Thursday, April 26, 2007

Lynyrd Skynyrd

@ Wiki
Lynyrd Skynyrd (pronounced 'lĕh-'nérd 'skin-'nérd) or (IPA pronunciation: [lɛ'nɝd skɪ'nɝd]) is a U.S. Southern rock band, described by All Music Guide's Stephen Thomas Erlewine as "the definitive Southern rock band, fusing the overdriven power of blues-rock with a rebellious, Southern image and a hard rock swagger." The band reached prominence during the 1970s under the leadership of vocalist and primary songwriter Ronnie Van Zant until he died, along with several other members of the band, in a plane crash in 1977.

Lynyrd Skynyrd was one of the most critically acclaimed Southern Rock groups (although the term did not exist at the time they formed) of the 1970's and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as of March 13, 2006. Their distinctive triple-lead guitar sound made their songs "Free Bird", and "Sweet Home Alabama" American anthems and staples of FM radio. Members inducted include: singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarists Rickey Medlocke, Gary Rossington, Allen Collins, Ed King, and Steve Gaines, bassist Leon Wilkeson, keyboard player Billy Powell, and drummers Bob Burns and Artimus Pyle.

The band, originally called My Backyard, was formed in Jacksonville, Florida in the summer of 1964 by teenage friends Ronnie Van Zant (vocals), Allen Collins (guitar), Gary Rossington (guitar), Larry Junstrom (bass) and Bob Burns (drums). Their early influences included British Invasion bands such as Free, The Yardbirds, and The Beatles, as well as Southern blues and country & western music.

During the 1960s, the band changed names several times (most notable among their names was "The Noble Five" and "One Percent") while playing local dances and clubs in Jacksonville. In 1968 they won a local Battle of the Bands contest, using the prize money to record the songs "Need All My Friends" and "Michelle", the former released as their debut single on Jacksonville-based Shade Tree Records. They also won the opening slot on several Southeast shows for California-based psychedelic rock band Strawberry Alarm Clock.

Early years, 1970-1972
In 1970, the band began rehearsing at the "Hell House", an isolated farm in Green Cove Springs, a small city in Clay County on the outskirts of Jacksonville. Roadie Billy Powell joined as keyboardist around this time. The original name of the band was to be "One Percent". The final band name also made its first appearance, a mocking tribute to Rossington's and Burns' gym coach at Robert E. Lee High School, Leonard Skinner. Skinner would strictly enforce the school's dress code, which did not allow boys to have long hair touching the collar or sideburns below the ears.

Lynyrd Skynyrd continued to perform throughout the South in the early 1970s, further developing their hard-driving, blues-rock sound and image. In 1972, Leon Wilkeson replaced Larry Junstrom on bass. But Wilkeson surprised his bandmates and left just before they were to record the first album. (Wilkeson was to rejoin the band shortly thereafter at Van Zant's invitation.) Strawberry Alarm Clock guitarist Ed King was asked to fill in as bass player. After the album was completed, Van Zant informed the King that he was "the worst bass player he'd ever played with". He suggested King move to guitar so they could reproduce the studio album's three-guitar mix. Van Zant married girlfriend Judy Seymour in 1972.

Peak years, 1973-1977
Musician, songwriter, and producer Al Kooper of Blood, Sweat, and Tears was impressed with the band during a performance at an Atlanta club called Funocchio's in 1972, and signed them to MCA Records. He produced their first album, 1973's (pronounced 'lĕh-'nérd 'skin-'nérd), which featured the song "Free Bird". "Free Bird" began to receive national airplay, eventually reaching #19 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. The song has also become the subject of a Rock and Roll cliché, which is the shouting of a request to hear the song at almost any live concert, regardless of the performer. This practice has become so commonplace at live concerts it has largely evolved into a parody of itself.

Lynyrd Skynyrd's fan base continued to grow rapidly during 1973, due in large part to their opening slot on The Who's Quadrophenia tour in the U.S. Their second album, 1974's Second Helping, was the band's breakthrough hit. It featured their most popular single "Sweet Home Alabama" (#8 on the charts in August 1974), a tongue in cheek answer song to Neil Young's "Alabama" and "Southern Man". Today, Young claims that he and Van Zant were not rivals, that they were actually fans of each other's music and good friends, and that they had talked of collaborations together. Neil Young was going to give his song "Powderfinger" to Lynyrd Skynyrd to perform, a fact which Young has never denied.. Unfortunately, the Skynyrd plane crash happened just months after that song was penned, leading Neil Young to perform the song himself on his 1978 album Rust Never Sleeps. Young has occasionally included the chorus from "Sweet Home Alabama" as a tribute to Skynyrd at his own live concerts, including at Young's first live performance following Van Zant's death. Finally, one of the last photos of Ronnie Van Zant prior to his passing features the frontman wearing a Neil Young t-shirt.

