Lynyrd Skynyrd: Street Survivors – Deluxe Edition

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If you want to talk about tragic irony in rock and roll, you can’t ignore the story of Lynyrd Skynyrd. On the threshold, and deliberately so, of capturing the mainstream audience with which they flirted via the popularity of “Sweet Home Alabama” in 1975, a plane crash took the life of three bandmembers in 1977 merely days after the release of Street Survivors, compelling the label to pull the album and re-release it with new cover art in place of the original version which depicted the band in flames.

But the restoration of those graphics is, in hindsight, the least of the story as told on a Deluxe two-cd version. Willful and independent as ever, Skynyrd re-rerecorded many of the tracks originally done in sessions with famed producer Tom Dowd (Allman Brothers Band, Eric Clapton) effectively, comprising a markedly different album than the (arguably weaker) one that saw official release.

The inclusion of the extended version of “That Smell” keynotes that approach as it brings continuity to this album from previous Skynyrd work via additional fretboard improv: as much as Ronnie Van Zant had a way with words, the real eloquence of Skynyrd was the Allen Collins-Gary Rossington guitar crosstalk. Likewise one of the two versions of an unreleased cut “Sweet Little Missy,” which, with its own layered guitars, cements new member Steve Gaines’ position in the lineup (as much as his songwriting in the form of “Ain’t No Good Life”).

On the contrary, the corollary demo of that song sounds like an audition for Capricorn Records in the way the guitars harmonize in stiff salute to The Allman Brothers’ trademark. And “Georgia Peach” is slight on its own terms, merely a rewrite of Muddy Waters’ “Can’t Be Satisfied” with different lyrics, an unwitting (perhaps) signifier why Lynyrd Skynyrd, unlike so many of their Dixie and British brethren of the times, never doted on the blues.

The five live tracks taken from a California concert prior to the release of the new studio album may only wet the appetite for more concert Skynyrd which is contained in the expanded editions of One More From the Road and Gimme Back My Bullets,  But to include additional material taken from the time frame of the original studio recordings, such as “You Got That Right,” only adds to the commercial and historical value of this Deluxe Edition.

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