Amazing Rhythm Aces - Stacked Deck/Too Stuffed To Jump
The Amazing Rhythm Aces sped to fame, fortune and so forth in 1975 when their Third Rate Romance, a movie plot in song, clambered up the charts in the States. Britain, of course, studiously ignored it. The six-piece Tennessee band had produced one of the most versatile debut albums of the 1970s in STACKED DECK. Mixing the best of humour and sentimentality into all of their songs, the band also managed to combine blues, rock, straight country and even a touch of Southern rock into their music. That debut album has now been reissued as a 2on1 CD release with their equally impressive TOO STUFFED TO JUMP, second album from 1976.
With the Aces, nothing seemed put on, and although a lot of the sounds appear familiar to some of the better rock and country music of previous years, none of it could be considered a direct copy. The band played with a restraint perfect for lead singer Russell Smith’s style of writing, with Barry ‘Byrd’ Burton’s guitar and James Hooker’s splendid piano work to the fore, underlined by Billy Earheart’s organ chording, Jeff ‘Stick’ Davis’ solid bass and Butch McCade’s neat punchy drumming. Even at their most laid-back on The Beautiful Lie, the drums are never turgid and the musicianly approach of percussionist McCade is reflected throughout the rest of the band. When these boys tried they could be so laid back they made JJ Cale look like a speed freak out of control. My Tears Still Flow is a languid ballad, which typifies the Aces’ laissez faire approach to music, which insinuates rather than openly demonstrates its finer points. As good southern folk, there was a bow to old-time religion apparent on Life’s Railway To Heaven, while the blues was represented in Charlie Rich’s Who Will The Next Fool Be. There’s also the bonus ‘single-only’ track of their revival of Mystery Train, which points directly to the band’s musical roots and influences.
Few bands could have got their careers off to as good a start as the Amazing Rhythm Aces did with STACKED DECK, which contained two of the finest singles of the 1970s. Third Rate Romance, a superbly drawn portrait of a shabby liaison, and Amazing Grace (Used To Be Her Favourite Song), which used the old religious song to illustrate a fall into degradation. Hardly surprising, then that their second album, TOO STUFFED TO JUMP didn’t have quite the same impact. The Aces chug in cheerful, relaxed fashion, typified on the opener Typical American Boy, with an interesting piano sound from Hooker. The End Is Not In Sight is a slow groover that never leaves the brain once it has seeped in. Out Of the Snow is, like their first hit single, a short story, telling of a chance re-acquaintance of old lovers from which a brief affair develops. Third Rate Romance had a winning blend of wit and obvious affection for the characters, but Out Of The Snow is straight romance. The dynamic album closer, Dancing The Night Away, deservedly became one of the Aces’ most covered songs. Truthfully this is a great album; a little more time on the lyrics could have made it a masterpiece. A highly recommended re-issue by one of my favourite ‘lesser-known’ bands of the 1970s.