Second Helping reached #12 in 1974, eventually going multi-platinum. In July 1974. Lynyrd Skynyrd was one of the headline acts at The Ozark Music Festival, at the Missouri State Fairgrounds in Sedalia Missouri. Some estimates have put the crowd count at 350,000 people which would make this one of the largest music events in history. The band also toured the UK in 1975 with Golden Earring and in 1976 with The Rolling Stones.

In 1975, Burns left the band and was replaced by North Carolina drummer Artimus Pyle. The new lineup's first album, Nuthin' Fancy, was released, becoming their first Top Ten album. It features the hit song "Saturday Night Special" (#27 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart). Guitarist Ed King left the band midway throughout the Nuthin' Fancy tour. The band decided to continue on as a 6-piece, with only two guitarists.

Gimme Back My Bullets followed in 1976, but didn't reach the same success as the previous two albums. In December 1975, backup singers Leslie Hawkins, Cassie Gaines and JoJo Billingsley (collectively known as the Honkettes) were added to the band. Guitarist Steve Gaines, brother of backup singer Cassie Gaines, replaced King in 1976, just in time to record the double-live album One More from the Road, the band's second Top Ten hit. At its peak, the band's unique triple guitar style included one slide and a rocking Gibson Explorer. Adding to the wall of sound was the melodic bass playing, the wild yet rhythmic percussion section, Van Zant's strong vocals, and the furious keyboard/piano playing of Powell.

Lynyrd Skynyrd's sixth album, Street Survivors, was released in October of 1977. It would be the final album released by the original line-up.

Plane crash, 1977
Lynyrd Skynyrd's legend is grounded in a plane crash that occurred on October 20, 1977, three days after the release of Street Survivors. A chartered Convair 240, N55VM, carrying the band between shows from Greenville, South Carolina to LSU in Baton Rouge, Louisiana crashed near a forest in McComb, Mississippi. The crash killed singer/songwriter Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist/vocalist Steve Gaines, vocalist Cassie Gaines, assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick, pilot Walter McCreary and co-pilot William Gray. Other band members were injured, some very seriously. Drummer Artimus Pyle crawled out of the plane wreckage with several broken ribs, but was ambulatory, as were road crew members Kenneth Peden Jr. and Mark Frank.

The three injured men hiked some distance from the crash site, through swampy woods, and finally flagged down farmer Johnny Mote, who had come to investigate. Varying accounts have Mote either firing a warning shot into the air or actually shooting Pyle in the shoulder - no report is completely reliable. Pyle claimed in a February 2007 appearance on Howard Stern's Sirius radio program that Mote had shot him; Mote has always denied shooting the drummer. Video of a barechested Pyle at the 1979 Volunteer Jam does not show evidence of a gunshot wound.

Medical personnel arrived and began to ferry out the injured and the dead. Allen Collins suffered two cracked vertebrae in his neck, and both Collins and Leon Wilkeson nearly had arms amputated as a result of crash injuries. Wilkeson suffered severe internal injuries, including a punctured lung, and had most of his teeth knocked out. Gary Rossington broke both his arms and both his legs in the crash, and took many months to recuperate. Leslie Hawkins sustained a concussion, broke her neck in three places and had severe facial lacerations. Mysteriously, security manager Gene Odom was seriously burned on his arm and face in the crash, which involved no explosion or fire since the plane was out of fuel. Victims were taken to the hospital in McComb, Mississippi by ambulances and other vehicles. Road crew member Steve Lawler, who suffered severe contusions and facial lacerations, was taken to the hospital in a pickup with a camper top.

Pianist Billy Powell was survived but his nose was nearly torn off and he suffered severe facial lacerations. He later caused a controversy by giving a lurid account of Cassie Gaines' final moments on a VH1 Behind The Music special about the band, claiming that the backing singer's throat was cut from ear to ear and that she bled to death in his arms. Powell also claimed that Ronnie Van Zant's head had been smashed. Powell's version of events has been discounted by both Artimus Pyle and Judy Van Zant Jenness, who posted the autopsy reports on the band's website in early 1998 in order to set the record straight. Despite this faux pas, Powell has been on good terms with the remaining band members since the incident. Pyle did confirm (from Pyle's interview on the The Howard Stern Show on Sirius Satellite Radio, Feb. 12, 2007) that Van Zant's cause of death was trauma to the head caused by equipment, such as Betamax tapes and Trinitrons, flying forward in the plane's cabin.

