Skynyrd Comes Home Sweet Home Alabama in Rockin’ 2 CD Live Collection

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Lynyrd Skynyrd Rockpalast double album Dennis Russo Critical Blast

This 2 CD set from Rockpalast features something not usually found on Live CD’s. While the entire first CD and half (give or take some minutes here or there) of the second features the the post-1977 era (which took the life of Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gains, Cassie Gains and others) version of the band led by Johnny Van Zant and recorded in 1996, the last half of the second CD features 4 songs from a 1974 concert and features Ronnie Van Zant. (Steve and Cassie Gaines, brother and sister, were not members of the band yet in 74’).

I couldn’t wait to listen to these CDs, being a fan of both eras of the band. But I admit I was already thinking to myself, “How would this 2 CD set compare to 1976’s incredible and now iconic double live album, ONE MORE FOR FROM THE ROAD, which included Steve and Cassie Gaines in the lineup and is considered among the greatest and most successful live albums ever recorded (with, I might add, the most definitive version of "Free Bird" these ears have heard)?

Well, right off the bat, the first word that came to my mind was 'dynamic.' This set and this CD begs to be played loud. Very loud. In fact, the louder you crank it the better it sounds, because you not only hear more of how it was recorded but you experience the energy of the live performance. Listen to this as background music or at casual levels, and you’ll be robbing yourself of a big part of what makes a live Skynyrd show so invigorating.

I always tend to be leery of music by groups where someone has died and they’ve replaced them with another family member or someone that sounds somewhat like them. I am almost always disappointed. The best example of that, albeit it like comparing apples to hubcaps, is Jim Belushi taking his brother John’s place in the Blues Brothers with Dan Aykroyd. It just never worked for me. But here with Johnny Van Zant it is a little different. He’s been the front man for decades now, and I have seen him perform live with the band more times than I’ve seen them with Ronnie. And while his voice to me is throatier than his brother’s, I liken it to the same way Brian Jones’ voice is more throatier than Bon Scott’s from AC/DC -- similar but different and not bad by any means. However, like AC/DC, I have always preferred the original front man to the new (even though both have been leading the band much longer than the original singers did). For instance, when I hear Johnny say "Hey there fellow with the hair colored yellow," in "Gimme Three Steps," I’m so used to hearing Ronnie sing it as "Hey there fella’ with the hair colored yella." It’s just the way it should sound to me.

But that is what is so good about this CD set: you get the best of both worlds and a chance to hear both Ronnie and Johnny lead their bands in three of some of their most iconic songs. You might say you can have your cake and eat it too.

As for the sonics of the album, I am a little forgiving given the age of these recordings, but more so for the songs from '74 than those in '96. By '96 there is no excuse for any bad recording to exist, and that is what I find odd here. I much preferred the mix of the '74 songs to that of the '96 songs. That’s disappointing more so because most of the songs are from that show. What bothered me most about the songs from the '96 show is this overarching "fuzz" that I hear when the band is in rhythm that disappears when the guitarists play their solos. It’s not a recording issue as more of a deliberate sound I think the band was trying to achieve. When the guitarists break into their solos on "Free Bird," I found the '74 version to be cleaner and more attuned to the '76 OMFTR album. To me the best mic'd instrument from the '96 set was the piano, which had a real truth of timbre sound to it.

While the guitar work sounded better on the songs from the '74 show, I thought that the slide guitar work and music in general from the '96 concert sounded closer to the OMFTR than that of the '74 show.

As you can see, there is something to like from both versions of the duplicated songs, and on all the songs from the predominant '96 show as well, which is pretty much a greatest hits concert save for one or two omissions. Each song flows nicely from one to another so as not to lose the energy or the feel of being there, something not every live album can say they do. In fact, this set is better than the OMFTR set in that respect, since OMFTR took the best songs from from the sets over three shows.

The sound stage was wide and the instruments placed well within it, though balanced a little more to the left than center or right. That could have been the way the band was actually on the stage, though, as I could easily "see" where each member of the band was playing from. I also like that the audience sounds were kept to a minimum so that it didn’t interfere with the music, only hearing them mostly between the songs than during them.

I could go on and on, and dissect each song and sonic characteristic, but this album doesn’t deserve to be put under that kind of a microscope. Rather, it just needs to be listened to, to be Southern Rocked out on.

This is a fine CD set that gives us a chance to see both eras of the band in some of their best form, and aside from the few sonic quirks and personal preferences, the only caveat I would have for someone would be that if "Free Bird," "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Working For The MCA" are not among your favorite songs anymore because they have been over-played over the years, then having them included twice here might be overload for you. (It was border line for me.) But you can always play just the one version you like best, because to not have this set because of that reason would be cheating yourself out of some fine music.


Recorded Live at the Loreley Festival 1996

The Band:

            Johnny Van Zant

            Greg Rossington

            Rickey Medlocke

            Hughie Thomasson

            Billy Powell

            Leon Wilkerson

            Owen Hale

            Dale Krantz-Rossington

            Carole Chase


Workin’ For The MCA

I Aint The One

Down South Junkin’

Double Trouble

I Know A Little

Saturday Night Special

Swamp Music

What’s Your Name

That Smell

Simple Man

Gimme Three Steps

Call Me The Breeze


Sweet Home Alabama

Free Bird

Recorded Live at the Hamburg Musikhalle 1974

The Band:

            Ronnie Van Zant

            Ed King

            Gary Rossington

            Allen Collins

            Billy Powell

            Leon Wilkerson

            Bob Burns


Workin’ For The MCA

Free Bird

Sweet Home Alabama

4.0 / 5.0