1977-1979 The Pinnacle of Success

CHAMPAGNE JAM, Released in 1978, was the breakthrough album that marked the zenith of music-making, critical support and popular acclaim for ARS. Eight great songs-all originals-are showcased with the top notch, smooth pop production the group had been refining for years. The songwriting and musicianship maintain the superior standards the band had established through its previous albums. The songs continue the pattern of blending beautiful melodies with shifting tempos, with each of the songs clocking in at a moderate three to five minutes.

The album proved to be very popular, hitting the top 10 and going gold and then platinum. The song Champagne Jam was released as a single, and the single of I'm Not Gonna Let it Bother Me made it to the top 20. But it was Imaginary Lover that proved to be the band's biggest hit-reaching number seven on the charts. The story has been told of a New York DJ who accidentally played the 45 of Imaginary Lover at 78 rpm and was inundated with calls asking about the new Fleetwood Mac song. Whatever, it worked. The album hit the top 10 and went platinum. But the musical climate was changing as new wave took over and what was labeled Southern Rock became less popular. The group continued to hit the road, now performing to much bigger audiences who knew their hits.

A White House Performance

In August of 1978 ARS hosted another big festival at Grant Field in Atlanta-the Champagne Jam-a celebration of the local boys who had made it big. It was also around this time that ARS played one of their more prestigious venues-the White House. They had become acquainted with Jimmy Carter in his days as Governor of Georgia, and as President he invited them to come play for his son's birthday on the South Lawn in Washington. "My friends," Carter described ARS as he introduced them, "Not only are we both from the same part of the country, but I remember when they first started that all the critics and commentators said they didn't have a chance-and they said the same thing about me." This performance was noted in Time magazine among other places. The studio session men from Doraville had come a long way.

The distance traveled also had a down side, as the non-stop pressure of the road and the studio started to get to everyone in different ways. It was around this time that original drummer and songwriter Robert Nix left the band and was replaced by Roy Yeager, who joined them in the studio for work on their next album.

Popular Success Continues with Underdog

Released in 1979, UNDERDOG , was another excellent album that continued ARS' popular success and documents the band continuing to make quality music-even though the critical and popular tide that had swelled through the late 1970s had reached its peak. The album features eight original songs, one of them incorporating a well known Ashford & Simpson song. The tone of this collection is softer, as only a couple of songs truly rock out, but the songwriting and musicianship continues at the superior levels the group had established previously. While two songs would break out as singles, overall it's another superior set of tunes.

Do It or Die and Spooky were both released as singles and hit the top 20. The album went gold. With the group's popularity still high, the decision was made to put out a double live album that showcased the bands' musical prowess in concert.

Finally, a Live Album

Both a tribute to ARS's popular success and a testimony to their musical abilities, the live album Are You Ready! was released in 1979. The cover images show how far the group had come-from the house band at a small studio outside Atlanta to playing to stadiums full of people. The album also documents the power that ARS could bring to a live performance. While their musical talents had been well documented with their studio recordings, their ability to give songs a different but equally enjoyable arrangement in concert comes through clearly. Overall, this is another classic work-a compilation of many great songs from their albums up through Champagne Jam played with great energy and skill.

The live album was the last for the Polydor label. Following up to the successful festival show of the previous year, ARS hosted the Champagne Jam II in August 1979 in Atlanta. The band moved to the CBS label as they went back into the studio to record again.


Next: 1980-1982 Still Making Great Music

ARS Historical Timeline

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