Picks and Pans Review: Endangered Species
updated 09/05/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT
•originally published 09/05/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT
Had MTV's Unplugged existed back in the '70s, Lynyrd Skynyrd, one of the two greatest rock bands the South ever produced (hello, Allman Brothers), would have been one of the first groups invited onto the show. But the '90s version of Skynyrd, a Trojan touring horse reconstituted more than a decade after the plane crash that killed three of the band's 10 members, knew that MTV wasn't about to come calling. So they made their own Unplugged-style album.
The opening track, "Down South Jukin' " effectively sets out the intended musical mood: gently rocking acoustic blues evoking a vision of some good ol' swamp dogs sitting around a fire, passing a jug and picking guitars. All too soon, however, the record degenerates into an idle exercise in filling space with blasé boogie. Among the transgressions are bad Elvis ("Heartbreak Hotel") and some pallid reinterpretations of a couple of Skynyrd's biggest hits ("Saturday Night Special" and "Sweet Home Alabama"). Singer Johnny Van Zant (a younger brother of Ronnie, the band's late founder and fireplug) is in decent form. However, guitarist and original band member Gary Rossington's solos are shockingly rudimentary and pro forma. The title of this collection is all too apt: This sounds like the last gasp of a once-great band. (Capricorn)