Notably, the third member of The Honkettes, JoJo Billingsley, was not on the plane and in fact was home tending to a family member's illness. She was planning to join the tour in Little Rock on October 23, three days after the crash. According to an interview in the book Freebirds, Billingsley had dreamed of the plane crash and begged Allen Collins by telephone not to continue using the Convair. On hearing of the accident, Billingsley was so shaken that some of her hair fell out.

The Convair 240 itself had been inspected by members of Aerosmith's flight crew for possible use in the early summer of 1977, but was rejected because it was felt that neither the plane nor the crew were up to standards. In an interview in the book Walk This Way, Aerosmith's assistant chief of flight operations Zunk Buker tells of seeing pilots McCreary and Gray trading a bottle of Jack Daniels back and forth while Buker and his father were inspecting the plane. When Aerosmith's crew heard of Skynyrd's misfortune, they were shocked, but not necessarily surprised. Aerosmith's touring family was also relieved because the band, specifically Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, had been trying to pressure their management into renting that specific plane.

The official NTSB accident report reads, "The National Transportation Safety Board determined that the probable cause of this accident was fuel exhaustion and total loss of power from both engines due to crew inattention to fuel supply. Contributing to the fuel exhaustion were inadequate flight planning and an engine malfunction of undetermined nature in the right engine which resulted in higher-than-normal fuel consumption." It was known that the right engine's magneto - a small power generator that provides spark and timing for the engine - had been malfunctioning (Powell, among others, spoke of seeing flames shooting out of the right engine on a trip just prior to the accident), and that pilots McCreary and Gray had intended to repair the damaged part when the travelling party arrived in Baton Rouge. It is possible that the damaged magneto fooled the pilots into creating an exceptionally rich fuel mixture, causing the Convair to run out of fuel. It was suggested on the VH-1 Behind The Music profile on Skynyrd that this was the case, or that the pilots, panicking when the right engine failed, accidentally dumped the remaining fuel. Pyle maintains in the Howard Stern interview that the fuel gauge in the older model plane malfunctioned and the pilots had failed to manually check the tanks before taking off.

Street Survivors became the band's second platinum album, and was the #5 top selling album on the U.S. album chart. The single "What's Your Name" reached #13 on the single airplay charts in January of 1978. Lynyrd Skynyrd disbanded after the airplane tragedy. On the original pressing of the cover of Street Survivors was a photograph of the band engulfed in flames. MCA Records, out of courtesy, withdrew the sleeve and replaced it with a cover of the band striking a similar pose against a plain black background.

Hiatus, 1977-1987
Rossington and Collins formed The Rossington-Collins Band between 1980 and 1982, releasing two albums. Pyle formed The Artimus Pyle Band in 1982. Collins formed The Allen Collins Band in 1983. Tragedy struck the band again in 1986 when Collins crashed his car while driving drunk near his home in Jacksonville, killing his girlfriend and leaving him permanently paralyzed from the waist down.

Reunion years, 1987-present
In 1987, Lynyrd Skynyrd reunited for a full-scale tour with crash survivors Gary Rossington, Billy Powell, Leon Wilkeson and Artimus Pyle and former guitarist Ed King. Ronnie Van Zant's younger brother, Johnny, took over as the new lead singer and primary songwriter. Due to Collins' paralysis, he was only able to participate as the musical director, choosing Randall Hall, his former bandmate in the Allen Collins Band, as his stand-in. Collins was struck with pneumonia in 1989 and died on January 23, 1990.

The reunited band was meant to be a one-time tribute to the original lineup, captured on the double-live album Southern By The Grace Of God/Lynyrd Skynyrd Tribute Tour - 1987, but because of an overwhelmingly positive reaction by fans, the band decided to stay together and record new material.

The reconstituted Lynyrd Skynyrd has gone through several lineup changes and continues to record and tour today. Leon Wilkeson, Skynyrd's bassist since 1972, died of lung and liver failure on July 27, 2001. The remaining members released a double album called Thyrty which had songs from the original line up to the present. Lynyrd Skynyrd also released a live DVD of their Vicious Cycle Tour and on June 22, 2004 Lynyrd Skynyrd released the album Lyve: The Vicious Cycle Tour. On December 10, 2004 Lynyrd Skynyrd did a show for CMT, Crossroads, a concert featuring country duo Montgomery Gentry and others genres of music.

