Without doubt, Lynyrd Skynyrd is one of the quintessential Southern Rock bands releasing a quintessential Southern Rock album.
Written by: Dave T
ARTIST: Lynyrd Skynyrd
ALBUM: Second Helping
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA
LINEUP: Ronnie Van Zant – vocals, J&B Scotch * Gary Rossington – guitar [Gibson Les Paul] * Allen Collins – guitar [Gibson Firebird] * Ed King – guitar [Fender Stratocaster] * Billy Powell – keyboards * Leon Wilkeson – bass [Firebird] * Bob Burns – drums
Additional Musicians: Mike Porter – drums (#2) * Merry Clayton, Clydie King, Sherlie Matthews – backing vocals (#1) * Bobby Keys, Trevor Lawrence, Steve Madaio – horns (#3, #8) * Al Kooper – backing vocals, piano (#3, #5)
TRACK LISTING: 01 Sweet Home Alabama * 02 I Need You * 03 Don’t Ask Me No Questions * 04 Workin’ For MCA * 05 The Ballad Of Curtis Loew * 06 Swamp Music * 07 The Needle And The Spoon * 08 Call Me The Breeze
How did Lynyrd Skynyrd live up to the brilliance of the debut, with monster songs like the boogie masterstroke ‘Gimme Three Steps’, the immortal hymn ‘Free Bird’, the emotive ‘Tuesday’s Gone’ or the moving and personal favorite ‘Simple Man’? By honing their songwriting skills aimed at the album as a whole and tightening up as much as possible as a band.
Ed King switched to lead guitar from bass duties on ‘Pronounced..’ and the triple-guitar army was born with Gary Rossington’s wailing sound/slide skills, Allen Collins’ Eric Clapton-on-steroids style and King (perhaps the more technical of the three) sharp Stratocaster attack.
As one Steve Harris once said, honoring the Jacksonvillers: ‘Iron Maiden are the Lynyrd Skynyrd of Heavy Metal’. Add the honky tonk piano lines of Billy Powell and you have the perfect mix. Riffs, chord progressions and arpeggios converge on the well-known ‘Sweet Home Alabama’, the proverbial answer to Neil Young‘s ‘Southern Man’. The result is a song that’s fresher and juicier than summer Georgia peaches.
Ed King actually dreamed the unforgettable first guitar solo note for note. On a funny side note, I can picture many English blokes going nuts by Ronnie’s southern way of pronouncing ‘Birming…Ham’
Van Zant always sang barefooted. Legend has it, so he could feel the music resonate off the stage. The frontman could easily sing either about a bar fight or a tender love. On the superb blues ballad ‘I Need You’, good Ronnie lets his male tenderness shine.
As they had already done live with The Who on the American leg of the Quadrophenia tour, Lynyrd Skynyrd challenged the Rolling Stones at their own game for the hard bluesy ‘Don’t Ask Me No Questions’, a song that both MCA and producer Al Kooper decided, against Van Zant’s will, would be a better first single than ‘Alabama’ due to the latter being too regional. Errr.
The roaring hard rock of ‘Workin’ For MCA’ was dedicated to their record label like a slap in the face. This thunderous cut inspired Blackfoot‘s ‘Road Fever’ off ‘Strikes’. Lynyrd Skynyrd oozed feeling in spades, as proven by the gorgeous, melancholic slide-driven blues ‘The Ballad Of Curtis Loew’.
The vital ‘Swamp Music’ is full of swing, at times recalling a Creedence Clearwater Revival vibe while the rather shaky riff of ‘The Needle And The Spoon’ mirrors the desperate anti-drug message of the song, crowned by Collins superb wah-wah soaked solo and Van Zant acknowledging ‘I know’.
The icing on the cake is closer ‘Call Me The Breeze’, a J. J. Cale original turned into a hard-boogie road anthem with a strong Rossington riff, a prominent horn section and Powell’s featured piano solo.
One of the quintessential Southern Rock albums by the quintessential Southern Rock band. The 1997 reissue is worth the price for the haunting, splendid unreleased song ‘Was I Right Or Wrong?’ Better yet, get the 1991 3CD Box Set, for the original unfinished version contained within that is even more engaging to these ears.
Skynyrd went on to produce a couple more studio albums and a live one before 1977’s ‘Street Survivors’, their first studio work with Steve Gaines in King’s place. Three days after its release and four dates into their ‘Tour Of The Survivors’, a plane crash tragically put an end to the career of the original band on October 20, 1977.
Workin’ For MCA
The Ballad Of Curtis Loew