Album review: Lynyrd Skynyrd, Endangered Species (1994)

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, OCT. 13, 1994

By Steve Newton

It’ll be 17 years this month since Lynyrd Skynyrd’s chartered plane went down in the Mississippi woods, killing—among others—vocalist Ronnie Van Zant and guitarist Steve Gaines. Ten years after the crash, the group’s survivors decided to honour the music of the lost rockers and revive the Skynyrd name by bringing in Van Zant’s youngest brother, Johnny, to take his place on a tribute tour.

Critics of the move decried it as a blatant attempt to cash in on the band’s previous commercial success, but the real Skynyrd fans were just happy that there was someone alive that looked, talked, and sang like Ronnie Van Zant and could rightfully help the band carry on its southern-rock tradition. And although none of the Skynyrd albums released since Johnny Van Zant’s enlistment come close to matching the excellence of ’70s discs like Second Helping and Street Survivors, the spirit of the band is still kickin’, and that’s the main thing.

In 1994, the Lynyrd Skynyrd lineup still includes original guitarists Gary Rossington and Ed King, who cowrote many of the band’s best-known tunes with lyricist RVZ. Of those, “Saturday Night Special”, “I Ain’t the One”, “Poison Whiskey”, and the deathless “Sweet Home Alabama” are included in the 13-track Endangered Species, an all-acoustic, live-sounding romp that encompasses some of the band’s earliest and most recent musical endeavours.

My only real complaint about Endangered Species is its unnecessary inclusion of the mouldy Elvis chestnut “Heartbreak Hotel”. Thankfully, the band does not attempt an unplugged version of its fiery tribute to Duane Allman, “Free Bird”, because an acoustic rendition of that tune’s wailing guitar freakout would be downright silly, not to mention painful.

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