Written by Rich Alves, Steve Dean, and Roger Murrah
#1 (1 week)
February 10, 1990
Radio & Records
#1 (1 week)
February 9, 1990
The biggest selling country act of the eighties keeps its hot streak going into the nineties.
The Road to No. 1
It’s difficult to fully capture just how enormous Alabama was in the 1980s. They were the first act to win CMA Entertainer of the Year three times, and were eventually named the ACM Artist of the Decade. They rattled off an unprecedented 21 consecutive No. 1 country hits, and spent most of the decade selling multi-platinum as casually as the biggest rock bands of the day.
But as the biggest cash cow of RCA Records, the label couldn’t take any chances with their top act. Emblematic of the increasingly high expectations of Music Row’s burgeoning corporate culture, their 1987 album, Just Us, resulted in a full-scale intervention. First, the lead single, “Tar Top,” broke their #1 hit streak, stopping at No. 7. Then, the album itself struggled to reach gold status, taking nearly a year to reach that mark.
The result: RCA required Alabama to switch producers, terminating their long relationship with Harold Shedd, and their next album was delayed until enough great material could be found, making 1988 their first year since breaking through where they didn’t release a new studio album.
It worked. Southern Star became the second album of their career to produce four No. 1 singles, and was certified gold only three months after its release. After topping the charts with “Song of the South,” “If I Had You,” and “High Cotton,” RCA sent the title track to radio as the cleanup single.
The No. 1
The more aggressive production is showcased across the Southern Star album, and the title track is as good an example as any of how Alabama revved up their sound to keep pace with a new generation of country stars.
They sound fantastic, with Wall of Sound harmonies providing an energetic counterpoint to the piano charmingly supporting the band throughout the track. There’s even some enjoyable electric guitar work, but it takes a back seat to the vocals and fiery fiddle work that do most of the heavy lifting.
It’s a fun and uplifting track that has aged quite well over the years.
The Road From No. 1
You’re going to see a lot more of Alabama throughout this decade, as they were still scoring chart-toppers as late as 1998.
“Southern Star” gets an A.
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