For those who may not know too much about this band, the name could be confusing. It is hardly a description for a Southern Rock band, more like a group of session percussionists. However, the band is still playing after a fifty-year career. And to recognize that, I am going to look at what we think are the Top 10 Atlanta Rhythm Section songs.
They have been through the usual lineup changes and losses as most bands with that longevity. But, ARS, as they are known, have lasted the pace.
A Little Bit of Background
They were formed from two groups of musicians working in a local recording studio, Studio One, in 1971. They got a record deal quite early, but their first two albums weren’t successful.
Those albums were the self-named Atlantic Rhythm Section released in 1972, which only made #210 on the American album chart. And the second, Back Up Against The Wall, was released in 1973. However, it failed to chart at all.
Their next release, Third Annual Pipe Dream, did better, reaching #74 in America and #77 in Canada. Following that minor success, they were hoping for better results from the next albums, but it wasn’t to be. They had to wait until 1976 for things to improve.
What Kept Them Going?
The simple answer is their live shows, which is where they could truly impress their audiences. Every developing band needs a break and they don’t come much better than what happened to the Atlantic Rhythm Section in 1975.
They got the chance to open for The Who on part of their American tour. Now let me tell you, in the 70s, Who fans all around the world were about the hardest bunch to please. If there wasn’t something resembling a nuclear explosion on the stage at the end of the show, they went home very unhappy.
ARS excelled and showed the paying customers what they could do. On the back of that exposure to a whole new audience, they released an album the following year, A Rock and Roll Alternative. It seemed to do the trick as the album reached #11 on the American album chart and #22 in Canada. Their first successful album.
It was the second half of the 70s when they saw the most success…
They started to play at festivals alongside bands like Van Halen, Genesis, Jefferson Starship, The Doobie Brothers, and Santana. When we moved into the 80s, the enthusiasm for them waned, unfortunately. But not before they had left us with some good material. They released 17 studio and three live albums over 50 years.
There is only one original member in the band these days, who rejoined after leaving, singer Rodney Justo. So, let’s take a look at the best Atlanta Rhythm Section song. A band that was labeled as Southern Rock, but often went outside of that genre.
Top 10 Atlanta Rhythm Section Songs
A 1977 track from their album of the same name to kick us off. I shouldn’t think that you were expecting a gentle song with some jazzy keyboard and guitar chords.
As I said, they often stepped outside of the genre that was applied to them. This is one of those songs. A very good track that shows they had most things they needed to be a success. The single reached #64 on the American chart and #49 in Canada.
A track from their 1977 album, A Rock and Roll Alternative. The single did quite well, reaching #42 on the American Singles chart. It is an interesting song because it has two distinct moods to it.
The minor key for the verse and the vocal gives it a rather somber, serious feel. But, then it goes completely Country as you are reaching the chorus. Some nice guitar work as well, as it returns to the same mood as the verses to finish the song. This is a good example of the way they can vary styles.
“Champagne Jam” is taken from the album of the same name, released in 1978. The single reached #43 on the American chart, but the album was a bigger success reaching #7 in America and #16 in Canada.
This is a song with plenty of apparent influences. There is a little Steely Dan again as it jogs along at a relaxed but great pace. And, there is just the hint of a blues riff going on in the verses.
Southern Rock? I think so, but Southern Rock Atlanta Rhythm Section style. Some things are going on you don’t often hear in ARS tracks. For example, the drums and the bass lay down a great rhythm providing a firm foundation for other things. Another of those things is the guitar solos. Tastefully done in line with the feel of the track.
In 1978 and 1979, there were two festivals in Atlanta, Georgia called “Champagne Jam.” ARS played at both, but in 1978, they shared the stage with Santana and The Doobie Brothers. Two bands that I mentioned earlier ARS had played with. Do you get to play support to bands like that unless you are well respected? I don’t think so.
Let’s go to an album we haven’t looked at yet for this next track. Released in 1981, Quinella reached #70 on the American Album chart and was their last album to get a chart entry.
Not a big hit, and Atlanta Rhythm Section’s only release on the Columbia label. It is a very good song that, once again, shows the variety that they could give to their music. It reached #29 in America, while the album peaked at #70.
