This review originally appeared in the April 1994 issue of "Beat USA."


by Sandra L. Toney

The latest release of country music supergroup Alabama, Cheap Seats, is another triumphant smash to add to the long list of recordings which this popular band has accumulated over the years. Alabama's down-home style of music remains consistent on this latest release -- this is the same music we fell in love with, at the very beginning of their successful career over a decade ago. Many musical artists have a problem with their melodies and songs frequently sounding like their previous recordings. Alabama fans, however, have come to appreciate and expect that familiar, comforting, All-American sound that only Alabama can create.

"The Cheap Seats," the title track on the release, is characteristic of a familiar Alabama theme -- "Anytown, USA." In this song, the cheap seats in question refer to the faraway bleachers in the right field of the local minor league baseball team. The song isn't just about a group of baseball lovers, but about the alliance of an entire town in support of one common goal. It isn't about winning or losing; it's about having something to believe in and to be proud of. We all need to have a ticket in "The Cheap Seats."

Cheap Seats first release, "Reckless," is also classic Alabama -- the song declares "Love is reckless/Let's get reckless tonight." It's about two young lovers throwing caution to the wind and taking off in an old Thunderbird. Not worrying about the consequences of their actions, they boldly announce, "When you're crazy in love/you have to take a chance . . ." And that is what Alabama has always known how to do; to take chances with their original, southern-style music. In my opinion, "Reckless" is the best song on the album because it's fun, upbeat, and indeed "reckless."

A nice surprise on the album is the ballad, "Angels Among Us." I immediately loved this selection and could even imagine it appearing on Alabama's next Christmas album (hopefully, there will be a follow-up to the magnificent Alabama Christmas, which was originally released in 1985). On "Angels Among Us," the group is backed up by the John Willis Choir, which furnishes the tune with a spiritual, heavenly sound. Although it is not usually the type of material which Alabama uses, they serenade us with unequaled brilliance. I would definitely like to hear this softer side of Alabama more often.

As in previous releases, there is the simple joy of just listening to the old, familiar Alabama sound that we find on Cheap Seats. Their music not only entertains us, but gives us pride in what we do and who we are. From the same group which introduced us to their own "Mountain Music" and took the time to teach us about "Love in the First Degree," this latest album has nowhere to go but up. I will continue to support Alabama's heartfelt, down-home, everlasting style of country music.

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