The Amazing Rhythm Aces: Still Amazing After All Those Years

The Amazing Rhythm Aces | Moments -Live in Germany 2000 | (Radiobremen)
4 1/2 out of five stars

Truth be told, The Amazing Rhythm Aces were one of those seminal Americana bands that never made the impact that they seemed initially destined to attain. Aside from a handful of hits — “Third Rate Romance,” “Amazing Grace (Used to be Her  Favorite Song),” “Dancing the Night Away,” and “The End Is Not in Sight” — they made little impression on the masses as whole during their mid ‘70s heyday before breaking up, reforming and ultimately recording this excellent live performance in Bremen Germany some twenty years ago, making it clear they hadn’t lost any of the grit and polish that was inherent within the band even at its inception. Having originated as the Rhythm Aces, a steady backing band for the great singer/songwriter Jesse Winchester, they boasted a line-up that still retained three original core members at the time of this recording — the late Russell Smith on vocals and guitars, Billy Earhart on keys and Jeff “Stick” David on bass and backing vocals — along with new recruits, drummer Bryan Owings and guitarist Fred James.

Related: Read more about the Best Bass Guitars here.

Consequently, Moments gives the casual listener all he or she needs to own by this spunky little band, given that it includes all the aforementioned hits as well as plenty of examples of their sass and style all conveyed in the form of saucy southern rockers, soulful ballads and an ample serving of robust R&B. (Witness their faithful take on the Al Green classic “Love and Happiness” as an adroit example of the latter.) Smith, who had a rewarding solo career as both a singer and songwriter, is in fine voice throughout, his grit and growl often bringing to mind a Dixie-fried version of Bob Seger. The recording quality is as crisp and clear as one would hope for, with the edge and exuberance practically leaping from the grooves. That’s especially evident on a song like “The Blue Room,” where the edge and intensity reaches a fevered pitch, as well as the aforementioned “Dancing the Night Away,” and “The End Is Not in Sight,” each of which find the tenderness well tempered and the delivery deeply affecting as well. Earhart in particular shines with every offering, his emphatic organ and piano playing adding a richness in terms of both tone and texture.

Those that find themselves further enticed may want to go deeper and acquire the group’s original albums, most of which are as available either as costly individual reissues or, better yet, more economical two-fers. Nevertheless, Moments, boasting its 25 tracks, serves its purpose as an essential primer as well as a reminder of exactly why The Amazing Rhythm Aces continued to live up to their name.

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