1973-1974 Early Albums and Playing Live

The group went to work on "Back up Against the Wall," their second album for MCA/Decca. They kept working hard, spending a lot of time in the studio. For a time, Hammond and Daughtry lived upstairs above Studio One. It was here that ARS first crossed paths with Lynyrd Skynyrd, who rolled in one night raising a ruckus. Producer Al Kooper worked at Studio One during the day, and then ARS would come in and work at night

The second album was released in 1973. With a number of quality songs, the album got the group more notice but did not produce a breakthrough single. At this time, the group got out of the studio to do their first live shows and went on tour to support the album and to expand upon their studio skills in concert.

The 11 songs on "Backup Against the Wall" offer a mix of up-tempo tunes and ballads-an approach that would become a cornerstone of the group's future success. The pace overall is slower and more restrained than where the group would go with future albums. But it is a beautiful timepiece of a group of talented musicians playing quality songs and working together to establish their collective sound. There's a mix of tempos, both between songs and within individual tunes, which the band would refine on future records.

After this album, the band decided to leave MCA/Decca for Polydor. They also started to establish a reputation in the Atlanta area for doing great live shows by the time they went back into Studio One to work on their next album.

With "Third Annual Pipe Dream," Songs Begin to Hit the Charts

"Third Annual Pipe Dream," ARS's third album, presented a more accessible ARS-a punched up but smoother sound, a variety of types of songs and a unique sound that could have both pop and rock appeal. It climbed to number 74 on the U.S. charts and gave the group their first regional hit, Doraville, which reached the top 40. Angel was also released as a single and reached number 75 as another regional hit-but overall the quality collection of songs didn't generate the level of recognition it deserved.

The 10 songs on "Third Annual Pipe Dream," including 8 written by Buddy Buie in conjunction with other band members, show ARS to have become both tighter in their playing and more polished in their song presentation. The band's pop oriented songwriting and diverse musical stylings-characteristics that would distinguish them from other Southern Rock bands-are displayed to great effect and show a band coming into their own.

Still Building a National Reputation

ARS's unique brand of music was developing a regional following, but they had yet to reach a national audience. They continued to play live shows, working to solidify their identity and carve out their niche.

At the time, the Allman Brothers had fallen on hard times and Lynyrd Skynyrd was leading the charge of guitar based Southern Rock. While ARS shared some musical approaches with these contemporaries, their background as musicians-not performers-and more pop oriented songwriting put them in a unique position along with but not truly a part of the Southern Rock scene.

They rocked, but they also dabbled with country and blues-all with more of a pop feel than some of their contemporaries. Their songwriting continued to improve. Their musicianship was tighter than ever. ARS tried to be true to themselves and fit into the musical landscape, a challenge they described in the song Boogie Smoogie: "We like reggae, we dig country, classical music's a gas, we play the blues in three quarter time but they don't want to hear that jazz-they want to boogie.".

ARS returned to Studio One in 1974 to work on their next album. They built on the polished production of the previous album while working out a set of songs that were tighter and better than what they'd done before. As always, new songs were written on acoustic guitar or piano, and brought into the studio before being done in concert. In the studio, the band would approach their own material just like it was someone else's-taking chord charts and doing multiple takes to try different approaches. It was a style that stressed discipline over spontaneity, and over 4-5 years helped ARS to develop their unique sound, which was now coming together.



Next: 1975-1976 - Paying Dues and Going Gold

ARS Historical Timeline

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