Then And Now

Lynyrd Skynyrd

CMC International Records, 2000

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Sometimes, you have to really feel for bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd. It's been over 20 years since the plane crash that claimed the lives of band members Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines and Cassie Gaines, but some of their fans seem to want to believe it's still 1977, before the horrible crash. Lynyrd Skynyrd has been fronted by Van Zant's brother Johnny since the 1987 reunion shows, and the band has, through nearly as many lineup changes as Spinal Tap, churned out some damned fine Southern rock.

But fans stubbornly cling to the old songs and don't want to even give any time to the new material. Christ, the band could give each concert-goer their new studio album, and people would be complaining that there wasn't the be-all-end-all version of "Free Bird" tacked on as a bonus track.

So it's rather sad that Lynyrd Skynyrd should be reduced to releasing a disc just three albums into the band's tenure with CMC International, my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Then And Now. What they try to do with this release is to fairly combine live versions of the old favorites with songs from the two most recent studio albums - and if there was justice in this world, this would be enough to get people to run out to Wal-Mart and to buy Twenty and Edge Of Forever, the last two studio efforts.

The one complaint I have with this disc right off the bat is that Twenty is criminally ignored, garnering just one track, "Voodoo Lake". (They should have at least considered "We Ain't Much Different," a song that some people might have recognized from the VH-1 special on the band.) Yeah, I realize that the ultimate goal is to spur on some sales for Edge Of Forever - which, if you didn't read the review of it back in September, is one damned fine album - but it wouldn't hurt to get people interested in everything.

Of the 10 tracks on this disc, half of them are pulled from 1997's Lyve From Steel Town, another fine release. But what worries me is that people will focus in on these newer live versions of the old favorites, rather than getting them to start drooling over the new material. And while I would love to see people pick up all three discs that Skynyrd has done with CMC, people might be more inclined to pick up an album with another version of "That Smell" than new "untested" (and I use that term loosely) material like "Tomorrow's Goodbye". Three words: Shame on you.

How I'd prefer to look at Then And Now is as more than ample proof that Johnny Van Zant is now the undisputed leader of Lynyrd Skynyrd (though he invokes the ghost of his brother Johnny often). Through both his mastery of the old material such as "That Smell" and "Sweet Home Alabama", and the magical touch he adds to new material like "Preacher Man" and "Workin'", Then And Now is like the "Cliff's Notes" that ties up Lynyrd Skynyrd's last three efforts. It doesn't give you the whole picture (and certainly not enough to bluff your way through the test - oh, wait, that's a high school flashback), but it's enough to give you a solid grasp of what's been going on.

If, after all this, you're still not convinced that Johnny Van Zant can deliver the goods, then by all means pick up Then And Now. But don't close your mind off to picking up the full versions of these three albums. If you consider yourself even a minor fan of Lynyrd Skynyrd, you'll soon look at it as money well spent.

Rating: A-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2000 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of CMC International Records, and is used for informational purposes only.