There was a time in my life that I should have listened to all Skynyrd albums. I wouldn’t have necessarily loved them but I would have liked most of them, and I would have had a lot more time for them.
Because once upon a time, I loved just about all ’70s rock music made with guitars, especially that routed in the blues. And I got the Gold & Platinum collection pretty early on in this phase of my life and listened to it a lot. I didn’t move on from there for many reasons, but one of them was likely that I suspect that they were the AOR equivalent of a “singles” band – that they had some classic songs on each album but lots of stuff that wasn’t up to the same level.
That turns out to be true. This is fourth Skynyrd album I’ve heard and it’s very much like the other three: there are the “hits” – “Saturday Night Special”, “On the Hunt” and “Whiskey Rock-A-Roller” – and there’s the rest. I only really love one of those songs (“On the Hunt”) and only like one of the other two, but they are all considerably catchier and more compelling than the other tracks. This is what I expect from Lynyrd Skynyrd.
There are other moments on the record that compel or almost compel, such as the break in “I’m a Country Boy” which doesn’t quite work as well as I’d like to imagine it does. But mostly the other tracks sound like Lynyrd Skynyrd not doing as good a job at doing Lynyrd Skynyrd as they do on the three biggest songs.
They remain a pretty damn talented band aside from the inconsistent songwriting, and Van Zant remains a much better lyricist than just about anyone else in this genre. But this album just confirms what I’ve thought about them for ages now, and what I seem to learn every time I listen to one of their albums I’ve never heard before: Gold & Platinum and the debut are enough – you don’t need to hear everything they ever did.