Sandra's Country Music Presents

"Alabama Christmas, Volume II"

(RCA, 1996)

by Sandra L. Toney

This is something I've been waiting for since 1985. A follow-up to Alabama's sensational and original Christmas album, "Alabama Christmas." And so comes the long-awaited sequel, "Alabama Christmas, Volume II." With four of the ten singles written or co-written by one or more of the Alabama group members, the album re-introduces some of Alabama's well-known originality in their songs.

And, as we grow weary of the traditional Christmas songs, Alabama includes only two Christmas classics, "Little Drummer Boy," and "O Little Town of Bethlehem" (which Alabama puts their own country spin on), as well as the 50's hit, "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree."

The rest of the selections, however, are what we've come to expect from the decade old supergroup -- country originals. The opening single, "The Blessings," co-written by Ronnie Rogers, Greg Fowler, and Alabama members, Teddy Gentry and Randy Owen, is definitely the best on the release. Although it wouldn't have to even be a Christmas song per se, the message it sends is one we all wish for during the Holidays. As one verse so eloquently explains, "Sometimes I fall asleep at the end of the day/And I forget to thank you, I'm ashamed to say/But as I lay me down to sleep/I pray the Lord my soul to keep/I know you can hear me here on Earth/Thank you for giving me more than I deserve."

Another Teddy Gentry/Randy Owen collaboration (again with co-writer Ronnie Rogers) is the spiritual cut, "The Christmas Spirit." This story reminds us of what Christmas is really all about, "The Christmas spirit is in the air/The Christmas spirit is everywhere/Like the day Christ was born in Bethlehem/The Christmas spirit has been coming down." A nice surprise on this song is the tempo change after the second chorus. Alabama sings two up-tempo verses before slowing back down for the ending, "Since the day Christ was born in Bethlehem/The Christmas spirit has been coming down."

As well as Alabama knows how to touch the Christmas spirit in all of us, they can also remind us to have fun during this special season as well. "Christmas in Your Arms" tells us it doesn't really matter WHERE you spend Christmas, as long as it's in the arms of a loved one. And, the rockin' tune, "The Night Before Christmas," has Randy Owen sounding mysteriously like the King of Rock himself, Elvis.

"When It Comes to Christmas," another Gentry/Owen/Rogers collaboration, tells us that there's still a kid in all of us at Christmas time, "I still like shakin' presents underneath the tree/And tryin' to figure out what ole Santa's got for me/Oh, I get so excited on Christmas Eve/I try my best to close my eyes, but I can't sleep." Even as an adult, Christmas has a special magic . . .

"Alabama Christmas, Volume II," has so many wonderful selections on it. My only complaint is that it took eleven long years to release it! When it comes to remembering our "blessings" this Christmas, let's not forget about "Alabama Christmas, Volume II."

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