Monday, November 10, 2008

Not Your Brother's Skynyrd

I've always been a fan of Lynyrd Skynyrd. I tried to deny it throughout the 80's but after a bottle of Old Grand-Dad I bought the 1991 Box Set and I've been back on board ever since. One of the great American rock bands they often gets a bad rap based on the guitar jam Freebird but most of their songs are short (relatively speaking, this was the 70's) and to the point.
Everyone knows about the plane crash of 1977 which took away their singer, songwriter and spiritual leader (often ruling by fist) Ronnie Van Zant and their best third guitar player ever Steve Gaines, who revitalized the band after a little lull in the proceedings. Not everyone kept listening.
Being a fan of the original band I rebelled against the reformed Skynyrd, first a tribute and then a never ending touring machine and cash cow. I never thought Johnny was Ronnie or even Donnie, but after hearing the 1994 acoustic album Endangered Species I realized this guy is a damn good singer and these guys have every right in the world to keep playing these songs.
If not them than who else? They're still a good band. The songwriting is a little suspect but no one is going to a Skynyrd show to hear the new songs.
It's the original band that brings me to this DVD. The bonus footage is three songs from a 1974 concert opening for Queen (I'd love to have been backstage for that) with guitarist Ed King (ex- Strawberry Alarm Clock!) and original drummer Bob Burns. The songs are Working For MCA , Freebird , and Sweet Home Alabama. Alabama was their biggest hit, primarily written by Ronnie and Ed King, and it's great to hear it played by the man who composed it.
What I wasn't ready for was the 1996 footage of the reformed Skynyrd, now featuring Rickey Medlocke (ex-Blackfoot and pre-pronounced Skin-nerd member) and Hughie Thomasson (ex- Outlaws) on guitars along with Gary Rossington on Germany's Rockpalast. There must have been a hearty supply of German beer backstage. In between numbers Johnny Van Zant is cursing "Let me hear your fucking asses!" and changing the lyrics of Gimme Three Steps to "wait a minute mister I didn't even stick her!" while making adolescent hand gestures.
There's a drum solo (sort of) and the normally mild mannered Rossington plays guitar with his teeth and jokingly kicks and pokes at the other guitarists during their spots. Billy Powell looks like he's one drink away from being literally "on piano". It's a rough show but give these guys some credit they've been there and back and if they wanna have a few cocktails before the show all the power to 'em, they just might not want to do it when the cameras are rolling. This disc is worth picking up for the bonus footage but if you want to see this version of the band in a much better setting pick up the 1999 Austin City Limits DVD instead.

sweet home alabama the rockpalast collection
live from austin tx
endangered species

1 comment:

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