Ever wondered what it would have been like to be front row at a Led Zeppelin concert in 1973 or close enough to reach out and touch Mick during the Rolling Stones 1975 Tour of the Americas? Maybe you weren’t quite old enough to see Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1977 or perhaps that 1978 Kiss show was sold out, leaving you left out in the cold.
Well, guess what?
The folks at Phoenix Gems are giving rock fans a shot at making their dreams come true and to rectify those missed opportunities by providing the unique experience of bringing classic live performances to your CD player. They have acquired the rights to over 425 classic rock concerts from 1972 to 1987. Culled mostly from live FM broadcasts, Phoenix Gems’ mammoth collection features a spectral array of artists ranging from Aerosmith to Frank Zappa. And while it may take sometime to commit all these shows to disc, they’re certainly off to great start by featuring a sterling performance by the Atlanta Rhythm Section.
The Atlanta Rhythm Section: Live at the Savoy, New York, October 27, 1981 showcases the Southern rock stylists at the peak of their impressive 30-year career. The disc contains 10 excellent tracks and features the original ARS lineup of Barry Bailey (guitar), Ronnie Hammond (vocals), Paul Goddard (bass), Robert Nix (drums), J.R. Cobb (guitar) and Dean Daughtry (keyboards).
If there is any skepticism as to the quality of the recording, it is quickly washed away as their opener “Champagne Jam” comes through with surprising clarity, with every instrument perfectly placed in the mix. While some bands tend to slice-and-dice their material for live performances, ARS doesn’t stray very far from the original album versions. But like their Southern rock contemporaries, The Allman Brothers, they always leave room for semi-extended improvisation. Guitarist Barry Bailey happily accommodates, filling the space with biting, but tasteful blues/rock solos seasoned with his signature pinched harmonics. Frontman Ronnie Hammond certainly brings his A-game to the Savoy with outstanding vocal performances on every track, not to mention his knack for constantly keeping the crowd involved with his wisecracking banter.
But for ARS it’s all about the music. The band meticulously reproduces their biggest hits with effortless virtuosity. Songs like “Imaginary Lover,” “I’m Not Going to Let It Bother Me Tonight,” “So Into You,” and the excellent cover of the Classics IV smash “Spooky” are just a few reasons that the band maintained a place atop the charts from 1977-81. The disc also features the Lynyrd Skynyrd-inspired boogie romp “Large Time,” as well “Alien,” “Homesick,” “Higher” and a rather humorous take on Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally.”
Live at the Savoy serves as a wonderful time capsule that testifies to the excellence of the Atlanta Rhythm Section. This is one disc that shouldn’t be overlooked by fans of the boys from Doraville. Not to mention a giant thumbs up for Phoenix Gems for bringing this and other classic performances out of the vaults and into our lives.