In the beginning of 2005 Hughie Thomasson left the band to pursue other musical opportunites. On February 5, 2005 Lynyrd Skynyrd did a Super Bowl party with special guests 3 Doors Down, Jo Dee Messina, Charlie Daniels and Ronnie and Johnny Van Zant's brother Donnie Van Zant of .38 Special. On February 13 of that year Lynyrd Skynyrd did a tribute to Southern Rock on the Grammy Awards with Gretchen Wilson, Tim McGraw and Keith Urban. On May 10, 2005 Johnny and Donnie Van Zant released a country album called Get Right With The Man which featured the hit single "Help Somebody". In the summer of 2005, lead singer Johnny Van Zant had to have surgery on his vocal chord to have a polyp removed. He was told not to sing for 3 months. On September 10, 2005 Lynyrd Skynyrd peformed without Johnny Van Zant at the Music Relief Concert for the victims of Hurricane Katrina, with Kid Rock standing in for Johnny. In December of 2005, Johnny Van Zant returned to sing for Lynyrd Skynyrd.

In 2004, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked the group #95 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

On November 28, 2005, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced that Lynyrd Skynyrd would be inducted alongside Black Sabbath, Blondie, Miles Davis, and the Sex Pistols. They were inducted in the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Manhattan on March 13, 2006. Lynyrd Skynyrd had been nominated 7 times.

In the spring of 2006 Johnny had to have his appendix taken out and was unable to attend the ACM Awards that May. In May 2006 Lynyrd Skynyrd added Mark Matejka who was from The Charlie Daniels Band to take the place of Hughie Thomasson. In July of 2006 Lynyrd Skynyrd did a special called Toyota Presents CMT Live At Summerfest and they also performed What's Your Name on CMA Music Festival.

Today Ronnie Van Zant's widow, Judy Van Zant Jenness, operates a Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute web-site ( as well as the Freebird Cafe, a block off the beach in Orange Park, Florida, not far from the grave of her former husband; she opened the Cafe in 1999 and serves, among others, numerous Lynyrd Skynyrd fans.

Freebird... The Movie
In 1996, Freebird... The Movie was released, consisting of backstage and home footage of the band, live concert performances of the original line-up, including the stellar Knebworth festival performance. =>>>>>>>>>>>

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Stephen Thomas Erlewine @ All Music
Lynyrd Skynyrd was the definitive Southern rock band, fusing the overdriven power of blues-rock with a rebellious Southern image and a hard rock swagger. Skynyrd never relied on the jazzy improvisations of the Allman Brothers. Instead, they were a hard-living, hard-driving rock & roll band -- they may have jammed endlessly on-stage, but their music remained firmly entrenched in blues, rock, and country. For many, Lynyrd Skynyrd's redneck image tended to obscure the songwriting skills of their leader, Ronnie Van Zant. Throughout the band's early records, Van Zant demonstrated a knack for lyrical detail and a down-to-earth honesty that had more in common with country than rock & roll. During the height of Skynyrd's popularity in the mid-'70s, however, Van Zant's talents were overshadowed by the group's gritty, greasy blues-rock. Sadly, it wasn't until he was killed in a tragic plane crash in 1977 along with two other bandmembers that many listeners began to realize his talents. Skynyrd split up after the plane crash, but they reunited a decade later, becoming a popular concert act during the early '90s.

While in high school in Jacksonville, FL, Ronnie Van Zant (vocals), Allen Collins (guitar), and Gary Rossington (guitar) formed My Backyard. Within a few months, the group added bassist Leon Wilkeson and keyboardist Billy Powell, and changed their name to Lynyrd Skynyrd, a mocking tribute to their gym teacher Leonard Skinner, who was notorious for punishing students with long hair. With drummer Bob Burns, Lynyrd Skynyrd began playing throughout the South. For the first few years, the group had little success, but producer Al Kooper signed the band to MCA after seeing them play at an Atlanta club called Funocchio's in 1972. Kooper produced the group's 1973 debut, Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd, which was recorded after former Strawberry Alarm Clock guitarist Ed King joined the band. The group became notorious for their triple-guitar attack, which was showcased on "Free Bird," a tribute to the recently deceased Duane Allman. "Free Bird" earned Lynyrd Skynyrd their first national exposure and it became one of the staples of album rock radio, still receiving airplay decades after its release.

"Free Bird" and an opening slot on the Who's 1973 Quadrophenia tour gave Lynyrd Skynyrd a devoted following, which helped their second album, 1974's Second Helping, become its breakthrough hit. Featuring the hit single "Sweet Home Alabama" -- a response to Neil Young's "Southern Man" -- Second Helping reached number 12 and went multi-platinum. At the end of the year, Artimus Pyle replaced drummer Burns and King left the band shortly afterward. The new sextet released Nuthin' Fancy in 1975, and it became the band's first Top Ten hit. The record was followed by the Tom Dowd-produced Gimme Back My Bullets in 1976, which failed to match the success of its two predecessors. However, the band retained their following through constant touring, which was documented on the double live album One More from the Road. Released in late 1976, the album featured the band's new guitarist, Steve Gaines, and a trio of female backup singers, and it became Skynyrd's second Top Ten album.

