Released to coincide with the kickoff of Alabama's farewell tour, the two-disc, 23-track I'm in the Mood: The Love Songs assures that the country juggernaut goes out not with a whimper but with a bang. For starters, it gets rolling with two new songs recorded specifically for this collection: the soft, slinky ballad I'm in the Mood, on which lead singer Randy Owen coaxes his woman into a mind-body summit with his robust baritone, and the contemporary country The Living Years, a mid-tempo advisory to appreciate our lifelines while they're still here. Then the hit parade starts, and it's pretty impressive. To Alabama's credit, their love songs are less formulaic than their up-tempo blockbusters, and even daring at times, as on Touch Me when We're Dancing, in which the arrangement blends contemporary country with an '80s R&B approach. Disc 2 features some especially strong cuts. Here We Are, co-written by Beth Nielsen Chapman and Vince Gill, kicks mightily behind stinging rock guitars and those soaring Alabama harmonies as the guys sing of everlasting love. The lilting, spare Forever's as Far as I Will Go is a well-observed account of how a bruised man learned to love, set to the ringing tones of an electric piano and Owen's open-hearted testimony. The 'N Sync boys even make an appearance here, adding some velvety harmonies and vocal fills to a mid-tempo valentine, God Must Have Spent a Little More Time on You. Alabama have plenty of toe-tappers in their repertoire, but this set aims straight for the heart, and hits its target every time.
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