"...Look out glitter kids, a real Rock 'n' Roll band just showed up..." - raved the on-the-money reviewer in America's hip music magazine "Record World" in the late summer of 1973. Southern Rock was up and running (again) – Atlanta style.
Funnily enough - and despite its supposed kick-ass reputation (mostly through the epic Side 2 finisher "Free Bird") – I've always thought of Lynyrd Skynyrd's debut album as a more mellow, sexy swagger of a record than an out-and-out rocker – a slightly inebriated good old boy with a bottle of Jack Daniels in one hand and a Delta 78" in the other - deeply enamoured with both. And like the utterly brilliant "Second Helping" LP that followed in April 1974 – both have stood the test of old father time rather well my son. Here are the Mississippi Kids...
US released November 2001 (December 2001 in the UK) – "Pronounced Leh-nerd Skin-nerd" by LYNYRD SKYNYRD on MCA 088 112 727-2 (Barcode 008811272722) is an 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster and plays out as follows (76:03 minutes):
1. I Ain't The One
2. Tuesday's Gone
3. Gimme Three Steps
4. Simple Man
5. Things Goin' On [Side 2]
6. Mississippi Kid
7. Poison Whiskey
8. Free Bird
Tracks 1 to 8 are their debut album "Pronounced Leh-nerd Skin-nerd" – released 13 August 1973 in the USA on MCA/Sounds Of The South MCA-363 and January 1974 in the UK on MCA Records MCG 3502. AL KOOPER produced the album and it peaked at 27 on the US LP charts (didn't chart in the UK).
9. Mr. Banker (Demo) – non-album B-side of the US 7" single "Gimme Three Steps" released 5 November 1973 on MCA Records MCA-40158
10. Down South Junkin' (Demo) - non-album B-side of the US 7" single "Free Bird" released 4 November 1974 on MCA Records MCA-40328
11. Tuesday's Gone (Demo)
12. Gimme Three Steps (Demo)
13. Free Bird (Demo)
Tracks 9 and 10 first appeared on the 1991 MCA 3CD Box Set "The Definitive Lynyrd Skynyrd Collection"
Tracks 11, 12 and 13 are PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED
LYNYRD SKYNYRD were:
RONNIE VAN ZANT – Lead Vocals
GARY ROSSINGTON – Lead Guitar (Tracks 2, 3, 5 and 7) and Rhythm Guitars on all others
ALLEN COLLINS – Lead Guitar (Tracks 1 and 8) and Rhythm Guitar on all others
ED KING – Lead Guitar on "Mississippi Kid" and Bass on all tracks except "Mississippi Kid" and "Tuesday's Gone".
Note: LEON WILKINSON composed many of the Bass Parts for the album but left the group before recording (Ed King plays all the Bass parts as noted above). But then Wilkinson re-joined the group as Bass Player and King changed to Third Guitar player for their next LP "Second Helping" album
BILLY POWELL – Keyboards
LEON WILKINSON – Bass (see Note above)
BOB BURNS – Drums
ROOSEVELT GOOK – Bass, Mellotron and Backup Harmony on "Tuesday's Gone", Organ on "Simple Man", Mandolin and Bass Drum on "Mississippi Kid", Organ on "Poison Whiskey" and "Free Bird"
STEVE KATZ – Harmonica on "Mississippi Kid"
ROBERT NIX – Drums on "Tuesday's Gone"
BOBBY HALL – Percussion on "Gimme Three Steps" and "Things Goin' On"
The 12-page booklet has new liner notes by RON O'BRIEN that includes a potted history of the band, quotes from an Al Kooper interview (the album's Producer) and the sequence of how their 'Sounds Of The South' debut LP came about (recording began 27 March 1973) as well as black and white photos of the boys peppering the text. But the big news is the fantastic Audio. DOUG SCHWARZ has used the original Stereo Master Tapes and this album sounds just great – full of presence and the right kind of swagger. The Remaster isn't overly trebled for the sake of it – just punchy and clear - the rhythm section sweet and warm too...
Skynyrd's debut is counted in (1, 2, 3) to the huge guitars of the jabbing "I Ain't The One" – Ronnie clearly having some woman trouble (her rich Daddy doesn't believe his protestations of relationship innocence). The genuinely touching "Tuesday's Gone" is a Southern Rock Ballad and I can remember being hooked by this one track alone (kind of got me into the band). The acoustic guitars and those drums are huge – whacking your speakers with a clarity that is shocking. The catchy guitar boogie of "Gimme Three Steps" was an obvious single – MCA launched it in November 1973 after the album had been brewing using the non-album "Mr. Banker" on the flipside. "Gimme..." sounds fab as Ronnie preens "Excuse Me!" before a guitar lets fly. The brooding 'mama done told me' tale of "Simple Man" would start a trend in the writing of Van Zant and Rossington – songs about family, loyalty and how a body should "...take your time...don't live too fast..." - advice they sang about but ignored all too often. It ends Side 1 with a wallop.
Side 2 opens with another fave of mine – the guitar pinging Boogie of "Things Goin' On" where the boys lament that there's "...too much money being spent on the moon..." when ordinary folks are struggling down in the ghetto. Roosevelt Gook puts in a blinder on his mandolin anchoring "Mississippi Kid" with a Bluesy Down Home feel while Ed King does his Slide thing. Another familiar theme (pills and booze) rears its ugly little head in the superb rocker "Poison Whiskey" where doctor looks at the poor man and shakes his head because he's seen this body and soul rot too many times before (lyrics from it title this review). And it ends on the penultimate Skynyrd number that MCA actually wanted the band to edit down to three minutes twenty-nine before they even recorded it (luckily the group stuck to its creative guns). "Free Bird" is of course almost a cliché now for longhaired hippy Rock – but it still amazes – and the remaster has brought out those army of guitars like never before. Fly high indeed. Die-hard fans will know that "Free Bird" was edited down to 4:41 minutes for 7" single release in the USA and the rare Promo version has a Mono Mix on one side (Stereo on the other). Unfortunately both are AWOL from this release and to my knowledge remain so on the digital front. That said – what puts this 'Expanded Edition' into the solid 5-star category is the superb five bonus tracks that reek of the true Skynyrd – sloppy, moody and simplistically brilliant.
The run of five studio-quality 'demos' feel like a cool alternative debut album - just as good as the 8-track original. Fave-raves include the broke and busted musician's plea in "Mr. Banker" where a penniless Ronnie is willing to trade his Gibson Firebird for foreclosure (yeah right). Both "Tuesday's Gone" and "Gimme Three Steps" are similar to the finished polish of the album versions – just a little rougher around the edges and I think funkier for it. The rowdy Demo of "Free Bird" stretches the album's 9:03 to 11:09 minutes and when that pace-change guitar break kicks in – it starts to rock – but then they seem to lose a guitar that clearly made the finished LP version so work. Despite its fame - it's probably the least successful 'demo' on here...
A packet of Skull 'n' Crossbones Cigarettes adorns the back cover of their debut album – 'Lynyrd Skynyrd Smokes' it says on the side of the snot-nosed box. Well they sure got that right...