The Atlanta Rhythm Section... ARS... In the annals of rock and roll, where do they fit? They put out 15 albums of excellent original material, and consistently put on entertaining live shows-both of which helped establish a broad if not huge fan base. They had some big hits and have been a major player in the Southern Rock scene. But is that the whole story? In some circles, maybe. But for those who've really gotten to know their music over the years, there's a lot more to the story.
ARS was paired with contemporaries Lynyrd Skynyrd as the successors to the Allman Brothers - carrying the mantle of "Southern Rock" in the late 70s. Based in Atlanta, Georgia, it may have made sense at the time. But performing songs that were more musically diverse and having hits that had a softer, pop sound, the "Southern Rock" label was a mixed blessing and many of their unique musical accomplishments became lost in a genre that has lived on to this day-but never really fit ARS.
Here's some other ways to look at ARS. They weren't out to be rock and roll stars-they were accomplished studio musicians working as a group. They were said to be more influenced by music coming out of England than other music in the South. They shared musical stylings with the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac-both in the quality of songwriting and recorded performances. They were excellent musicians who tried to stretch themselves-think Steely Dan or Little Feat. In many ways, these associations make as much or more sense than any grouping with their Southern Rock kindred.
But the music of ARS only reached a mass audience on a couple of occasions. The result: an outstanding song catalog and the talented men responsible for it have been largely overlooked. When those songs are heard, and those talents recognized, the case can be made that ARS are the epitome of all the good things that the phrase "classic rock" implies.