Lynyrd Skynyrd- Second Helping (1974): 23 March 2020

Lynyrd Skynyrd – Second Helping (1974)

Welcome back to YDCS! This week we’re listening to an album that almost needs no introduction, the second studio release from Lynyrd Skynyrd, Second Helping. Riding high after their first album, and after gaining exposure touring with The Who, the band went back into the studio to write an album that rivaled their first. The album would spawn two singles, one of which, “Sweet Home Alabama,” would go on to be the song most associated with the band. Notably, this was the last album to feature the band’s original lineup as drummer Bob Burns left prior to the release of their third album, Nuthin’ Fancy.

I’ll be reviewing the album as it appeared on its original tracklist, so there won’t be the additional three songs from the 1990s re-issue. If you liked their first album Pronounced, then you’ll like Second Helping. The sound is very much the same if more refined than their first album. They seem to have come into their own and figured out how to tone down their sound to create more expressive songs, but not quite to the level of the Allman Brothers Band or Marshall Tucker Band. They’re still an unapologetic, three-axe-wielding power southern rock act that believes that more guitar can’t hurt. Despite this, there are moments of strong musicianship and brave writing that make this a standout album in a crowded genre. I hope you enjoy this southern rock staple, and don’t be afraid to ask for more!

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

Sweet Home Alabama: Who doesn’t love “Sweet Home Alabama?” The response to Neil Young’s “Southern Man,” “Sweet Home Alabama” would become an immediate hit for the band and he song they’re most closely associated with. Lyrically it’s critical of both the Government of Alabama and the Nixon Administration during Watergate, but it really shines instrumentally. It’s not free-wheeling like “Free Bird,” but there’s a restrained emotion through the verses that breaks through in the iconic chorus. This is a massive song, that couldn’t have been performed any better, and is a perfect way to start their second album. Dad’s Rating 10/10

I Need You: “I Need You” is one of the tracks that tends to fly under the radar but has a really good groove and is a different take for the band. The song is much blues-ier and roots focused than the rest of the album. I wasn’t initially a fan of this song because I thought it would be a boring down-tempo track, but I stuck with it and was surprised by the musicianship on display. This is a dynamic track that shows Lynyrd Skynyrd is more than a one-trick pony. They can do more than play loud, they have real musical skills and a good ear for a roots track. Dad’s Rating 7/10

Don’t Ask Me No Questions: We’re back to a song that plays nicely into the band’s southern rock realm. “Don’t Ask Me No Questions” is a rocker of a track that shows you can do a normal rock song realy well with just a little work. The instrumentals really stand out here The riff is great but there’s a piano and horn accompaniment that adds just a little extra depth to the song and pushes it from ‘average rock song’ to ‘really good rock song.’ Dad’s Rating 8/10

Workin’ For MCA: We have another hidden gem in “Workin’ For MCA!” I had never heard this song before this listen but it’s got a real funk to it that makes it infectious to listen to. It has one of the best solos on the album to boot! Skynyrd kicked it up a gear for “Workin’.” The only thing that I would fault is the lyrics. They’re pretty repetitive and it seems like the band realized that this would be a filler song. It’s really a shame because this is one of the most screaming instrumentals that they put together! Give this song a listen! Dad’s Rating 8/10

The Ballad of Curtis Loew: “Curtis Loew” is what southern rock is all about; good storytelling and music that’s easy to listen to. Van Zant weaves a great story on this track and it’s appropriate that they tuned the band down to let the vocals come through more prominently. “Curtis Loew” was always going to be story-driven song and I’m brought in to the lyrics every time it comes on. Don’t listen to this track for crazy guitar solos, listen for the message. Dad’s Rating 8/10

Swamp Music: “Swamp Music” is an interesting song because it combines a boogie sound with CCR-inspired swamp rock. There aren’t many examples of that in classic rock but this is a neat idea and well-executed too. The band created something unique with this track. My only fault is that the vocal performance is one of Van Zant’s weaker ones on this record. Otherwise, this is a cool track worth checking out! Dad’s Rating 6/10

The Needle And The Spoon: “The Needle And The Spoon” is one of my favorite songs on the album, and it doesn’t get as much love as it deserves. I think what I like about it the most is the simplicity of it. There’s no front with this track. You have a killer guitar riff, some drums to back it, and a classic southern rock sound. When simplicity is done right and done well, a song doesn’t need anything else. Lynyrd Skynyrd were masters of that and “The Needle And The Spoon” is a great example of that. Dad’s Rating 9/10

Call Me The Breeze: What a way to close the album! “Call Me The Breeze” is such a fun boogie rack and it’s got an infectious beat that you’ll hum along to all day long. I’m particularly partial to the end of the song where the piano and horns come in, but every solo on this track is fun to listen to for different reasons, whether it’s to add claps or put in a shredding solo. To be fair, most of the song is an instrumental piece and you can hear how much fun the band had recording this one. That love of the music translates through and makes me love this song even more! Dad’s Rating 9/10

The opinion above is protected under the Fair Use provision of United States Copyright Law, 17 U.S.C §107 which allows for the fair use of a copyrighted work for criticism without infringement on the copyright.

Lynyrd Skynyrd – (Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nerd ‘Skin-‘nérd) (1973): 18 March 2019

Lynyrd Skynyrd – (Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nerd ‘Skin-‘nérd) (1973)

Lynyrd Skynyrd’s debut album cover

This week on YDCS we’re going to take a look at the debut album by a southern rock band that has come to be strongly associated with arena rock anthems and has nearly single-handedly defined a genre, Lynyrd Skynyrd. The band, led by frontman Ronnie Van Zant, would go on to be a mega-act that spawned some of the most recognizable songs on classic rock radio with this self-titled debut that included tracks like Tuesday’s Gone, Gimme Three Steps, Simple Man, and Free Bird. Lynyrd Skynyrd would go on to craft four more legendary rock albums before taking a fourteen-year recording hiatus after a tragic plane crash that killed multiple band members, including Van Zant, guitarist and singer Steve Gaines, and backup singer Cassie Gaines.

