Lynyrd Skynyrd falls from rock god status with God & Guns

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      Lynyrd Skynyrd
      God & Guns (Roadrunner/Warner)

      In the very first Payback column the Straight ever published I was called a “Skynyrd-loving moron” by a ticked-off Lou Reed fan, and—thanks to incessant reminders from caring colleagues Mike Usinger and John Lucas—have never been allowed to forget it. In a way I was proud of the label, though, because back in the day I viewed Lynyrd Skynyrd as godlike, and ’70s albums such as Second Helping and Street Survivors were my desert island discs (Reed’s Metal Machine Music didn’t make the cut). But with the release of God & Guns I’m gonna have to denounce my love of the Southern-rock stalwarts once and for all.

      Today’s lineup barely resembles the Skynyrd I adored, anyway. With the January 2009 death of keyboardist Billy Powell at the age of 56, guitarist Gary Rossington is the only member still breathing from the band’s “Free Bird” heyday. The current group—which has been fronted since its 1987 reformation by Ronnie Van Zant’s little brother Johnny—is proficient enough, but the shit-kicking Southern zeal of old has now been withered by a mainstream vibe that veers toward the artistic no-man’s-land of commercial country. How the mighty have fallen.

      But the worst thing about today’s Lynyrd Skynyrd is embodied by the CD’s NRA-approved title. If these guys are so entrenched in their redneck ways that they still believe, in the scorched-earth aftermath of George W. Bush, that religion and weaponry is the way to go, then that’s just plain sad. I’m sure Johnny Van Zant thinks he’s on the righteous path when he sings, in the anti-Obama title track: “Out here in my neck of the woods, where God is great and guns are good, you really can’t know that much about ’em, if you think we’re better off without ’em.” Maybe someone should explain to him that when his bro penned the lyrics to the deathless “Saturday Night Special” back in ’74 he was condemning handguns, not praising them. The line “Why don’t we dump ’em, people, to the bottom of the sea,” is a dead giveaway.

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      Matthew Burrows

      Sep 23, 2009 at 11:42am

      My dad had Lou Reed's "Transformer" on vinyl, so I was exposed to that as a kid early on. Always Reed over Lynyrd for me, and that's without the additional insight gleaned from Gods & Guns...

      Steve Newton

      Sep 23, 2009 at 12:02pm

      I was more into Lou Reed's <em>Rock 'n' Roll Animal</em>; there's some shit-hot guitar playing there. But when it comes down to it, I'll take Skynyrd's <em>Street Survivors</em> over Reed's <em>Transformer</em> anyday. And with that statement my lengthy career as an insightful and highly respected music journalist comes to an abrupt and tragic end.


      Sep 23, 2009 at 12:58pm

      I like me some Lou just about any time but nothing he recorded solo (no, not even New York) can touch those first few Skynyrd records. Frankly, they've got more soul than half the R&B singers of that era did (let alone arty white dudes). So, please, let's not hold the nonesensical, farcical faux-Skynyrd of today against the run of 5 near-perfect studio albums that the actual Lynyrd Skynyrd gave us.

      Steve Newton

      Sep 23, 2009 at 1:18pm

      Speaking of Florida guitar armies, the first three Outlaws albums were pretty damn wicked too, especially <em>Hurry Sundown</em>

      Terry Wilson

      Nov 1, 2009 at 12:51pm

      Earth to Steve, it's not 1975 anymore. The more I listen the more I like this record, I rather hear Johnny Van Zant sing the new songs than those old Skynyrd tunes. There is a good mix of rock and roots music on this CD.

      Tom Olsen

      Dec 7, 2009 at 3:35pm

      I think this is the best cd from Skynyrd ever, you just dont agree, if they praised Obama or if them two songs you really dont like had a anti Bush lyric, I guess you would love this cd.... its sad, when you just cant leave your personal political wievs out of it and just enjoy this great cds songs. and by the way, president Bush is the greatest President ever, histery will judge, and you my "friend" wont be writing it!!

      Yours sincerely
      Tom Olsen, from Norway(

      Steve Newton

      Dec 7, 2009 at 3:44pm

      you're joking, right? Nobody from Norway could be that ignorant.