Often lumped in with The Allmans, Skynyrds, and .38 Specials of the 1970s southern rock scene, The Atlanta Rhythm Section (ARS) were smoother and lighter than their peers. With members having done time in Roy Orbison’s backing band and charting in the 1960’s with “Spooky”, as part of Classics IV, these were no country rubes. This new ‘Best Of’ collection—part of Universal’s ongoing repackaging program of the best material from the label’s back catalog—includes all of the band’s hits and some interesting album tracks, too.
While “Champagne Jam” and “Doraville” are early jam-rock blueprints that others have tried to follow, ARS were capable of much more than just bluesy jamming. Songwriter and co-producer Buddy Buie was the oil behind their slickest hits, from “So Into You” to “Imaginary Lover”, and on these tunes the band supports singer Ronnie Hammond in a jazzy pop style that leaned more toward Steely Dan or Hall & Oates than their southern neighbors.
If you’re already familiar with the hits, skip to the lesser known, “Angel (What in the World’s Come Over Us)”, which is perhaps the band’s best synthesis of southern rock with their more mainstream pop tendencies. Then check out, “Neon Nights”, a credible stab at country rock circa The Flying Burrito Brothers.
Many of these budget-priced collections are shortchanged either on the packaging or the track listing. Every time a label tries to go back and make more money off of their old hits, they have an annoying tendency to leave one song off that you have to get on some other CD. This disc is a relatively complete one, however. It helps that ARS only had a handful of big hits, but in addition to the ones mentioned above, all of their other chart hits are here, even a last-ditch single, the re-recorded “Spooky”.
// Notes from the Road
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