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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Lynyrd Skynyrd

Nothing Comes Easy 1991-2012 (box set)

Review by Gary Hill

This new box set of Lynyrd Skynryd music post-plane-crash has some great music on it. There are five discs here, one of which is an EP.  Most of the discs are augmented by at least one bonus track. Skynyrd's original lead singer Ronnie Van Zant was killed in the infamous plane crash. His brother Johnny Van Zant took over the duties for this incarnation of the band, and does a great job. I think that the sound of the band really captures the vintage sound, but also brings it up to date, at times coming close to the lines of metal or at least near metal. There are some newer songs here that qualify as classics, as far as I'm concerned.

All the music here is great. I do have to bring up a point about the lyrics, though. I know there are those who disregard this band completely because of some of their more conservative lyrics. Given how few of their songs suffer from that, I think that's an unfair stance. However, if the last few years have taught us anything, it's that just smiling and letting ignorance and intolerance stand as "just charming" and "how they are" is a really bad idea. So, I need to say that there are a few songs here that I find offensive lyrically to the point of being unlistenable because of their ignorant viewpoints. If the band actually believe what they are singing or just appealing to the lowest common denominator of their audience is something on which I won't speculate. Either way, it's unacceptable. If the group's very public call out of Neil Young in "Sweet Home Alabama" is any indication, though, I'm sure they also don't care about my opinion. It would be irresponsible of me to not at least mention this issue, though.

So, the long and short of it, with exception to a very small minority of songs here, this is a great set. It's good to see that the band managed to rise above tragedy and continue to create great music. Honestly, life is all about rising above the challenges and tragedies we face and making ourselves better every day. I think this really shows that it applies to Lynyrd Skynyrd, too. I would heartily recommend this set to all fans of Southern rock. Each CD comes in its own cardboard sleeve, and there is a poster with notes about each disc on the flip side included. It all comes in a nice cardboard clamshell box, making for a great package.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2021  Volume 3. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2021.

Track by Track Review
CD One:
                
1991
                         
Smokestack Lightning

This drives with a hard rocking sound that's trademark Lynyrd Skynyrd. The backing vocals are classic, and so is the piano work. The whole tune just feels like something that could have come from an album in the 1970s. Just a bit of clarification is in order, too. This is not the old classic tune, but rather a new Skynyrd original that shares a title with it.

Keeping the Faith
Every bit as classic in tone and style, this is a bit slower number. I really love the guitar solo section of this cut, but the whole thing grooves with style.
Southern Women
There is some particularly cool guitar work on this number. It has a bluesy kind of grind to it. This is Southern rock at its best.
Pure & Simple
More of a melodic rocker, but not quite a ballad, this is more pure pop rock. There is some contemporary country in the mix, too. It's an effective tune with some classic Skynyrd feels.
I've Seen Enough
Now this is gritty, Southern rock and roll. It has a lot of country in the mix. The tune is a real working class song.
Good Thing
A killer bluesy Southern rock stomper, this is classic in sound and really works so well.
Money Man
More of a slow grind, this is a killer tune with a lot of classic sound in the mix. The spoken parts are a little unusual.
Backstreet Crawler
I really love the guitar work on this screamer. It's hard-edged, gritty and so cool.
It's a Killer
Here we get another powerhouse Southern rocker. This is all class.
Mama (Afraid to Say Goodbye)
With bluesy slide guitar, this is a slower, more balladic tune.
End of the Road
This cut is a bit of a country ballad turned Skynyrd. It has a real classic sound to it and works great as the closing of the album proper.
Bonus Track
                    
Keeping the Faith (Edit)

This shorter version works pretty well. It's obviously not a big change from the other one.

CD Two:
                           
The Last Rebel
                  
Good Lovin's Hard to Find

After an introduction, a classic Skynyrd riff joins. The track works out to a driving kind of Southern rock groove that seems to be something the group could have released in the 1970s. The horns are a nice touch, and the whole tune really rocks. I think I like this better than anything on the first CD of the set, and this is just the opening salvo of the album.

