Yeah, I know I normally pluck an old album out of the hat and wax lyrical about how good I remember it being, but this time I’m doing something different. On January 26th, Lynyrd Skynyrd are re-releasing their first six albums (including the 2-disc live effort One More From The Road) as a vinyl box set.
Now, I know of Lynyrd Skynyrd. I can name a few songs. But – in honesty – their initial run is before my time. Well, it’s actually just within my time as I was born in 1973, but I wasn’t kicking back at rock gigs at the age of two. Sadly.
There’s no denying Lynyrd Skynyrd’s influence on rock music both back in the day and right up to date. “Free Bird” is on their first album (Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd), and even now it is illegal to produce a rock compilation album without its inclusion. Or so it seems, anyway.”Sweet Home Alabama” from the aptly-titles Second Helping is the only acceptable substitute.
Both of these songs have stood the test of time – 40 years of it – but how about the rest? The album tracks that the general populace don’t know?
To investigate, I kicked off with One More… Live albums, good ones at least, are the ideal place to get a flavour for a band in a “best of” environment. It worked for me with Blackberry Smoke, and Live After Death is still a classic Maiden album of that era.
One More…, released in 1976, includes both those classic tracks and – over its four sides – a dozen others, none of which I confess to recognising at first glance. The opener, “Workin’ For MCA” is about the band getting signed to their label (for which they apparently earned $9,000!) and features, very bluesy vocals and some wonderful guitar solos. As clean and perfectly picked as anything you’ll hear from a studio recording, and far more upbeat than either of the two classics mentioned above.
This slides perfectly into the far more funky “I Ain’t The One” which features a great line in piano/keyboard, and more blues-driven guitar and vocals.”Searching” is the first example of the more laid-back sound that’s perhaps more the band’s trademark. This theme continues with the very maudlin “Tuesday’s Gone” which really – probably courtesy of the vocal twang – emphasises the influence that country music had on rock’n’roll back in the day.
The beat picks up again with “Saturday Night Special” and then the big-sounding “Travellin’ Man” with what sounds like a full choral background. “Whiskey Rock-A-Roller” (a track which led to Judas Priest paying homage with the name of their debut album [this is totally untrue, by the way, but wouldn’t it have been cool…?]) flows from the speakers until the first disc ends with a perfect live version of “Sweet Home Alabama”. The crowd cheering and clapping to those opening few notes lets you know that even by then, this was a huge hit.
Disc two begins with the band getting the crowd clapping to bring in “Gimme Three Steps”, an upbeat number which slips straight into “Call Me The Breeze”, a definite toe-tapper of a rock’n’roll track. This one could have been written by Chuck Berry.
“T For Texas” has as much country twang as its name suggests. I’m amazed half the lyrics aren’t “Yee” and “Haw”. Not quite the Grange Hill cast’s “Just Say No”, “The Needle and the Spoon” is pretty obvious in its subject matter, warning of the dangers of hard drugs. Something I’m surprised to hear coming from a band of that era.
The far more upbeat “Crossroads” follows as the band head for the culmination of the show and album with another superb rendition, this time of “Free Bird”.
This live collection has at least one song from each of the other albums on, and it’s a great listen. Even more so with the hiss and crackle of the needle going over the vinyl! It just seems right that albums originally released on this format are being re-released forty-some years later in the same way.
Due to a complete lack of time, I’ve not had a chance to really listen to them all in depth, but even over the few years highlighted, the sound of the band does change slightly. Obviously, any follow-up collection is going to be a different kettle of fish due to the sad events of October 20th, 1977. It was ten years before the band – or what remained of it – reformed.
This is a cracking box set, collecting as it does the entire album output of a legendary act. They’re not over-rated either. There are plenty of songs on here that any modern artist would be proud to have written, and I doubt anyone could perform them any better than the original artists.
A good buy for the Skynyrd fan who’s perhaps not been able to find original vinyl copies anywhere and also a decent set for the newcomer to the band. Without going mental and trying to grab every B-side, it’s an easy, one-stop comprehensive collection.