Lynyrd Skynyrd, ‘Sweet Home Alabama': Album Review
Sweet Home Alabama is, if nothing else, a testament to the enduring appeal of Lynyrd Skynyrd. The two-disc set shows off the reconstructed band sparking their engine again for a 1996 concert at the Loreley Festival in Germany.
Recorded for Rockpalast, the evening found Lynyrd Skynyrd welcoming new guitarist Rickey Medlocke, who joined stalwart members Gary Rossington, Leon Wilkeson and Billy Powell. (The lineup is rounded out by the late Ronnie Van Zant's brother Johnny on vocals, Owen Hale on drums and Hughie Thomasson of Outlaws fame on guitar.) Even with a fresh face, however, Sweet Home Alabama finds the warhorse band doing what they do best. The setlist is pretty much what one would expect from Skynyrd, then or now.
They kick things off with a raw "Working For MCA," which gels right into "I Ain't The One" for a one/two punch. "Down South Junkin,' "Double Trouble" and "I Know A Little" follow, as the band dig a little deeper into their catalog. The big hits are, obviously, a big chunk of the set here, with all the usual suspects getting an airing. Especially strong takes on "Saturday Night Special" and "What's Your Name" are among the highlights, along with an extended workout on "Call Me The Breeze" where the guitar army has their say.
Disc 2 includes the obligatory "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Free Bird," while the remainder of the second disc is probably of most interest as it includes three tracks dating back to a 1974 concert from Hamburg. Recorded at the Musikhalle on their 1974 European tour, these last three songs show off Lynyrd Skynyrd's original lineup delivering youthful takes on "Workin For MCA," "Free Bird," and "Sweet Home Alabama." One wonders what happened to the entire concert!
There may be nothing groundbreaking about Sweet Home Alabama – and, of course, it's no match for the 1976 live set, One More From The Road – but it remains a solid set that represents a notable chapter in Lynyrd Skynyd's long history. On this night, the band was able to recapture some of that fire nearly 20 years after the disastrous plane crash that, for a long while, put Lynyrd Skynyrd to rest.
Sweet Home Alabama is out now on Eagle Rock/Universal Records.
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