One Thing
This cut comes in as a pretty typical Skynyrd tune. There is a killer drop down later that turns things purely sublime. They come back out from there into some inspired Southern rocking. This is another exceptional tune.
Can't Take That Away
I have some big problems with the lyrical content of this cut. It has a lot of ridiculous right wing myths and nutcase knee-jerks at the heart of it. It's a solid Southern rock ballad, though. Ultimately, although the lyrics embrace the fear mongering so popular on the right, the message of "keep true to yourself no matter what happens" is a largely positive one.
Best Things in Life
Now, this killer rocker is so much fun. The horns lend a lot of magic and the tune really screams in some ways. The tune has so much classic Skynyrd sound built into it.
The Last Rebel
Dramatic and powerful in tone, this has a lot of emotion and poetic angles built into it. The cut drives outward into more of a rocking approach, but this is along the lines of a power-ballad.
Outta Hell in My Dodge
This rocker is so much fun. It's a good time cut that has plenty of classic Skynyrd in the mix. I'd consider this to be a highlight of the entire set.
Kiss Your Freedom Goodbye
Drums lead this tune out of the gate. A classic Skynyrd styled riff joins after a time. While you might think the lyrics on this are troublesome, too, this is more about the small town people reacting to the big city encroaching on them. While it's quaint and feels a bit like old fogey complaining, it's not offensive. Musically, this is a solid tune.
South of Heaven
I love the gritty rocking sound of this number. It's a driving tune that works well. It's also classic Skynyrd.
Love Don't Always Come Easy
A pure country ringed ballad, I like this quite a bit. There are a couple guitar parts that make it feel like the CD is skipping, though. I find that a little distracting and annoying.
Born to Run
No, this is not a cover of the Bruce Springsteen song. A bluesy rocking stomper, this tune is evocative. I really like this a lot. Everything about oozes cool. The instrumental section moves the number toward country music for a time. The rocking instrumental movement at the end is purely on fire with killer guitar soloing.
Bonus Tracks
          
The Last Rebel (Edit)

Truth in advertising, this is a shorter version of the song on the album proper.

The Last Rebel (Acoustic)
I think I prefer the electric version, but this alternate take on the track has so much magic. There is some awesome intricate guitar work on this.
Born to Run (Edit)
As the title and parenthetical suggest, this is a shortened version of the album proper's closer. While I prefer the other version, it works well like this, too.
CD Three:
               
God and Guns
                   
Still Unbroken

This opens up with a riff that feels like Skynyrd, but also has an infusion of metallic edge. It drops back to a mellower movement for the vocals. This is a screaming hot powerhouse that presents an updating of the classic sound. It's on fire.

Simple Life
The opening movement here fits pretty well under the country music label. As it works outward it continues in that vein. There is a hard rocking edge here. This is a tribute to the simple pleasures in life, but you probably get that from the title. It's a fun number.
Little Thing Called You
Another with some screaming hot hard rock in the mix. This has more of a mainstream rock edge than a lot of the band's music. There is still a country and Southern rock edge to the tune, but it seems more standard pop rock than much of their output. It has some great hooks.
Southern Ways
Melodic Southern rock with a lot of energy is the concept here.
Skynyrd Nation
Ricky Medlocke shares the lead vocal duties on this screaming hot hard rocker. This is definitely a modern, in your face version of the Lynyrd Skynyrd sound. It's a powerhouse that's a highlight of the set, too.
Unwrite That Song
More of a balladic number, this has strings in the mix. It's much more of a country song. It works pretty well and provides some variety.
Floyd
If you had a bet that Rob Zombie would guest on a Lynyrd Skynyrd song they probably gave you really good odds, and you were able to cash in when this tune was released. The tune comes in with a gritty sound that feels like it comes from the swampland. The cut gets powered up into some screaming hot stuff. This is tastefully metallic and very cool. This is one of my favorites of the whole collection. It has some pretty amazing moments.
That Ain't My America
More traditional Southern rock, the lyrics to this are also ridiculous in terms of their right wing ignorance. I'm sure it's anthemic for certain people who don't really understand history. There is an angle of that old fogey griping, too. I think the lyrics pretty well ruin this song for me. I'd consider this one a "skip it" number. In fact, if they did more songs like this, I wouldn't be able to give the set a positive review in good conscience.
Comin' Back for More
This is a screaming hot metallic stomper. I'd consider this more straight-ahead hard rock than Southern rock. It's a powerhouse and one of the instantly catchy tunes here.
God & Guns
A country based tune, this is another that I'd skip because of the absurd lyrical content. I'm not sure if these guys believe this claptrap or are just playing to their audience. Either way, this is another number that shouldn't have made the cut. It's a few songs like this that make a lot of people discount this band completely. That's not fair, but I can see why people feel that way.
Storm
A hard rocking Southern edged tune, this is on fire. I love the guitar sound and the whole things just works so well.  This has a very positive message and vibe.
Gifted Hands
Now, this is a religious tune lyrically that is not offensive. It is a soaring kind of ballad, and it celebrates the beliefs of the lyricist without making it into an attack. I have zero problem with that, and it's a strong tune. Strings bring a lot of charm to the piece.
Bonus Track

         

Still Unbroken (Edit)

A shortened version of the earlier tune, this works pretty well in this format.

