By the time Alabama embarked on its 2003 American Farewell Tour, it had become one of the most commercially successful groups in country music history, racking up more than 40 country chart-toppers. This hits collection features a score of the best, and provides a fine overview of the band's career in the process. Taking its cues equally from honky-tonk music and arena rock, while sporting long hair, casual clothing, and flashy double-neck guitars (recalling Led Zeppelin more than Lefty Frizzell image-wise), the ensemble revolutionized the look and sound of country music like few others before or since.
While some of Alabama's songs feature old-style close-harmony singing and lyrics that revel in the group's rural roots ("Mountain Music," "Song of the South"), others ("Reckless," "Take Me Down") are awash in jangly guitars and snappy snare drums, often sounding as pop as anything by Leo Sayer or Richard Marx. Lead vocalist Randy Owen's warm, friendly, and decidedly down-home baritone is the band's most consistent thread, always anchoring its stylistic diversions. A concise compilation for fans, ULTIMATE ALBAMA: 20 #1 HITS is also a perfect introduction for newcomers to this revered country act.