|Lynyrd Skynyrd - Then and Now|
|Music Disc Reviews DualDisc|
|Written by Jeff Fish|
|Tuesday, 02 November 2004|
Lynyrd Skynyrd is one of those bands that trigger a whole rush of memories simply by being mentioned. Some of things that you think of when you hear the band’s name are great songs, awesome live band, impeccable musicianship and, unfortunately, tragedy. When Lynyrd Skynyrd decided to first come back in 1987 (after the plane crash in 1977), I had mixed feelings about this. After all, Ronnie Van Zant was one of the most identifiable voices and best frontmen in rock ‘n’ roll history. How can you ever replace that? “Replace” is obviously the wrong word – Van Zant was irreplaceable. The question is really how do you front a band like that now? Well, with Ronnie’s brother Johnny Van Zant, that’s how. I remember hearing Johnny Van Zant for the first time, thinking, this could work.
Lynyrd Skynyrd is going on 18 years now with Johnny at the helm and they’re doing quite well, thank you. With their latest release, they’ve gone back into the vaults and re-released Then and Now, which originally came out in 2000. This record is a compilation of live tracks recorded for the album Live From Steel Town and two later studio releases, Edge of Forever and Twenty. One thing really struck me while listening to this CD: they are still a great band. Sometimes when a band or musicians get legendary status, you kind of forget how they got there. I know that certainly happened for me with Skynyrd. It wasn’t until my band started playing some of their songs as covers that I realized they really do kick ass! While listening to this disc, I was again struck by their talent. I know that some people may find them to be an easy target with the grandiose endings or chest pumping, Rebel flag-waving anthems, but you know what this band can still play and still write really cool rock songs.
The disc starts off with a live cut, my personal favorite “Saturday Night Special,” which sounds as good today as it did 30 years ago. The DVD-A mix for all the live songs is set up so it’s like you’re at the concert, with most of the mix coming at you from your center channel and two stereo speakers. The surround speakers are acting more like the back of the arena. Overall, I liked the mix. It sounds like a Skynyrd concert. The one thing that really surprised me about this disc is the studio cuts. I haven’t heard a lot of the newer Skynyrd material, but if these songs are any indication, I’m going to need to pick up some of their newer albums. These songs rock with as much swagger (if not more) as the original Lynyrd Skynyrd did. Not only that, but their country roots now show loud and proud. Heck, today’s country music owes a huge amount of gratitude to Lynryd Skynyrd. But be not afraid, rockers, this disc rocks and rocks hard. A couple of the newer studio tunes that really struck me as cool are “Workin’,” “Gone Fishin’” and “Voodoo Lake,” which really benefits from the 5.1 mix. This song has a very swampy feel to it, sounding like it was recorded in the bayou. The ambience of the song really comes across well in the multi-channel mix; I’d like to hear more Skynyrd like this. The studio cuts are mixed pretty much like the live tracks, but they do have a little more instrumentation in the surround speakers than the live tracks do. With the live tracks, it’s mostly crowd and back splash in the rear speakers.
The live cuts on this album are all fan favorites: the aforementioned “Saturday Night Special,” “That Smell,” a great rendition of “Simple Man,” “Sweet Home Alabama” and of course “Free Bird.” All these songs come across as you’d expect from a band that’s been playing them for going on 30 years now. Granted, you’re not going to hear anything truly new in their material, but would you really want to? Lynyrd Skynyrd has earned its place in rock history as one of the all-time great live bands for a reason. Why change a successful recipe? I mean, we all know how terrific they were (and are) – that is, all of us except for those morons at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Why is this band not in the Hall of Fame? Personally, I think they deserve to be in there more than some of the acts that the Hall of Fame voters have chosen over the past couple of years (which I’m not going to name, it wasn’t their fault). The same could be said for Yes, Genesis, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. But that rant will have to be for another article, back to my review …
If you’re a fan of the jam genre at all, then I would recommend this disc to you. I mean, really, who help invent the genre after all? If you’re a fan of Southern rock, then you definitely need to own this disc. Really, any fan of good rock ‘n’ roll will enjoy this disc. It’s nice to hear some things don’t change.