Every #1 Country Single of the Eighties: Alabama, “Face to Face”

“Face to Face”


Written by Randy Owen

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

February 5, 1988


#1 (1 week)

March 5, 1988

The bill for Alabama’s descend into mediocrity came due with Just Us.

The distinctive lead single “Tar Top” broke their string of 21 consecutive No. 1 hits, and while the next two singles kicked off a new streak, of chart-toppers at radio, the album itself never quite recovered at retail. It took nearly a year to go gold, and wouldn’t reach platinum for another thirteen years.

All of this was enough for the band to succumb to pressure from the label to change producers. But we still have to get through one more Harold Shedd-helmed project, and “Face to Face” exemplifies how out of his depth he was in the new traditionalist era.

It’s a lightweight ballad even by late eighties Alabama standards, and a stronger producer would’ve told Randy Owen that the “tingling tangle” line in the chorus was an awkward miss. Shedd can’t be blamed for K.T. Oslin not receiving proper billing on this record, but he can be dinged for improperly using her talents. This was recorded before 80’s Ladies had fully taken off, and Shedd put her on the record afterward at Alabama’s request. If he’d made this a proper duet in post, rather than a brief cameo that pivots immediately back to Owen on lead, her appearance would’ve been more impactful.

Then again, it already strained credulity that Oslin, of all people, was getting into bed with a guy looking her dead in the eye as he feels his “tingling tanglefeelings,” so maybe it was better this way.

I’m more than ready for their Southern Star renaissance to get going, but we’ve got one more single to get through first.

“Face to Face” gets a C.

Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

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  1. Two-thirds of the way through this song I could have sworn I vaguely remembered it, but that K.T. Oslin cameo came completely out of left field for me. I don’t recall Oslin having sung on an Alabama record at all. And now I can only wish I was still able to say that. Randy Owen’s treacly ballads have been hit or miss for me over the years but this one combines some of the least inspired lyrics I’ve come across for a #1 hit with the musical arrangement of a forgotten animated Disney movie. Owen and Oslin are the Ronstadt and Ingram of this schmaltzy mess! And the Oslin cameo was uninspired to the point of incoherence, reeking of the desperate post-production gimmick you delineate. This song actually was as bland as the wrongfully accused Milsap ballad two #1’s ago!!

    Grade: D

  2. If you can’t say something nice, face-to-face or behind their backs 36 years later, don’t say anything at all.

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