TO THEIR DETRACTORS, Alabama plays redneck bubblegum music, an expertly crafted simile of real C&W designed to corral the youth audience. Predictably, the group's fans have sent their latest release, "40 Hour Week," to the top of the charts. Surprisingly, however, the album offers little of what has appealed to those fans: namely, Alabama's exuberant, harmony-heavy country-rock.
Randy Owens' aching vocals and the group's clever arrangements help carry the corny title track, a tribute to the working American that ends with a piano coda of "God Bless America." When the band turns in one of its characteristic paeans to the South, instead of something jubilant like their "Tennessee River," we get "It Ain't Dixie," a ponderous seven-minute dirge.
Only one cut, "Can't Keep a Good Man Down," features Alabama's sparkling integration of country and rock, of traditional influences and contemporary pop. The rest of the album is full of mawkish balladry that simply highlights the group's lack of a distinctive vocal personality. With "40 Hour Week," Alabama has moved close to being just four more voices dunked in the Nashville studio formula.
ALABAMA -- "40 Hour Week" (RCA AHL1-5339); appearing at the Capital Centre Friday night.