This record is notable for containing Skynyrd’s most famous song (apologies to “Freebird”), perhaps the definitive Southern Rock song, their biggest hit and such a cultural touchstone that Kid Rock managed to have a hit sampling it decades later. (The less said about that last one, the better.) But the presence of “Sweet Home Alabama” on this record illustrates for me, the big problem with Skynyrd as I listen to more and more of their records: they are a singles band – or, rather, the material that turned into hits is nearly always better than the material that didn’t. (This is not true on their debut perhaps not due to the quality of the songs so much as the overall freshness of the debut.)
There is a notable drop from “Sweet Home Alabama” to “I Need You” and basically everything that follows. Van Zant was an above average lyricist, and it’s not the lyrics that I have a problem with. Rather, more often than not, I find the melodies rarely strong enough to remember. Like other Skynyrd albums I’ve heard (other than the debut) I find I can barely remember the tracks outside of the singles when I’m not listening to the record. That would obviously change if I listened and listened and listened, but I’m just not that much of a fan. I can’t really imagine giving each of their studio albums the time for these songs to become memorable for me.
The appeal, for me, remains in their synthesis of genres and their performances, which are always excellent. If they were more diverse, like the Allmans, or they were better songwriters, I’d likely be much more of a fan of the band, because I often find I appreciate them more than I like them. They’re certainly very talented.
I just don’t really care all that much, due to the lack of quality material. And I find myself thinking, once again, that Gold & Platinum is good enough to not bother with the studio albums.
A grudging 7/10