After more than two decades in the spotlight, virtually all of that time at the top of their game and the top of the charts, youd think Alabama had done it all. After all, they were country musics first supergrouptheyve sold millions of albumsand theyve received nearly every award and accolade. But there was one thing that remainedone thing Alabama had to yet to attemptand it was the one thing no one ever thought they would dosay goodbye.In May 2002, Alabama stunned the world, announcing plans for a Farewell Tour in 2003. Fixtures on the scenefour men who, as a group, were contemporary superstars before George Strait or Reba McEntire ever achieved such statureare leaving? It hardly seems possible. But, true to the form weve come to expect from Randy Owen, Teddy Gentry, Jeff Cook and Mark Herndon, theyre planning to make their departure from touring with class and graceand with one last notea musical oneto be left behind for their fans. In the Mood: The Love Songs.Romance and love have given Alabama some of their most enduringand endearinghits. So it was only natural that the foursome would turn to them as they compiled this collection of love standards. Billed as the final chapter in the bands unparalleled RCA recording career, In the Mood: The Love Songs, features 23 tracks21 of their best known love songs and two new recordings.Two newly-recorded tracks, Im in the Mood and The Living Years, lead off the album. The former is a smoky love song that glows with the trembling intensity of smoldering embers, recalling the sensuality of Feels So Right 20 years earlier. The latter may be a new take on Mike and the Mechanics 1989 number-one pop anthem, but Randys plaintive vocal backed by Teddy and Jeffs signature harmonies convey the same love between a parent and child that made In Pictures a number-one hit.The classics that fill out In the Mood: The Love Songs represent love in nearly every form and stagethat first spark of interest and desire illuminated in Touch Me When Were Dancing, If I Had You and Fallin Againthe passion of When We Make Love and Face to Facethe surrender of Love in the First Degreethe pledge made by Theres No Waythe security found in Nothing Comes Closethe fading romance of We Cant Love Like This Anymorethe seeds of love that save a relationship in Then Againthe needs that send a Lady Down on Love in search of it againthe warm reflection on a shared lifetime in Here We Are.We love these songsthese songs are very special to us, says Randy Owen, looking back at some of the old favorites included on In the Mood: The Love Songs. The fact that two generations have lived and loved to this music and these lyrics isnt lost on the guys. To be able to find songs that other people have written, and to be able to just have the opportunity to record these songs and to be able to write some of them as wellits a very special honor, he adds.Alabamas fans have honored them in countless ways, securing the groups place in country music history. But the millions of albums theyve soldthe awards theyve wonand the hits theyve created tell only a small portion of Alabamas story.Theirs is an amazing career, stretching across more than two decadesand for three of the guys, its been more than 30 years. In the late 60s, cousins Randy Owen and Teddy Gentry discovered they shared a common interest in music. Joined by Jeff Cook, they started playing on a regular basis, eventually leaving their hometown of Fort Payne, Alabama to hone their talents on the club scene, most notably in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina under the name Wildcountry.The first time that Randy, Jeff and I got together and started singing, we felt like we had something different theresomething special, Teddy Gentry recalls. The harmony and vocals were the first things that jumped out [and showed me] that this was something unique that we could build on.With a name changethe addition of drummer Mark Herndon in 1979a major label dealand songs like My Homes in Alabama and Tennessee River, Alabama became, seemingly overnight, a driving force in country music, essentially changing it forever.Its really hard to measure or quantify, because the fact is they opened the door for a lot of the modern-day bands that are there. And at the same time, musically, they pushed the boundaries, RCA Label Group Chairman Joe Galante remembers. They opened a whole generations ears to what became country music and drew them into the formatit was enormous.They really have a way of saying something different, Galante adds. Im always amazed at how they can come up with a little turn of a phrase or a little guitar lick or an entire approach to a melody that is different. And there was an energy and a personality that they put into it. Theyre a band that all of us will talk about for a long, long time to come.Energy and personality were just the start Alabama put a new face on country music. Teenage boys and 20-something men who had been sporting T-shirts emblazoned with the names of bands like Yes, Boston and Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1978 had Alabama's trademark logo across