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Livin' Lovin' Rockin' Rollin': The 25th Anniversary Collection ()

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There have been plenty of Alabama compilations over the years, ranging from a surplus of budget-line quickies to the excellent double-disc For the Record, which was reissued in 2005 under the title The Essential Alabama. Despite this, there has never been a career-spanning box set until RCA/Legacy's 2006 Livin' Lovin' Rockin' Rollin': The 25th Anniversary Collection, which tells the group's tale over the course of 51 songs and three discs. If you're counting, you'll notice that this is only seven songs more than For the Record/Essential, which isn't a whole lot to justify an expansion to a triple-disc set, but Livin' Lovin' Rockin' Rollin' has a very different feel than that comp, which is the gold standard in Alabama hits albums. While there is certainly a fair share of overlap in song selection, this isn't precisely a collection of hits. As a matter of fact, huge hits like "The Closer You Get" are missing entirely, which makes this set of less interest to casual fans looking to get all the big hits in one place. Those fans should stick with For the Record/Essential, since this is intended as an aural biography of a band. Sure, most of the hits are here, but sometime they're present in live versions or alternate takes, and they're supported by album tracks, along with eight previously unreleased cuts (which are mostly live recordings). This provides for a good overview of the group's history, even if it's not as smooth a listen as the double-disc set, primarily due to the fact that the live tracks don't sit easily next to the studio sides. That said, for the serious Alabama fan looking for a trip down memory lane, Livin' Lovin' Rockin' Rollin' is a good bet, since it does provide a thorough chronicle of the band's history, complete with a time line and rare photos in the liner notes. Less dedicated fans may prefer the concise, hit-filled nature of For the Record/Essential, but this will suit the tastes of the converted just fine. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi Hide synopsis

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