KamerTunesBlog

Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time

Forty Year Friday – LYNYRD SKYNYRD “STREET SURVIVORS”

Artist: LYNYRD SKYNYRD
Album: STREET SURVIVORS

[Welcome to Forty Year Friday, the weekly series on my favorite albums of 1977]

lynyrd-skynyrd-street-survivorsOn the cusp of being one of the biggest rock bands in the world, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s magnificent fifth studio album, Street Survivors, cemented their reputation but unfortunately will always be associated with the plane crash that killed two band members, a backing vocalist, their assistant tour manager, the pilot & co-pilot just three days after it was released. Following up the previous year’s multi-platinum Top 10 double-live album, One More From The Road, the septet of lead singer/band leader Ronnie Van Zant, guitarists Gary Rossington, Allen Collins & Steve Gaines, bassist Leon Wilkeson, keyboardist Billy Powell and drummer Artimus Pyle was at peak of its powers, creatively & commercially. Often described as merely a “Southern Rock” band, Skynyrd had so much more to offer while still being the definitive example of that genre. Van Zant, with his muscular yet nuanced vocals & thought-provoking lyrics, was the instantly recognizable voice of the band (as well as its heart), while the triple-guitar attack set them apart from other groups with “only” two guitarists. Mix in Powell’s under-appreciated fleet-fingered keyboard work & a rhythm section to rival most of their contemporaries, and it’s not far-fetched to consider them one of the premier American musical acts of all time. Sadly, that all came to an end when Van Zant & Gaines (the super-talented new guy) perished in that crash along with Gaines’ sister Cassie, but they left us with arguably the high-water mark of their career.

Album opener “What’s Your Name” was a Top 20 single and one of their best-known songs; an only-in-the-‘70s “rock band & groupies on the road” tale that includes a true incident about one of their roadies getting into a scuffle (“Back at the hotel, Lord we got such a mess, It seems that one of the crew had a go with one of the guests, oh yes”). Gaines & Van Zant co-wrote, and share lead vocals on, the pulsating, funky “You Got That Right,” which has become lynyrd-skynyrd-band-photo-circa-1977a classic rock radio staple and sounds like a cross between The Doobie Brothers & Little Feat. Van Zant once remarked of Gaines that he & the band would “all be in his shadow one day,” and album closer “Ain’t No Good Life” is evidence of his enormous talents. Not only does he deliver a searing guitar solo on this slow blues tune, but he also wrote it & sang lead. The highlight of Street Survivors for me has always been “That Smell,” an anti-drink-and-drugs anthem that’s also one of my favorite driving-down-the-road songs, with an insistent rhythm and several blistering guitar solos. “One More Time” is a lovely waltz-tempo ballad that features one of Van Zant’s most tender vocal performances. They enter swinging jump-blues territory on “I Know A Little,” a hidden gem that deserved a wider audience, and there’s even a faithful rendition of Merle Haggard’s “Honky Tonk Night Time Man” which was tailor made for Skynyrd. Of the five studio albums released by the original incarnation of Lynyrd Skynyrd, I think Street Survivors is their most consistent and pointed the way toward a bright future that was cruelly taken from the band & its fans. It still packs quite a punch four decades later, which is cause for celebration in spite of the mourning that lingers for what might have been.

 

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22 comments on “Forty Year Friday – LYNYRD SKYNYRD “STREET SURVIVORS”

  1. 80smetalman
    March 3, 2017

    Great album with 8 great songs. “I Never Dreamed” is one that gets over looked but it’s such a cool song.

    Like

    • Sorry that was the only song I didn’t mention, but it’s the one that’s had the least impact on me. Glad we agree about the greatness of the album.

      Liked by 1 person

      • 80smetalman
        March 4, 2017

        Don’t worry, we all have our favourites on that album. What I liked about that particular song was how it went from electric to acoustic and back to electric on the guitars.

        Like

      • Skynyrd did have a great sense of dynamics. I can see why you love that song.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Alyson
    March 3, 2017

    Going to have to pass on any meaningful comment this week as this was an album for the boys. My only real knowledge of LS is of course the tragic plane crash and the songs Sweet Home Alabama and Freebird, both of which I really like. Still great to see what you’re going to feature each week though.

    Like

    • I had a feeling this would have been a “boys” album in the UK (which was probably the case here too). Next week will be one of those “Alyson may or may not love” albums/artists.

      Liked by 1 person

    • galley99
      March 4, 2017

      I live 1.5 miles from the former site of Greenville Memorial Auditorium, which was the site of their concert before the plane crash. When Lynyrd Skynyrd returned to Greenvillle for the first time in 1992, they played a festival, not the auditorium.

      Like

      • Is there any kind of memorial to Skynyrd at that auditorium?

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      • galley99
        March 5, 2017

        The auditorium was imploded in 1997. No, there is it any kind of plaque, but over the years that is certainly something I have thought would be great for that site.

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      • That’s a major oversight. I’ve seen artists commemorated for a lot less and I’m surprised Skynyrd fans in the area haven’t petitioned for something at the site of the auditorium.

        Like

  3. partsocaster
    March 4, 2017

    So much great material, can’t believe it’s 40 years, dang.

    Like

    • Glad you agree, Kristiaan. I continue to be amazed at how well most of these albums from ’77 have held up. They’ve got the perfect combination of songwriting, musicianship and production.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. DanicaPiche
    March 4, 2017

    Love Lynyrd Skynyrd’s sound! ‘That Smell’ is one of my favorites. I don’t think I’ve heard this album before.

    Like

    • Nice to know you also love “That Smell.” Such a great song with a killer guitar tone. I imagine you must know at least a few other songs from this album, even if you’ve never heard the whole thing.

      Liked by 1 person

      • DanicaPiche
        March 5, 2017

        I thought I knew and loved pretty much their whole catalogue, but don’t recognize the album. When I listen to them (and CCR) I could be persuaded to believe I hail from the swampy bayou…. 🙂

        Like

      • Maybe you’re familiar with the alternate album cover that was used when their record company decided the image with the band in flames was not appropriate following the plane crash. It’s a similar photo but on a stark black background.

        How close is your nearest swampy bayou?

        Liked by 1 person

      • DanicaPiche
        March 5, 2017

        Oh that’s probably it. My nearest swampy bayou is many many miles away, but some of my ancestors hail from one such region going back a couple hundred years. There may be a musical DNA imprint…. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Nice to know you have ancestral connections to the swampy bayou, Danica. It’s certainly better than just having a swampy bayou in your head. 😛

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Kevin
    March 4, 2017

    I don’t really know what to say about these guys. Can’t say I’m a fan, but I enjoyed their songs when I heard them on the radio as a kid. Good band, tragic story.

    Like

    • Ooh, a rare artist we don’t have in common. I was wondering how long it would take before that happened. It’s too bad rock radio has boiled them down to 3-4 songs while there are so many others that deserve more exposure. Then again, that’s true about most artists…and why commercial radio has gone downhill.

      Like

  6. Kevin
    March 5, 2017

    It was bound to happen, my friend, and I’m sure it will again. The breadth of your musical taste eclipses mine, several times over. Maybe I would appreciate LS more if I spent some time in the “swampy bayou” with Danica. 🙂

    Like

    • Hopefully we’ll be back to our usual musical connection with this Friday’s choice. As for Danica & the swampy bayou, perhaps you could work out the logistics with her and you’ll come to really appreciate Skynyrd.

      Like

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