THAT is Lynyrd Skynyrd?

I was interested because PBS had a Soundstage program with Lynyrd Skynyrd.  If I turn on the television, I have to be excited.   After all, the Skynyrd was a big part of my early guitar history.

I often make fun of `regrouped’ classic rock bands whose only claim to fame is the original bass roadie and the ownership of the name.  I heard that at one time, there were three Foghats touring the globe.

I’ll be honest: I don’t know what to make of these guys.  I’m not even sure what to call them – perhaps Skynyrd II.  They sure as hell aren’t the Lynyrd Skynyrd I remember from One More for from the Road.  Granted, that was a number of years ago (ahem).

I don’t want to seem ungrateful.  Various people stepped in over the years to augment or replace various band members who had gone to Rock and Roll Heaven and believe me, this band has had way more than its share of members going to Rock and Roll Heaven.  It reportedly got so bad that at one point, Jimi Hendrix played through a Peavey amplifier and decided to give it up, opting instead for Promotion.

I can’t remember which member bit it in which accident/on purpose, but suffice it to say that joining Lynyrd Skynyrd was a sure way to get your life insurance policy canceled.  There were bus crashes and plane crashes.  Skynyrd guitarists came and went with the ferocity of Spinal Tap drummers, who, as you remember, tended to spontaneously explode.

One guitarist was paralyzed, another killed, yet there never seemed to be a shortage of brave axe-slingers waiting to take that plunge (as it were).  Ed King, an original member, came back to record and tour.  Ricky Medlocke slipped in somewhere and is currently the only guy I recognize.  I like Ricky Medlocke.  Unfortunately he doesn’t do much for me in this band.  I heard him do a version of Red House that would fry your synapses, but not here.

Skynyrd (so named because he was someone’s gym teacher) retained two female backup vocalists and the instrumentation that was their formula for most of their time as a band.  There’s a drummer who looks confused as to whether he wants to be in a metal band or not, a keyboard player who looks like a good old boy version of Yngwie Malmsteen at 300lbs (not too far away for Yngwie), a bassist, and three guitar players.

Most of us haven’t spent much time near a mixing console, a recording studio, or playing in a band with three guitars but trust me when I tell you it is a frigging nightmare.  Three guitars cannot occupy the same space at any time unless they’re playing very minimal, specific parts or the sound guy has most of them turned off in the mix.  This was the case for the poor fellow stage left.  The only time I heard much from him was the slide part on Freebird (STOP IT!).

The aforementioned Ricky Medlocke, as I aforementioned, is a hot player.  He also has a humongous tone, full of heavy distortion.  This unfortunately doesn’t work well within the Skynyrd framework.

The third hotshot appears to be a ringer brought in to do all the classic Skynyrd riffs on an honest-to-goodness Stratocaster (like God and the Skynyrds intended).  Unfortunately this was also marred by tone.  The guy could play all the notes but the tone just wasn’t making it.  He did have Pick Tossing<tm> perfected, though.

We are left with the lead vocalist.  He is a Van Zandt: the brother, I believe, of the late Van Zandt who departed in the plane crash.  I think Ronnie died and Donnie is currently fronting but don’t quote me on it.

Donnie (or Ronnie) can absolutely sing the songs.  He just doesn’t look particularly thrilled to be there (even wrapped up in the flag, singing Freebird). (STOP IT!)

So I don’t want to take anything away from these seasoned road dogs but I ain’t seein’ it.

And then it occurs to me… three guitars, poor tone, an impossible mix… perhaps this is Skynyrd after all!