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Lynyrd Skynyrd: Nothing Comes Easy 1991-2012

Think Lynyrd Skynyrd and you instantly sing “Sweet Home Alabama” or “Free Bird”, dig into the album discography and it’s probably Pronounced Leh-nérd Skin-‘nérd, Nuthin’ Fancy or Street Survivors that come to mind. And of course, all of those genuine stone cold classics came from the early incarnation of the band which formed in the mid-60s and released its debut in 1973, before being torn asunder in 1977 when a plane carrying the band and their crew crashed causing the death of singer Ronnie Van Zant and guitarist Steve Gaines, along with backup singer Cassie Gaines (Steve's sister), assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick, pilot Walter McCreary, and co-pilot William Gray.

Understandably, that really appeared to be the full-stop on the Lynyrd Skynyrd story but after a couple of special reunion appearances the classic line-up members, Gary Rossington (guitar), Ed King (guitars/bass), Leon Wilkeson (bass), Artimus Pyle (drums) and Billy Powell (keys) announced their full reformation with Johnny Van Zandt - the younger brother of previous singer Ronnie Van Zant - taking the spot behind the mic. For some it was a sacrilegious move but for most they were just pleased that in 1991, some 14 years after their previous album, new music was to be heard. The album took the year of its release as its name, and while 1991 - which also featured the talents of Randall Hall as third guitarist - was a more modern take on the Southern rock blueprint Skynyrd had pretty much single handedly drawn back in the 70s, it still sounded very much related to the music that made the band famous and continues to pack the live shows. However, that it took brave steps to revive the Skynyrd name at all really should have seen 1991 given little chance of success and yet with gritty fare like “It’s A Killer” possessing a swaggering groove, “Smokestack Lightning” a twirling, good time piano infused guitar trade-off extravaganza and “Keeping The Faith” a lived in barroom boogie of woe this band always did so convincingly, in all honesty it continually hit the mark. And that’s without even mentioning the beautiful country-acoustic ballad “Pure & Simple”, which purely and simply steals the show.

Buoyed by the acceptance of the fans - and most of the critics - Skynyrd wasted little time in following up their comeback, The Last Rebel being a more obviously countrified look a the Southern rock sound. With drummer Artimus Pyle having walked out on the band, his place was now taken by Kurt Custer, who drove on the brass infused opener “Good Lovin’s Hard To Find” from behind the kit. That track wasn’t alone in the good time stakes, “Best Things In Life” - which also boasted brass contributions - and “South Of Heaven” making a stand, even if the album itself isn’t quite as memorable as the one it followed. Still, with “The Last Rebel” proving a heart wrenching slowie and “Born To Run” possessing a real strength at its heart, there’s still a lot to get your teeth into.

With the band then parting with Atlantic records, who had released both of these comeback albums, Skynyrd hooked up with Capricorn, CMC and Sanctuary as they released a further five new studio albums, although some of these were more interested in reworking classic era tunes, or even reinterpreting Christmas songs into Southern rock…

Then in 2009 the band, now with the remaining line-up of Johnny Van Zandt (v), Gary Rossington (g) and Billy Powell (k) rounded out by their drummer of early days Ricky Medlocke (later of Blackfoot fame) but now on guitars, Mark Matejka (g), Ean Evans (b) and ex-Damn Yankees drummer Michael Cartellone, signed with Roadrunner Records. And that’s where we pick up the story again, the quite remarkable God & Guns the undoubted triumph of the reformation years. Unashamedly embracing the Southern, blues, rock revival sound that bands like Black Stone Cherry had been taking to the masses, Skynyrd stamped their own authority on things by adding a huge melodic rock slab of hooks and choruses to the mix. The results were a resounding success and G&G the underrated gem of this band’s catalogue. Right from “Still Unbroken” and the mega-memorable “Simple Life” the standard was set, with the guitar trio never cluttered or confusing, instead simply combining to create intertwining and sympathetic melody lines that hit home every time. “Unwrite That Song” is a lighter-waver par excellence, while the title track and “That Ain’t My America” are standard bearers of the Southern sound. Initial versions of the album came with a bonus EP disc featuring three further new cuts; “Bang Bang” a rabble rousing rocker, “Raining In My Heartland” an up-beat piano led reminiscence and “Hobo Kinda Man”, a more traditional bit of finger-pickin’ goodness. The trio being joined by live versions of “Red, White & Blue”, “Call Me The Breeze” and, of course, “Sweet Home Alabama”.