Lynyrd Skynyrd released their sixth album, Street Survivors, on October 17, 1977. Three days later, a privately chartered plane carrying the band between shows in Greenville, SC, and Baton Rouge, LA, crashed outside of Gillsburg, MS. Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines, and his sister Cassie, one of the group's backing vocalists, died in the crash; the remaining members were injured. (The cause of the crash was either fuel shortage or a fault with the plane's mechanics.) The cover for Street Survivors had pictured the band surrounded in flames; after the crash, the cover was changed. In the wake of the tragedy, the album became one of the band's biggest hits. Lynyrd Skynyrd broke up after the crash, releasing a collection of early demos called Skynyrd's First and...Last in 1978; it had been scheduled for release before the crash. The double-album compilation Gold & Platinum was released in 1980.

Later in 1980, Rossington and Collins formed a new band that featured four surviving members. Two years later, Pyle formed the Artimus Pyle Band. Collins suffered a car crash in 1986 that killed his girlfriend and left him paralyzed; four years later, he died of respiratory failure. In 1987, Rossington, Powell, King, and Wilkeson reunited Lynyrd Skynyrd, adding vocalist Johnny Van Zant and guitarist Randall Hall. The band embarked on a reunion tour, which was captured on the 1988 double live album Southern by the Grace of God/Lynyrd Skynyrd Tribute Tour -- 1987. The re-formed Skynyrd began recording in 1991, and for the remainder of the decade, the band toured frequently, putting out albums occasionally. The reunited Skynyrd frequently switched drummers, but it had little effect on their sound.

During the '90s, Lynyrd Skynyrd were made honorary colonels in the Alabama State Militia, due to their classic rock staple "Sweet Home Alabama." During the mid-'90s, Van Zant, Rossington, Wilkeson, and Powell regrouped by adding two Southern rock veterans to Skynyrd's guitar stable: former Blackfoot frontman Rickey Medlocke and ex-Outlaw Hughie Thomasson. With ex-Damn Yankee Michael Cartellone bringing stability to the drum chair, the reconstituted band signed to CMC International for the 1997 album Twenty. This lineup went on to release Lyve from Steeltown in 1998, followed a year later by Edge of Forever. The seasonal effort Christmas Time Again was released in fall 2000. Although Wilkeson died one year later, Lynyrd Skynyrd regrouped and recorded Vicious Cycle for a 2003 release. The DVD/CD Lyve: The Vicious Cycle Tour followed a year later, 2006 saw the release of Face to Face, and 2007 brought Paper Sleeve Box and Lyve from Steel Town. =>>>>>>>>>>>

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Introduction @ George Starostin's Music Reviews
The fewer dedicated Skynyrd fans there are in the world, the better (which is indirectly proved by selected reader comments on this page). Now don't get me wrong: the world needs a band like Lynyrd Skynyrd, just as the world needs a band like AC/DC or Black Sabbath or, well, I guess you got me. The big problem with Skynyrd is that they were always misunderstood. In the early to mid-Seventies, these guys epitomized the very essence of Southern rock, and in doing so, also managed to spoil Southern rock's reputation for a whole league and more. Contrary to rumours, they weren't racists, conservatives, segregationists, confederate associates, etc., etc.; their bravado, redneckish attitude should have always been taken with a grain of salt, as it was always tongue-in-cheek. After all, people do tend to brag about the lyrical matters of 'Sweet Home Alabama', but putting this song up as a death sentence for the band is pretty similar to accusing Mick Jagger of Satanism based on 'Sympathy For The Devil': in other words, ridiculous (the fact that the same album also features 'The Ballad Of Curtis Loew', an ode to a black bluesman, kinda escapes people). In the same way, one might view 'Things Goin' On' as a bold statement of anti-Semitism, and God knows how many other crimes one can find in good old Ronnie Van Zant's lyrics.
The unfortunate thing was that Skynyrd did their Southern thing with such loads of conviction they couldn't help being marketed and publicized as, you know, the Sons of the Cotton Fields, just as Sabbath were always pictured as Sons O' the Devil. In that respect, they've managed to earn themselves many a thoroughly braindead fan from the same cotton fields who loves them not so much for the music but ever so much for the image. Let me get this straight now from the very beginning: I don't care much about Skynyrd as a 'way of life'. Perhaps, if I were born in Alabama, it would be a different matter; but I wasn't, and looking at this band from an objective point of view, I just prefer to concentrate on their musical, rather than cultural, value.

