CD. Not surprisingly, these hard-to-find tracks are album tracks, not singles, as Parton has numerous 'greatest hits' type compilations floating around in stores.
So from that POV, you can understand why so many people recommend the CD. Unfortunately, the sound is atrocious. They compressed the shit out of this disc. I'm not even sure if they used the original master tapes, but it doesn't matter because the mastering sucks.
The Essential Dolly Parton was issued as part of Sony's huge line of Essential titles, around the same time Sony slurped up RCA/BMG. The mastering is credited to Vic Anesini and sounds soooo much better. I don't know if Anesini used any limiting or clipped the tracks, the ones I looked at come really close to the maximum output level, but they sound very natural and dynamic. I compared them to the Australian comp and Anesini's mastering is much quieter than the Australian comp, which indicates the criminal amount of compression used on the Australian comp.
Unfortunately, The Essential Dolly Parton has a crappy track listing. The second disc is nearly unlistenable, with only 3, maybe 4 songs worth hearing, IMHO. It's mostly the pop shit she recorded that's dated really poorly. The first disc focuses on the primo early stuff, but it's pretty skimpy at 18 tracks (one of which is taken from Here You Come Again, possibly the only track that's dated well from that album). These songs are often under 3 minutes, so you could've easily packed in 25+ songs.
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