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A Rock and Roll Alternative
Atlanta Rhythm Section

Polydor PD-1-6080
Released: December 1976
Chart Peak: #11
Weeks Charted: 39
Certified Gold: 4/12/77

The Atlanta Rhythm Section swings, and that makes them prime contenders to join Lynyrd Skynyrd in filling the Southern rock void left by the Allman Brothers' painful dissolution. Unlike any of the competition, including Skynyrd, the Rhythm Section has developed a subtle synthesis that uses a pop sensibility where other bands plug in country influences. There's little doubt that with proper luck the Atlanta Rhythm Section could become the biggest hitmakers of any Southern band.

"So in to You" shows off all the band's best qualities. A propulsive rhythm is maintained by guitars and pianists, Dean Daughtry's finely syncopated keyboards are integral to the band's sound, not an afterthought. The rhythmic combinations of guitars and piano give singer Ronnie Hammond the soft-edged backup that is best for his pop-smooth voice, with multitracked harmonies heightening the effect. Barry Bailey's lead guitar dances atop this configuration with a light touch that, like Daughtry's, owes as much to a jazzman's subtlety as to a bluesman's growl.

Atlanta Rhythm Section - A Rock and Roll Alternative
Original album advertising art.
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"Georgia Rhythm" and "Neon Nights," which appeal both as melodies and instrumental workouts, similarly display the Rhythm Section's smooth integration of styles. The band's twin guitars highlight both: chunky rhythms embody the former's description of life on the rock & roll road, while the smoky jazz chordings of the latter beautifully capture the buzz of neon. The album's guitar showpiece, "Outside Woman Blues," stands up admirably next to Cream's version; the Rhythm Section has stretched out the tune's taut rhythm and left Bailey to maintain the tension with his long and combustive lead lines.

The Atlanta Rhythm Section is equally adept at hard rock and light -- "Sky High," which recalls the earlier "Crazy," and "Don't Miss the Message" are this set's hardest stuff -- but it's their smoothly swinging sense that distinguishes them from the other rebel rockers. This is their best album -- Dog Days comes in a close second -- and if it isn't the Rock and Roll Alternative its title presumptuously proclaims, it just might prove we don't need one.

- John Milward, Rolling Stone, 3/24/77.

Bonus Reviews!

If these guys actually sounded as if their studio were located (as it is) in a Georgia industrial park -- fluorescent light through the pines and so forth -- the general improvement in clarity and inventiveness might be interesting. But it's industrial only in the most predictable sense -- more product. Even Charlie Daniels obviously has something to sing about; the vocalist here -- why should I bother to look up his name? -- might just as well be cuttin' another dog-food spot. C+

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

A Rock And Roll Alternative was the Atlanta Rhythm Section's breakthrough record. After five albums and four years of trying, they hadn't gotten higher than #74 in the LP lists, but this time their mixture of country and rock finally found its audience, largely due to the single "So Into You" (#7 pop, #11 easy listening), so that the album soared to #11 and went gold. It was only fair; the ARS had perfected a sound that was lighter and more accessible than the Allmans/Lynyrd Skynyrd school of Southern rock, but no less accomplished, and A Rock And Roll Alternative was the embodiment of it. * * * *

- William Ruhlmann, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

A Rock and Roll Alternative is the Atlanta Rhythm Section's most fully realized blend of harder jams and ballads and contains its biggest hit, the smoky "So Into You." * * * 1/2

- Allan Orski, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.

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