Another three years would pass before the, given the band’s tragic history, aptly named Last Of A Dyin’ Breed would see the light of day in 2012, now with Peter Keys (on keys, of course!) and Johnny Colt (bass) in tow. Looking to replicate the sound and success of God & Guns (the band’s highest charting album since 1977), the approach didn’t take many chances and while the songs are catchy and great fun, nothing here quite reaches the ultra high standards of this album’s predecessor. Still, the opening title cut is a cool swaying rocker, while “Homegrown” nearly out boom-booms those Black Stone Cherry boys! “Mississippi Blues” adds an authenticity to the more ‘current’ approach, while “Honey Hole” careens from sweet little ballad to bombastic rock statement with a real sense of authority.

And then… nothing. Lynyrd Skynyrd, while still playing loads of shows that ignored basically all of this newer music in favour of the old time rock most of the fans craved, have never ventured back into the studio.

Gathering together the two Atlantic albums from the early 90s with the two albums (and bonus disc) released through Roadrunner nearly two decades later, this box set maybe only tells part of a section of a much longer story but it certainly dispels any myths that Skynyrd only had value in the 70s. In all honesty, nothing here - which also finds all four of the main album discs adding further edits, acoustic takes and live tracks - truly rivals the songs everyone knows and loves, but taken in the context of their history and the eras in which they arrived, they undoubtedly add to this band’s legacy. I’d maybe even go as far as suggesting that God & Guns alone should find you shelling out for this beautiful five disc, clam-shell box (which has a nice poster inside, but which lacks for insightful liner notes…) all on its own. However that would be unfair to the other albums on show, with 1991 and Last Of A Dyin’ Breed both seriously worthy in their own right, while The Last Rebel ain’t bad either.

They maybe aren’t all about home sweet home, but these albums are still proclaimed by Leh-nérd Skin-‘nérd and no doubt - and that’s good enough for me!


Track Listing
DISC ONE: 1991
1. SMOKESTACK LIGHTNING
2. KEEPING THE FAITH
3. SOUTHERN WOMEN
4. PURE & SIMPLE
5. I’VE SEEN ENOUGH
6. GOOD THING
7. MONEY MAN
8. BACKSTREET CRAWLER
9. IT’S A KILLER
10. MAMA (AFRAID TO SAY GOODBYE)
11. END OF THE ROAD
BONUS TRACK
12. KEEPING THE FAITH (EDIT)


DISC TWO: THE LAST REBEL
1. GOOD LOVIN’S HARD TO FIND
2. ONE THING
3. CAN’T TAKE THAT AWAY
4. BEST THING’S IN LIFE
5. THE LAST REBEL
6. OUTTA HELL IN MY DODGE
7. KISS YOUR FREEDOM GOODBYE
8. SOUTH OF HEAVEN
9. LOVE DON’T ALWAYS COME EASY
10. BORN TO RUN
BONUS TRACKS
11. THE LAST REBEL (EDIT)
12. THE LAST REBEL (ACOUSTIC)
13. BORN TO RUN (EDIT)


DISC THREE: GOD AND GUNS
1. STILL UNBROKEN
2. SIMPLE LIFE
3. LITTLE THING CALLED YOU
4. SOUTHERN WAYS
5. SKYNYRD NATION
6. UNWRITE THAT SONG
7. FLOYD
8. THAT AIN’T MY AMERICA
9. COMIN’ BACK FOR MORE
10. GOD & GUNS
11. STORM
12. GIFTED HANDS
BONUS TRACK
13. STILL UNBROKEN (EDIT)


DISC FOUR: GOD AND GUNS BONUS EP
1. BANG BANG
2. RAINING IN MY HEARTLAND
3. HOBO KINDA MAN
4. RED WHITE & BLUE (LIVE)
5. CALL ME THE BREEZE (LIVE)
6. SWEET HOME ALABAMA (LIVE)


DISC FIVE: LAST OF A DYIN’ BREED
1. LAST OF A DYIN’ BREED
2. ONE DAY AT A TIME
3. HOMEGROWN
4. READY TO FLY
5. MISSISSIPPI BLOOD
6. GOOD TEACHER
7. SOMETHING TO LIVE FOR
8. LIFE’S TWISTED
9. NOTHING COMES EASY
10. HONEY HOLE
11. START LIVIN’ LIFE AGAIN
BONUS TRACKS
12. POOR MAN’S DREAM
13. DO IT UP LIGHT
14. SAD SONGS
15. LOW DOWN DIRTY
16. SKYNYRD NATION (LIVE)
17. GIMME THREE STEPS (LIVE)

Added: March 5th 2021
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Score:
Related Link: Nothing Comes Easy @ Cherry Red
Hits: 222
Language: english

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