A Rock and Roll Alternative
Atlanta Rhythm Section
Polydor Records. 1976.
"The best thing to come out of the South since the Allman Bros."
"Like I said, red dirt and rednecks...ain't nothin else down there...Atlanta Rhythm Section you said? Now what kind of a name is that?"
"Aren't they the ones who yawl "I Am So Into You" six times an hour on Adolescent Mawk radio?"
"I've heard they sing a song called "Silent Treatment" that exceeds the decibel level of a Jumbo Jet."
"Great band, laid-back but they ain't laying idle back there, have you heard their latest album?"
We were talking about Atlantic Rhythm Section, a five-year-old band that's about one-year-known up here and A Rock and Roll Alternative, their second 1976 offering. It rocks steady like that Bad Company song. It rolls smooth through ballads as sentimental as a first love. And it is definitely one of the best alternatives around to that much-heralded and oh-so-obnoxious punk rock.
It is the only group I know of that a friend of mine(who prides himself on his eclectic rock tastes) will reverently put on his $300 turntable while the folks downstairs are listening to the same song on their clock radio. ARS came into being when a group of session musicians got together after years of playing other people's music and decided to make a glad noise of their own. Barry Bailey plays lead guitar; the Rhythm in the title is floor-shakingly taken care of by J.R. Cobb, Paul Goddard and Robert Nix on rhythm guitar, bass and drums, respectively. Their vocals have Dean Daughty leading. His voice has the languor of kudzu growing down from the trees in the warmer climes--he neocroons a song like "All Night Rain", monument to puppy-love. Other times sings with all the fire and drive of Lynnyrd Skynyrd's Sweet Home Alabama.
Sky High is one of those screaming, hard-rocking incitements to mayhem, noise and more noise. "Let's Fly!" is the message and the song is certainly flying high among the most-played AM variety of songs. The beat keeps right on thumpety-thumping beneath whining guitars--hardly intellectual rock but then that's what gives it its appeal. Esoteric rock, with a "message" can become as boring as vitamin pills--this stuff, however, doesn't fall into that trap. Typically an ARS song begins with a minimum of frills, a few tight riffs and you're rocking down the highway with them, wishing like Hunter S. Thompson's Samoan attorney that your tin-pot radio could turn higher.
However there is more to ARS than just good vibrations. Their melodies tend to the simple, with instrumental arrangements spinning out the songs, overlaying a fairly repetitive tune with enough fancy solo guitar picking or harmonies to keep you interested.
Lyrics are just awful(and I like this band.) But who could sit through lines like these?
"When you walked into the room
There was voodoo in your eyes
I was captured by your style..." from their other current AM hit, the reggae-flavored "I Am So Into You.") If you're looking for philosophical sophistication check out some other band.
ARS sins and sings about it then sins again and always they seem to be in a Stones-type world, one described in Dog Days their 1975 album: where the singer goes "to sleep with an angel" and wakes up with a devil in his bed. Drinking in a "loud hot 'lanta honky tonk" is their style and if you don't like it...
Yet, in many ways there has been an about-face from the slurred-stoned cynicism of earlier album tracks like "Boogie Smoogie" the song about a juke box 'n jive joint during the Dog Days. The love-song "Neon Nights" seems to reflect the band's one-up-in-the-world status and if the romance of "two crazy people" on "a neon night" seems too-slick and too sacharin you can just see it as a stage, a step, that most groups take away from their beginnings.
Georgia Rhythm may be the kind of music they're heading towards. It's the most musically complex cut on the album, opening slowly, with echoes of Jimmy Buffett, building up to a tightly controlled yet steady rhythm. The twang and slide and repeated chords of guitar coming together to make it the most memorable track on R & R Alternative. Perhaps because it's the most seemingly sincere, listen to these lyrics; they sound autobiographical:
"Lovin' the life we're livin'-/we give it everything we've got just one more last time.../play that Georgia Rhythm."
But on second thought, don't spoil this music by keeping tuned for words. Find a stereo system with a couple o 100 watt speakers. And play that Georgia rhythm.