Despite the title, the song isn’t about beings from another planet…
Have you ever been somewhere where you just don’t feel very comfortable? Where you’re out of place, and feel distanced from everything around you? That is what the song’s about, about someone feeling alienated from everything around them.
Again, a medium-paced keyboard-based song and again with that Soft Rock feel. The atmosphere of the track is helped along by some very nice backing vocals. It would be the last time one of their singles broke into the Top 40.
I’m Not Gonna Let It Bother Me Tonight
Back to what was probably the best Atlanta Rhythm Section album, Champagne Jam, from 1978. With a chart position of #14 in America and #15 in Canada, it must be considered a modest commercial success.
It jogs along at a nice pace and is nothing special, you might say. However, it has a good Soft Rock feel, which was so popular at the time of its release. So, put into context with the sounds of the time; it was a good track.
A track now from a live album, Are You Ready, released in 1979. You can have trouble locating this song as a stand-alone track which is why I have included the live version. It was the lead-off track from their album A Rock and Roll Alternative.
Much more of a Southern Rock feel to this song that is clearly written for the live shows. It is about as Rock n Roll as the band gets, which is no bad thing for a band known as a Southern Rock group.
It just demonstrates the point I was making earlier, that it was their live shows rather than commercial success that made them stand out and gave them longevity.
Do It or Die
The first track on their eighth album, Underdog, released in 1979, this is one of those songs that will appeal to people who might be going through a tough time for whatever reason. The lyrics offer encouragement and let you know that all is not lost.
A Soft Rock ballad is probably the best way to describe it as a song. A different sound to the band on this track with plenty of harmonies. It reached #19 on the American chart.
This is a song that had been written by Mike Shapiro in 1967 and started life as an instrumental. It is a melody that most will recognize that had lyrics added by the band Classic IV.
The single made #17 in America. The band’s easy-going style was made for this track, and they did an excellent job. Interestingly, the Classic IV version was the most commercially successful, and some members of that band later played with Atlanta Rhythm Section.
This is a 1978 release from one of Atlanta Rhythm Section’s most popular albums, Champagne Jam. The end of the 70s was probably the high point for them commercially.
This song reached #7 on the American Singles chart and #9 in Canada. The album also did well, peaking at #7 on the American Album chart, and gave us some good songs; this is one. Once again, they move away from a standard Southern Rock style to a more keyboard-influenced song.
So Into You
If you ask most people to compose a list of the Top 10 Atlanta Rhythm Section songs, I doubt anyone wouldn’t place this at #1. One of the tracks on their successful album, A Rock and Roll Alternative, it was also the most successful Atlanta Rhythm Section single.
The album reached #11 in America and #22 in Canada, but the single did even better. Released in 1977, “So Into You” reached #7 on the American chart and #2 in Canada.
The song talks about seeing a stranger walk into a room and trying to find a way to speak with them. Is it me, or is this a song inspired by Steely Dan? Whatever, it is one of the best songs by Atlanta Rhythm Section.
Need More Awesome Rock Music to Add to Your Collection?
If so, check out our thoughts on the Best Classic Rock Songs, the Best 70s Rock Songs, the Best 80s Rock Songs, the Best 90s Rock Songs, the Best 90s Rock Bands, the Best 70s Rock Bands, and the Best 80s Rock Bands for more incredible song selections.
Of course, you need to hear them. So, take a look at our informative reviews of the Best Headphones for Music, the Best Headphones For Rock & Metal Music, the Best Sound Quality Earbuds, the Best Noise Isolating Earbuds, the Best iPhone Earbuds, as well as the Best Wireless Bluetooth Headphones you can buy in 2023.
Top 10 Atlanta Rhythm Section Songs – Final Thoughts
The Best Band You’ve Never Heard Of? I have heard some groups described like that, and the Atlanta Rhythm Section could fall into that category. They are unknown in some circles, yet the music they produced could have warranted a little more exposure.
Unlike some bands, and to their credit, they didn’t stick to just one tried and tested format for their music. They tried new things and varied their style. You will hear this on any collection of Atlanta Rhythm Section’s Greatest Hits.
But, as I have already said, it was as a live act that they made a lot of friends. And, the live album, Are You Ready, lets you return to a time at the end of the 70s when they were doing very well. If, like many others, you haven’t heard them before, then they are worth checking out.
Until next time, happy listening.