Skynyrd are often compared with the Allman Brothers Band - and not without reason. There are quite a few similarities between the two. Both are taken as the most obvious symbols of Southern rock. Both had an enormous lineup: seven full-fledged members (the difference was that the Allmans had two drummers, while Skynyrd had three guitarists). Both engaged in the practice of endless jamming on stage. The most gruesome coincidence is that both bands had the most important, prolific band members killed in accidents: Duane Allman and Berry Oakley of the Allmans perished in motorcycle accidents, and Ronnie Van Zant and Steve Gaines perished in an airplane crash. This kinda makes me wonder if there's actually some terrible curse lying on Southern rock as a genre. Oh well, at least John Fogerty is still alive - though, on the other hand, CCR is no more. Oh yes, the final coincidence is that, despite the odds, both the Allmans and Skynyrd managed to reform and are still touring up to this day. Hah! You can't just kill off Southern rock like that! Just like that! Hah, I say! The spirit lives on.

Personally, when given the choice between Skynyrd and the Allmans, I'd still take the latter. I'd say that Skynyrd were a trifle - just a trifle - more efficient in the songwriting department: their debut album was a glorious Bible of Southern style which the Allmans never quite managed to pull off (yeah, I do think it's even better than Idlewild South). However, Lynyrd never quite lived up to the promise: they ended up rewriting the same record for zillions of times, and, much as I am able to tolerate and sometimes even love their style, it gets tedious after a while. And even this 'trifle' in which they manage to superate the Allmans is not that much. They tend to do 'rock', see, while the Allmans preferred to do 'soul', and I guess I'll take 'rock' over 'soul' any day of my life; but they rarely wrote ear-shattering riffs, gorgeous vocal hooks, or inflammatory lyrics. In sum, Skynyrd were 'mediocre' - perhaps the greatest mediocre band on the planet, at least, one of the best.

On the other hand, Skynyrd were never as musically gifted as the Allmans: their trio of guitarists was impressive, but a single Duane Allman would have lain them flat out in a moment. Not to mention the 'image problem': the Allmans never used the Confederate flag, after all. And, when taken live, the Allmans would easily blow old Lynyrd off the stage - that's not to say that Skynyrd were pretty bad live, that's to remind you that the live Allmans stuff is fantastic. If it weren't for that last overwhelming argument, both bands would share a 'two' rating; as it is, Brothers And Sisters got an overall rating of 13, and I really can't do that to any of the Lynyrd Skynyrd albums I've heard (although I confess I don't own One More From The Road).

Even so, Lynyrd really made some good music. And they were fairly consistent, too, like any 'mediocre' group should. You know that it's a tendency - great bands tend to have great ups and horrible downs, while mediocre bands tend to be consistent? That's easy to understand: great bands are more experimental, while lesser bands stick to the tried and true, so they end up being less important but more entertaining. Although, I must warn you, if a mediocre band happens to lower the plank, the results are pretty scary... ever heard Sabbath's Seventh Star? No? Good!

Lineup: Ronnie Van Zant - vocals; Gary Rossington - Gibson Les Paul guitar; Allen Collins - Gibson Firebird guitar; Ed King - Fender Stratocaster guitar (sheez, these guys really took their duties too seriously); Billy Powell - keyboards; Leon Wilkeson - bass; Bob Burns - drums. Burns left in 1975, replaced by Artimus Pyle. King left in 1976, replaced by Steve Gaines. Van Zant and Gaines perished in an air crash, 1977; the band broke up soon afterwards. Eventually, they reunited in 1987, with Ronnie's brother, Johnny Van Zant, stepping in on vocals and Randal Hall taking up position of third guitarist. They're still up there, actually, and still recording; some of the latter day albums are reviewed on the page, although I must give out an initial warning - don't even think of starting your acquaintance with Skynyrd through the latter day releases.

General Evaluation:
Listenability: 4/5. Their highest rating: despite all the 'genericness' and the monotonousness of the music, Skynyrd did come up with a full patch of great groovy riffs, after all.
Resonance: 3/5. While it's perfectly easy to associate with Ronnie Van Zandt's problems, I guess, Skynyrd ballads have very rarely struck me as truly heartfelt. Can be personal, though. If you're Southern, feel free to raise this one.
Originality: 0/5. Eh? Originality? WHERE?
Adequacy: 3/5. Skynyrd's reputation is completely incompatible with their overall bunch of talent, but at least the records are listenable...
Diversity: 0/5. Needless to even discuss this.
Overall: 2.0 = D on the rating scale. But I can see where some people would rate them higher, though. =>>>>>>>>>>>

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Mark Coleman & Mark Kemp @ Rolling Stone
If the Allman Brothers invented Southern rock at the dawn of the '70s, then Lynyrd Skynyrd perfected it as the decade wore on. These shaggy guitar troopers from Jacksonville, FL, really weren't the unequivocal rednecks or wasted all-night jammers of popular description. Their renewed appeal in the latter part of the '90s -- surprising after nearly a decade of being the butt of late-'70s arena-rock jokes ("Freeee Bird!") -- led to a surge of reissues, repackaged hits, and rarities collections.

