Lynyrd Skynyrd 1991

Lynyrd Skynyrd

Atlantic, 1991

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


There are some people who would adamantly state that Lynyrd Skynyrd should have remained disbanded following the plane crash in October 1977 that took the lives of Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines and Cassie Gaines (among other victims). There are others who would maintain that life must go on, and their reunion (featuring brother Johnny Van Zant in place of his late brother) in 1988 was a celebration of the band's past.

Lynyrd Skynyrd 1991, the first album from the reformed band, dares to suggest that perhaps the band should have stayed dormant. While there are a few bright moments on the disc, the overall feel is that the group doesn't quite know what to do with their music now that their leader is long gone. (I am well aware that fans of Gary Rossington will take great umbrage at that statement, as he has become the de facto leader of the band post-reunion.)

Johnny Van Zant has always been a capable singer, and it is a good thing that the surviving members of Lynyrd Skynyrd decided to keep the vocal portion of the band “in the family,” so to speak. But even he would probably admit that he doesn't have the vocal grit that Ronnie Van Zant had – so while he's still a good fit as the lead singer, he's not quite perfect. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Musically, though, Lynyrd Skynyrd 1991 is where the weaknesses show the most. There is nothing on this disc that grabs the listener and makes them jump for joy at the return of the Southern rock legends. There is no “What's Your Name,” “Saturday Night Special” or “Sweet Home Alabama” moment anywhere on this album. The lead single “Smokestack Lightning,” quite honestly, was not a strong first choice – and it's also not the best to be the first song that you hear when the needle hits the vinyl.

“Backstreet Crawler” might have been the best choice for that honor; it is a song that does seem to capture some of the old raucousness that made '70s-era Lynyrd Skynyrd both fun and exciting to listen to, while still sounding modern and new.

Similarly, “Mama (Afraid To Say Goodbye)” seems to capture early-era Lynyrd Skynyrd perfectly, especially the concept of loss. For whom this song was written is a mystery to me (Marion, the matriarch of the Van Zant family, passed away in 2000, so it couldn't be her), but it is a poignant tribute to someone, and will pull at the listener's heart strings.

If only there were more moments like this on Lynyrd Skynyrd 1991. Other tracks like “Keeping The Faith,” “Money Man,” “I've Seen Enough” and “Pure And Simple” do not capture that same power and excitement, and are more subdued than one would have expected from a band experiencing a true rebirth.

Perhaps it was just that Lynyrd Skynyrd Mk. II needed more time to gel together as a band; future releases would re-capture some of that excitement. But Lynyrd Skynyrd 1991 has too few of those moments to make this essential listening.

Rating: C-

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