their chests by the time they left high school and graduated college a few years later. At the same time, the group's soulful southern ballads stirred emotions in women of all ages, drawing huge female audiences to their shows.Alabama was, quite simply, blazing a path that would take country music to new places and in new directions. Sure, established country superstars like Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers were enjoying crossover success at the time, but the foursomerelative newcomers in 1981made their way into the Top 20 on the pop charts as well. Feels So Right, The Closer You Get, Love In The First Degree and Take Me Down all received pop airplay.At the time, male and female soloists shared the country spotlight with a handful of vocal duos and harmonizing groups. The word band, by and large, only applied to the musicians that backed a high profile singer. Suddenly, there was a band on the chartsand Alabama was that band. They played and sangand country music was rocked in much the same way as the pop world in 1964, when the arrival of a band called The Beatles ended the era of the vocal group, ensembles like The Drifters and The Ink Spots.Alabama knocked the door down for self-contained bands to come along and be a part of country music, explains Mark Miller of Sawyer Brown. Before [them], it was Merle Haggard and The StrangersBuck Owens and The Buckaroosthe bands were always backing up the artists. There was never a self-contained band, truly, until Alabama came along.Mark and his band walked through the door Alabama had openedand others followed. From day-one we watched Alabama. They were the thing that you looked at. Hey, manlook what they did! says Dana Williams of Diamond Rio. Marty Roe adds, They were the hope for bands in country music.And their legacy extends into the new millennium. Theyre the people that have influenced me and the band the most, says Dean Sams of Lonestar. Theyre a class act. I will make one of their [Farewell Tour] showsyou can count on it. Kenny Chesney has opened for Alabama, and, he explains, To a lot of people its a big ego trip. But Alabama, they just go out and they play music. They were the first guys to treat me like I belonged out on the road.Its impossible to quantify Alabamas impactnumbers, however huge, fail to fully depict the role theyve played. Perhaps because the numbers themselves are so massive, its hard to grasp and place them in any real perspective. Nonetheless, consider these facts:Alabama was the first group in history to win the Country Music Associations Entertainer of the Year awardand the only artist to win this award for three consecutive years. They were Entertainer of the Year for five straight years for the Academy of Country Music.Starting with Tennessee River in 1980, they racked up a string of 21 consecutive number-one hits. 21 more would follow.With 65-million albums sold worldwide, theyre one of the 20 best-selling acts of all time. In the U.S. alone, Alabama has sold more albums than Eric Clapton or Bob Dylan. Theyve outsold veteran rock bands like Chicago, Journey, Foreigner, Boston and even The Doors. And Alabama is one of the five biggest-selling country acts and the best-selling country group of all time, with career album sales that surpass those of Willie Nelson and Reba McEntire. The band was named Recording Industry Association of Americas Country Group of the Century.Attempting to find a numerical means to sum up Alabamas success actually becomes a staggering prospectuntil you realize that all you need is one figureone statisticto say it all. Set aside the millions of albumsthe awards, the accoladeseven their unprecedented collection of hitsand look simply to the fansthe countless fans theyve touched over the years. Picture the husband who sees his wife in Close Enough to Perfectand the wife who thinks of him when she hears Once Upon A Lifetime. The teenager who got his first kiss as Feels So Right played on the AM radio in his parents carand his daughter who thought it was so cool when her dads favorite group teamed up with hers to sing God Mustve Spent a Little More Time on You. The couple who heard Love In the First Degree when they methad Forevers As Far As Ill Go played at their weddingand now recall strains of How Do You Fall In Love as they turn the pages of their wedding album during a shared evening in front of the fire. Look at those peopleadd up those numberscount every person whos been touched by the music of Alabamathen and only then will you truly see the incredible legacy these four men have created. Alabamas magic will always be preserved on discs like In the Mood: The Love Songsand it will always live in the hearts of their fans.Weve done a lot of things in our career by pure accidenttheres been a lot of luck involved, says a humble Randy Owen. But theres one other rule that Randy knows has served Alabama wellFollowing our hearts and our feelings.They may have followed their hearts, but they expressed our feelings. With In the Mood: The Love Songs, they remind us of that all over again.
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