Pronounced is one of the titans of the classic rock genre that few albums, past or present, can stand up to. This album re-defined southern rock for the decade, moving from a Creedence Clearwater Revival-esque sound to music that sounds like this and putting the band in line with other popular acts like the Allman Brothers Band and the Marshall Tucker Band. The “Lynyrd Skynyrd Sound” was on full display starting with this, their debut album. They knew exactly how they wanted to sound, executed it flawlessly here, and left it virtually untouched on their next few major releases. This is quality work from a class act. Enjoy the album!

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

I Ain’t The One: This is a strong opening track on an album full of strong songs. This wasn’t one of the songs that the band was well-known for but it rocks as much as, for example, Gimme Three Steps later on the record. The musicianship on the instrumentation is really strong on this track and the drums to start the song off are unique and memorable. What I particularly like about this song is that you know exactly what kind of album you’re going to be listening to within the first minute of this song; you’re going to get big, free-wheelin’ guitar solos and southern rock. If you were looking for a song to skip, this “ain’t the one!” Dad’s Rating 8/10

Tuesday’s Gone: Tuesday’s Gone is the slowest track on the record. If there was an album that ever desperately needed a slower-paced track to break it up, then this album was it. There’s no big guitar solos here that you’ll peppered throughout other tracks, and this song doesn’t need it. I’m aware that this is one of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s more popular songs, but I can’t rate it higher in good conscience because it doesn’t show me anything amazing. This song doesn’t wow me or make me feel any particular way. I will say that the piano solo is fantastic and you shouldn’t skip over this song if only to listen to that. Tuesday’s Gone fulfills a purpose on this record and does it well. Dad’s Rating 7/10

Gimme Three Steps: Welcome back to classic Lynyrd Skynyrd after taking a break at Tuesday’s Gone. Your regularly scheduled loud guitar solos will now re-commence. Gimme Three Steps is a classic rock staple for a few good reasons: it’s easily recognizable, fun to listen to, and it rocks out! This isn’t a complex song, the instrumentation, vocals, and messaging are all clear. Try shredding out during the guitar solo on your way home from work, it’ll make the commute a little sweeter. Dad’s Rating 8/10

Simple Man: I really enjoy the easiness of Simple Man, and I think it’s one of the highlights of the album. Opening the song with the soft acoustic guitar that lets Van Zant’s vocals through does the song great justice. The vocals throughout the song are strong, even during the softer instrumental portions, and the swells throughout the song, particularly during the chorus, help keep it from going stale. Rossington’s guitar solo is so hot that the term “face-melting guitar solo” might have even originated here! Simple Man is a wholly deserving winner of the “They Don’t Make Music Like This Anymore Award.”  Dad’s Rating 10/10

Things Goin’ On: Things Goin On, and the following track, Mississippi Kid are the two overlooked songs on this album, sandwiched between Simple Man and Free Bird. I like this song quite a bit actually and regret having previously passed it over. This track has more dynamic musicianship than some of the other deep cuts on Pronounced. Between the piano in the chorus and “oom-pah” feel of the song, I could almost imagine listening to this in a saloon. This is a prime example of the southern rock genre that Lynyrd Skynyrd worked in so well. Dad’s Rating 7/10

Mississippi Kid: The flow between Things Goin’ On and Mississippi Kid is fantastic. The former song rolls right into the latter. This is a great show of the band’s country roots coming through and is a nice break from loudness of the electric guitars found throughout almost every other song on the album. There are still electrics on this track but they are reduced to a supporting role for the acoustics. The harmonica solo is quite excellent and really ties feel of the song together nicely. Dad’s Rating 7/10

Poison Whiskey Poison Whiskey suffers for being buried in this album with mega-tracks like Free Bird and Simple Man rising above this one. This isn’t a bad song by any means, it’s just not particularly special. It doesn’t make you feel like the Big 3 do, and that’s actually okay because not every song has to. If every song made you think about grand ideas and messages, then you would be mentally exhausted after listening to an album. The instrumentation is solid here and the piano solo is funky and rocks out! All said, this is a fun song. It’s not musically or lyrically complex, but worth a listen if only for the fact that it’s not hard to listen to. Dad’s Rating 6/10

Free Bird: FREEEEEEEE BIRRRRRRRD!! (That’s the only time I’ll shout Free Bird in this review and I’ve been restraining myself up til now…) There’s really not much more you can say about Free Bird that hasn’t been said in the past 46 years since this record released. Free Bird is a classic because it displays some of the best musicianship, lyricism, and instrumentalism of 1970s classic rock. It incorporates orchestras, dynamic instrumentation, runs for over eleven minutes on the uncut version, and has what might be the most epic guitar solo ever laid down on a vinyl record. Words will never begin to give this song enough justice for how important it was in shaping classic rock for decades to come. This song alone could define the Southern Rock genre, and for that it earns the second “They Don’t Make Music Like This Anymore Award” on this album, making Pronounced the first album I have awarded multiple tracks 10/10 ratings. Well-deserved and literally well-played, this one’s for the band. Dad’s Rating 10/10

The opinion above is protected under the Fair Use provision of United States Copyright Law, 17 U.S.C §107 which allows for the fair use of a copyrighted work for criticism without infringement on the copyright.