Lynyrd Skynyrd boiled down its potent regional influences -- blues, country, soul -- into a heady, potentially crippling homebrew. They liked to play; those three lead guitars weren't just for show. But a taut command of rhythm drives even Skynyrd's lengthiest excursions. Overexposed as it is, the studio version of "Free Bird" (from [pronounced leh-nerd skin-nerd]) climbs to a dizzying height.

Guitarists Allen Collins and Gary Rossington formed the nucleus of Skynyrd's frontline. Bassist Leon Wilkeson and guitarist Ed King (formerly of the pop-psychedelic band Strawberry Alarm Clock!) rounded out the sound. Lead singer Ronnie Van Zant was the band's anchor; the gruff authority of his voice was matched by his forthright and forceful way with words. On pronounced, his take on Washington politics ("Things Goin' On") is as startlingly fresh as his perspective of local customs ("Mississippi Kid," "Poison Whiskey"). Producer Al Kooper adds keyboard sweetening to the slow-building "Tuesday's Gone" that sounds unnecessary; Skynyrd's tuneful guitar interplay provides just the right touch of sugar -- and salt.

Second Helping served up the band's feisty hard-rock twang to a broad national audience. "Sweet Home Alabama" is the consummate Skynyrd platter; the guitars sigh and sting like a stiff breeze as Ronnie Van Zant draws a line in the dirt: "Well, I heard Mr. Young sing about her/I heard old Neil put her down/Well, I hope Neil Young will remember/Southern man don't need him around anyhow." But if Neil Young's anti-Southern anthems wounded Van Zant's pride, the singer hardly sounds like a card-carrying segregationist on "The Ballad of Curtis Loew." Skynyrd's tribute to a black grocery store owner who played the blues underlines the crucial role music plays in kicking down racial barriers. Though songs about the business of rock and life on the road became clichéd in the '70s, Van Zant wrote some of the best, beginning with Second Helping's searing "Workin' for MCA," the reflective "Was I Right or Wrong," and the cautionary "The Needle and the Spoon."

Nuthin' Fancy kicks off with further proof of Van Zant's independent thinking; "Saturday Night Special," Skynyrd's hardest rocker, is a full-bore assault against handguns. The rest of the album never exactly slacks off, but aside from that opener, Skynyrd seems to be repeating itself on tracks like "On the Hunt" and "Am I Losin'." That goes double for Gimme Back My Bullets, especially on the band's cover of J.J. Cale's too-telling "I Got the Same Old Blues." While Skynyrd's musical strength hasn't diminished on these albums, the pressures of constant touring had a clear effect on the group's creativity. That said, live albums don't get much more exciting than One More From the Road. With new guitarist Steve Gaines stepping in for the departed Ed King, Skynyrd roars through a set of mostly earlier material and two wholly appropriate covers: Robert Johnson's "Crossroads" (with a nod to Cream) and Jimmie Rodgers' "T for Texas." Street Survivors is much better than might have been expected. Gaines stimulated Van Zant's songwriting as well as axemen Rossington and Collins' playing. "What's Your Name," "That Smell," "You Got That Right," and "I Never Dreamed" mine familiar Skynyrd territory with a sharpened melodic focus and wide-ranging instrumental reach. What should have been the band's second coming turned out to be its swan song; Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines, and his sister, backup singer Cassie, were killed when the band's private plane crashed in late 1977 -- just days after Street Survivors' release.

After recovering from their loss, Gary Rossington, Allen Collins, Leon Wilkeson, and keyboard pounder Billy Powell hooked up with an assertive female vocalist named Dale Krantz a few years later. The Rossington-Collins Band's two albums -- Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere (MCA, 1980) and This Is the Way (MCA, 1982) -- flash the expected guitar heat, but the songs fall short of Skynyrd's imposingly high standards.

Surprisingly, the revamped-for-the-'90s Lynyrd Skynyrd comes much closer to realizing Rossington-Collins' goal. A decade after the crash, Rossington rounded up Ed King, a then-wheelchair-bound Collins, and lead singer Johnny Van Zant (Ronnie's brother) -- along with a few extra Southern rock luminaries -- for a wonderfully potent live reunion. On Southern by the Grace of God, the younger Van Zant sings his brother's songs with spit and vinegar, but the performance lacks the youthful passion of One More From the Road. Though Collins died in 1990, Rossington's reunited Skynyrd hit the studio for a satisfyingly brash boogie session. Ultimately, however, Lynyrd Skynyrd 1991 fails to deliver the songwriting bite that Ronnie Van Zant gave the original band.

