Twentieth Century

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Two decades into their successful career, Alabama is comfortable as professionals. They know how to craft a record, even if that means relying on session musicians over the core band. They know how to select songs, knowing what songs will be ideal for radio. That means they're reliable, but it also means that they can slip into predictability, as they do on Twentieth Century. Immaculately constructed and utterly smooth, just like the white suits the quartet sports on the cover, Twentieth Century is the work of professionals: professional songwriters, professional producers (Don Cook and the band themselves), professional musicians. There's not a note out of place or a missed harmony. It's easy to marvel at the sheer technical achievement of the record, since not only is it so well made, but the songs rarely make an impression. All the tunes are so predictable and the production so carefully considered that the album flows together, with only a couple of cuts grabbing a listener's attention: the silly capsule history of "Twentieth Century"; Jeff Cook's horn-spiked, Van Morrisson tribute "Mist of Desire"; the nice rocker "Life's Too Short to Love This Fast"; and the ballad "God Must Have Spent a Little More Time on You" complete with backing vocals from fellow RCA labelmates 'N Sync. Taken individually, these particular songs sound pretty good, and would work well on the radio, but taken in the context of the record, they're nearly indistinguishable from the rest. That's the problem with Twentieth Century: although it's pleasant, it never creates its own identity, even compared to latter-day Alabama records.

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