One of the best country soul/southern rock crossover bands, The Amazing Rhythm Aces hit the scene with a big splash in the swinging 1970s, scoring a chart-topping Top Ten hit, "Third Rate Romance," one of the most bluntly cynical cheating songs ever recorded. Although they never repeated that initial chart success, the band has recorded an impressive body of roots-oriented material, blending country, blues, rock and soul. The Aces featured the vocal talents of lead singer Russell Smith (as distinctive a voice as you could ever hope for) and pianist James Hooker -- both Smith and Hooker went on to work outside the band -- Smith has recorded solo material while Hooker became Nanci Griffith's bandleader and arranger). Here's a quick look at the band and their work...
The Amazing Rhythm Aces "Their Very Best" (Varese Sarabande, 2009)
Despite having had a huge crossover hit in 1975 (the irresistibly catchy, "Third Rate Romance") the Amazing Rhythm Aces have remained a cult band, revered by folks in the know, but off the radar in general. The CD era has seen a couple of their classic albums reissued, but this single-CD best-of set does a great job gathering together some of their most enjoyable old songs. In addition to "Third Rate Romance," there are wonderful tunes such as "Ashes Of Love," "Amazing Grace (Used To Be Her Favorite Song)", and the stellar "Dancing The Night Away" (which was later covered by Tanya Tucker...) This is a great introduction to one of the most versatile country-roots bands of the late 1970s, although it is a bit short, and leaves a few faves out. (I would gladly trade their delightful version of the gospel oldie, "Life's Railway To Heaven," in place of any of the rock/R&B covers hat are included here ("Mystery Train," et. al.) Also on tap are a couple of late-1980's bonus tracks from singer Russell Smith's solo career -- like Delbert McClinton, Smith is a distinctive Southern singer whose every inflection brings out the link between country music and blues, and it's nice to hear a little of what he did on his own. If you haven't heard of the Aces before, this is a nice way to check 'em out. You might also want to pick up some of the original albums, particularly Stacked Deck and Too Stuffed To Jump.
Amazing Rhythm Aces "Stacked Deck/Too Stuffed To Jump" (Collector's Choice, 2000)
A swell twofer reissue of the first two Aces albums, Stacked Deck and Too Stuffed To Jump, from 1975 and 1976. There are other fun songs recorded later on, but this is the very best of their work. Highly recommended!
Amazing Rhythm Aces "Toucan Do It Too/Burning the Ballroom Down" (Collector's Choice, 2000)
Another twofer with a couple of classic albums, Toucan Do It Too and Burning The Ballroom Down, from 1977 and 1978.
Amazing Rhythm Aces "Stacked Deck" (ABC, 1975)
Although they have more than their fair share of super-goofy '70s moments, they also had plenty of solid, fabulously well-produced tunes. Their big Top 40 hit was "Third Rate Romance," with a singalong chorus that's still as catchy today as it was in '75. But there are plenty of other goodies in their catalog, particularly "Typical American Boy," one of the great dopey redneck ballads of all time.
Amazing Rhythm Aces "Too Stuffed To Jump" (ABC, 1976)
The Amazing Rhythm Aces "Toucan Do It Too" (ABC, 1977)
The Amazing Rhythm Aces "Burning The Ballroom Down" (ABC, 1978)
The Amazing Rhythm Aces "The Amazing Rhythm Aces" (ABC, 1979)
The Amazing Rhythm Aces "How The Hell Do You Spell Rythum?" (Warner, 1980)
The Amazing Rhythm Aces "Full House: Aces High" (MSS, 1981)
The Amazing Rhythm Aces "4 You 4 Ever: Best Of Amazing Rhythm Aces" (M&R, 1982)
The Amazing Rhythm Aces "V.1: The Amazing Rhythm Aces Ride Again" (Breaker, 1997)
The Amazing Rhythm Aces "Out Of The Blue" (Breaker, 1997)
The Amazing Rhythm Aces "Chock Full Of Country Goodness" (Valley, 1998)
The Amazing Rhythm Aces "Live In Switzerland" (Store For Music, 1999)
The Amazing Rhythm Aces "Concert Classics, Volume 3" (Renaissance, 1999)
The Amazing Rhythm Aces "Absolutely Live" (Icehouse, 2000)
The Amazing Rhythm Aces "Between You And Us" (Pilot, 2001)
The Amazing Rhythm Aces "Nothin' But The Blues" (2004)
Russell Smith & The Amazing Rhythm Aces "Midnight Communion" (2008)
Amazing Rhythm Aces "Live In America" (2008)
Hick Music Index