The new Skynyrd continued to tour and release albums throughout the '90s, winning younger Southern rock converts, but the Ronnie Van Zantless group could never match the grit and drive of the original lineup. Still, when Skynyrd took a cue from MTV's Unplugged for Endangered Species, performing a handful of its classic songs in the studio on acoustic instruments, the result was remarkably fresh; Van Zant's songs never sounded so appropriately rustic.

The various posthumous releases of the original Skynyrd's music are completely eclipsed by the 1991 box set. Lynyrd Skynyrd mixes early demos, unreleased tracks, acoustic outtakes, live cuts, and acknowledged classics in a swaggering, impressive, three-disc package. Most of the other repackaged hits and live collections suffer, to varying degrees, from weak song selections and sluggish performances. The early Gold & Platinum and later Essential Lynyrd Skynyrd are the best two-disc retrospectives, while the budget-minded would do fine with the single-disc The Millennium Collection. Essential for die-hard fans are Skynyrd's First, the band's complete earliest Muscle Shoals recordings, and the rarities set Collectybles. Of moderate interest is Solo Flytes, an uneven compilation of mostly generic bar-band boogie by the various members' post-Skynyrd projects including the Rossington-Collins Band, the Allen Collins Band, and the Artimus Pyle Band. (Mark Coleman/Mark Kemp)

From 2004's The New Rolling Stone Album Guide =>>>>>>>>>>>

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Lynyrd Skynyrd @ You Tube

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Al Kooper @ Rolling Stone
In 1972, I was searching for a great three-chord band to produce. The radio was logjammed with progressive rock like you wouldn't believe: Yes; Pink Floyd; Emerson, Lake and Palmer; Genesis; King Crimson. As a student of rock history, I knew it wouldn't be long before basic rock returned like the cavalry, and I wanted to be leading the charge, albeit behind the scenes.

And so, in 1972, I heard Lynyrd Skynyrd making their Atlanta debut at a very dangerous club on Peachtree Street called Funocchio's. They were playing a weeklong engagement, and each night I'd hear another great original song from them and knew I'd found the band I was searching for.

As I got to know them, I marveled at their work ethic. They had a shack on the swamp in their native Jacksonville, Florida, where they rehearsed constantly, honing their original material into polished, shining steel. They may have had three guitar players, but they understood restraint. Of all the bands I'd come across in my life, they were the finest arrangers. "Sweet Home Alabama" sounds like seasoned studio musicians twice their age.

Ronnie Van Zant was Lynyrd Skynyrd. I don't mean to demean the roles the others played in the group's success, but it never would have happened without him. His lyrics were a big part of it -- like Woody Guthrie and Merle Haggard before him, Ronnie knew how to cut to the chase. And Ronnie ran that band with an iron hand. I have never seen such internal discipline in a band. One example: These guys composed all of their guitar solos. Most bands improvised solos each time they performed or recorded. Not them. Ronnie's dream was that they would sound exactly the same every time they took the stage.

After three or four albums, Lynyrd Skynyrd transcended the Southern-rock tag. They became one of the greatest rock & roll bands in history. They feared no one. On their very first national tour, they opened for the Who. And got encores!

When Ronnie went down in that terrible 1977 plane crash, the forward progress of the band ended. After the survivors all healed, they miraculously reassembled. Ronnie's kid brother Johnnie took over, and you had to rub your eyes to make sure it wasn't Ronnie. But while the band could duplicate the majesty of past live shows (and still can), the heart and soul of the band was gone forever.

(From RS 972, April 21, 2005) =>>>>>>>>>>>

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@ Lynyrd Skynyrd History

2006 Inductees Into The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame

Ronnie Van Zant - Gary Rossington - Allen Collins - Leon Wilkeson
Bob Burns - Billy Powell - Ed King - Artimus Pyle - Steve Gaines

Lynyrd Skynyrd was one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed Southern Rock groups of the 1970's. Their distinctive triple-lead guitar sound made their songs "Freebird" and "Sweet Home Alabama" American anthems and staples of FM radio. Artists become eligible for induction 25 years after the release of their first record. Criteria considered includes the influence and significance of the artist's contribution to the development and perpetuation of rock and roll. The Foundation's nominating committee, composed of rock and roll historians, selects nominees each year in the "artist" category. Ballots are then sent to an international voting body of about 700 rock experts. The Twenty-First Annual Induction Ceremony was held on March 13th 2006 in New York, the ceremonies were aired a week later on March 21st, by VH1. =>>>>>>>>>>>

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