By the time Here You Come Again was released October 29, 1977, Dolly Parton had angered her core fan base by embracing the slickly produced sound she played around with on New Harvest…First Gathering. It also proved a viable career move, as the album became her first to go platinum for sales of 1,000,000 copies. But quantity doesn’t always match quality – the majority of fans regard Here You Come Again as a dud. Of course, Parton isn’t the first, and certainly not the last, country singer to embrace a more “produced” sound. But for all the talk of Parton going pop, “Here You Come Again” proved her automatic add status at country radio – the title track spent five weeks at #1 on the singles chart and the album spent 35 weeks in the top ten and nine of those at number one on the album chart.
The title cut, one of her only big hits she didn’t have a hand in writing, would go on to win Parton the Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance in 1978. But it was the crossover appeal of the music that got most upset – the title track would go on to peak at #3 on the pop singles chart. Following the massive success of “Here You Come Again,” on the pop chart, Parton’s label decided to sell her again to the mainstream audience by re-recording “Two Doors Down,” the album’s second and final single, with a looser arrangement. This new arrangement would replace the original on all subsequent pressings of the album.
The idea was to release “Two Doors Down” to the pop market, and ship “It’s All Wrong But It’s Alright” to country radio. The plan backfired, as “Two Doors Down” only peaked in the top 20 on the pop chart yet topped the country charts. “It’s All Wrong,” never received any pop airplay at all, but was another country #1.
Looking beyond the singles, Here You Come Again is largely forgotten today. If I’d heard “Me and Little Andy” out of context, I’d have a difficult time believing it was Parton. The childish vocal retains none of the charm and innocence she brought to classics like “Coat of Many Colors” or “Jolene.” One the other hand, “The Cowgirl and The Dandy,” preserves more of Parton’s country roots, but would’ve worked a lot more had it been blanked in an acoustic arrangement. The background singers only serve as a distraction from the sentiment of the song. “Lovin’ You” has a bouncy feel to it but you forget it as soon as it ends. “God’s Coloring Book,” a song about taking a walk and noticing all the colors around you, employs a been-there-done-that theme and comes up short in effecting a display of spirituality.
Her cover of Kenny Rogers’ “Sweet Music Man,” which he took to #9 that year, is very good although I’ll always prefer Reba McEntire’s Alison Krauss-produced version from 2002. McEntire had the right arrangement to bring that song to life. But my favorite, and a bright spot among the non-singles is “As Soon As I Touch Him.” It’s the rare exception of a pop power ballad that actually works. It may be a far cry from her country roots, but if she had to go pop, this is how it should’ve been done.
In the end, it’s easy to see why Here You Come Again ranks low in Parton’s discography. The slicker sound casts Parton in a new and unflattering light. The title track will always be a classic, but that remains a shining moment in a ten-song collection marred by poor production choices that fails to fulfill the promise Parton set with her earlier, and much better, solo work.
Here You Come Again is currently out of print, but can be easily found used on Amazon.com