Album review: .38 Special, Special Forces (1982)

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, JUNE 4, 1982

By Steve Newton

Last year’s Wild Eyed Southern Boys was a tough act to follow, but southern rockers .38 Special have come back strong with another album chock-full of heavy boogie numbers. Special Forces contains only two songs that aren’t dominated by the slick, bluesy guitar of co-axemen Jeff Carlisi and Don Barnes, and those two tunes–“Caught Up In You” and “You Keep Running Away”–are possible singles in the “Hold on Loosely” vein.

The majority of Special Forces is straight ahead, kick-ass rock and roll, as the titles “Rough Housin'”, “Breakin’ Loose” and “Firestarter” would suggest. The latter cut is lit white-hot by some appropriate slide guitar, and “Back Door Stranger” boasts tasty feedback-laden wah-wah that makes it a real guitar showcase.

Though undoubtedly a guitar-oriented band, .38 Special has something that sets it apart from the mass of today’s Les Paul-toting conglomerations, and that something is lead vocalist Donnie Van Zant. Younger brother of the late, great Ronnie Van Zant, Donnie has the down-home, informal style that helped make his late brother’s band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, a legend. And while .38 Special may not have the originality and presence of a band like Skynryd it may, with albums like Special Forces, one day have its popularity.

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