CD Four:
               
God and Guns Bonus EP
                  
Bang Bang

Imagine Lynyrd Skynyrd doing AC/DC. You'll have something close to this screaming hot rocker.

Raining in My Heartland
More of a mainstream rock tune, this has some definite Southern rock in the mix.
Hobo Kinda Man
A country based rocking tune, this is a classy slab of fun.
Red White & Blue (Live)
This live track has a dramatic vibe and texture to it. This has some country music in the mix, but it's overall more of a powered up Southern rock power-ballad. It's classy stuff. I love the guitar jamming late in the piece.
Call Me the Breeze (Live)
An old-school Skynyrd classic, this is a killer live version of it. The classy Southern rock groove still works so well. The piano solo works well, too.
Sweet Home Alabama (Live)
Another classic, they do a cool live rendition of this number, too. Of course, this is the song which calls out Neil Young as being unwelcome to the Southern man. This is a powerhouse song and a killer live telling. I love the guitar work on the piece, but everything about it just really rocks.
Disc Five:
              
Last of a Dyin' Breed
                

 

Last of a Dyin' Breed
Bluesy slide guitar brings this thing into being. The band eventually join with a hard-edged and fierce rocking jam. This is part country, part blues and all rock and roll.
One Day at a Time
This hard rocker is a classy tune. It's a bit more mainstream rock, but still has plenty of Southern angle to it.
Homegrown
Another hard rocker with Skynyrd's trademark Southern rock feeling to it, this is an effective piece, but not a standout.
Ready to Fly
More of a Southern power-ballad, this number works well. The vocal performance is particularly strong. This is a great song. I will say that the string arrangement threatens to go over the top, but never really does, at times here. The closing movement gets incredibly powerful, too. It actually makes me think of The Allman Brothers to some degree.
Mississippi Blood
Another with a lot of blues rock in the mix, this is a classy tune. I really like the vocal arrangement on this thing a lot. The guitar riffing is strong, too.
Good Teacher
Now, this screamer makes me think of what you might get if you merged Lynyrd Skynyrd with Guns N' Roses. This is  a killer rocker that has great hooks and so much meat on the bones.
Something to Live For
More of a country-based tune, this has a power-ballad approach. It's a powerfully evocative and rather soaring piece of music. It's one of the standouts of this final disc of the set.
Life's Twisted
I love the hard rocking territory of this. There is plenty of country music in the mix, but no one would ever call this country. It's another standout, but this time of the whole set. This is just so strong.
Nothing Comes Easy
Another fiery hard rocker, this is solid, too. The chorus hooks are particularly catchy. While this is strong, it's not at the same level as the previous tune.
Honey Hole
Hard-edged and fierce, this is another standout. I love the contrast between the more rocking and mellower sections. The guitar solo movement is on fire, too.
Start Livin' Life Again
I'm not sure this was the best choice to close the album. I think maybe it might have worked better between the two previous tunes. This is a country based number. It has some killer instrumental work. I'm reminded a little of Willie Nelson on this song for some reason.
Bonus Tracks:
                  
Poor Man's Dream

This Southern rocker is trademark Skynyrd. This is working man's music.

Do It Up Right
This song is listed as "Do It Up Light" on the outside of the set, but the poster/information sheet shows it as "Do It Up Right," and that's what the lyrics say. This is another bluesy Southern rocker that's both effective and classic Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Sad Songs
With some balladic parts, this has an almost metal approach on other sections. The contrast serves the song well, and there is a lot of meat on the bones here.
Low Down Dirty
Another screaming hot metallic rocker, this is so strong. I know this is a bonus track, but it's another of my favorites of the whole set.
Skynyrd Nation (Live)
A live version of this hard rocker, this works well in this format. I prefer the studio version, but there is some real charm to this performance.
Gimme Three Steps (Live)
Another live Skynyrd classic, this does seem a bit updated to a harder edge. This is fun.
 
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