In contrast to such '70s country-rock outfits as the Eagles
, whose members had passed through the West Coast folk-rock scene dominated by the Byrds
, the Amazing Rhythm Aces
were a Memphis-based band. Their debut album is an edgy effort, rooted in a purer Southern sound, and embracing a soulfulness that their West Coast rivals lacked. The country gospel tune "Life's Railway to Heaven," the funky "The 'Ella B'," the stomping "Hit the Nail on the Head," and the soulful "The Beautiful Lie" would never have been done in as raw, intense, or bracing a fashion by their rivals. Russell Smith
brings a vocal performance to Charlie Rich
's "Who Will the Next Fool Be" that sounds like he's channeling the ghost of Sam Cooke
. And between those album highlights and the hits "Third Rate Romance" and "Amazing Grace (Used to Be Her Favorite Song)," the group works in a sweetly nostalgic piece called "King of the Cowboys," all about movie and television heroes.