Monday, February 27, 2012

"Mountain Music" by Alabama (1982)

View the Premise & Ground Rules for Revisiting Vinyl.

Filed between:  Aerosmith and The Allman Brothers.

Key Tracks:
Mountain Music, Close Enough to Perfect, Take Me Down

Obvious Filler & Swings-and-Misses:
Green River is the definition of filler.  It's a note-for-note cover of an already well known song delivered like bad karaoke by someone who's not even the band's primary singer.  It feels like everybody gets a go at their own special song on "Mountain Music" and it never works.  Which leads us to Never Be One.  That thing has so many abysmal lines that I thought I was going to scratch the record because I kept lifting the needle mid-song.  Unfortunately, it still plays fine.  You Turn Me On doesn't turn me on.  Gonna Have a Party is a swing-and-a-miss.  it wants to be a good-time sing-a-long, but it never makes it there.

My Overall Rating of the Tracks Separately:
Above average (2.5/4 stars).  It's really feast or famine with the tracks - their either pretty good to great or they're REALLY bad.  There is no middle ground here.

Steamers from Never Be One:
-"We sang you to sleep with the birthday song."  Probably actually happened.  Don't care.
-"You'll never be one again.  The two's are tumbling in."  Runaway two's!!!  Tumbling toward us at twelve o' clock!!!
-"Kermie the frog sits watching it all."  Gotta watch that copyright infringement.
-"Soon your legs will grow and make the tricycle go and take you away from us all."  By the way, that line immediately follows the quote above it in the song.
- [Spoken.] "Goodnight, Daddy."  How you gonna be sayin' that if you only one year old?

Finally, we break away from the world of rock for some "back-home, come-on music" as Randy Owen puts it on the title track.

Or do we?

(Here's a hint: I've already mentioned the CCR cover.)

Alabama is about as country as Garth Brooks.  With Tracks Like Close Enough to Perfect and Take Me Down, "Mountain Music" skews closer to adult contemporary than anything else.  The actual song Mountain Music is the only time they even pretend to be country - and they don't pretend that hard.

Other tracks draw from movements like prog (Words at Twenty Paces) and disco (Take Me Down).  To be fair, the country-disco barrier (yes, I really did just write that phrase) had already been broken a few years earlier with Exile's Kiss You All Over.  Conveniently, J.P. Pennington co-wrote both songs.  I often wonder how huge Exile might have been if he had kept all his songs for his own band.  Instead, it ended up as just a footnote in an Adam Sandler movie and playing free shows on the courthouse steps of small towns.

But back to Alabama.  The guitar solo in Close Enough to Perfect is a spot-on Skynyrd impersonation.  Lovin' You Is Killin' Me also borrows to the point of stealing - it appropriates Elton John's Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting's riff almost verbatim.  Several tracks are Eagles wannabes.

Basically, "Mountain Music" leans heavily on popular music from the mid-seventies.  That should be odd for an LP released in 1982, but that is the way of country music.  Nashville has always looked five to ten years into the past for whatever it determines is "the new sound" of country.  Apparently, that's how long it takes good, salt-of-the-earth country folk to accept things they were patently opposed to before, as long as it's repackaged with twang and fiddles - or so Music City would have us believe.

So, is it an album? 
No.  It come close, despite all its issues, but it ends up trying to be too many things.

Up next, "Growing Up in Public" by Lou Reed.  I've never heard anything off of this record before, so I can't make any predictions whatsoever - especially considering the artist.  Ah, the joy of discovery... I hope.  Actually, I just hope it's not another "Metal Machine Music" or "Lulu."

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