Pronounced Leh-nerd Skin-nerd

Lynyrd Skynyrd

MCA Records, 1973

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/11/2001

The recent passing of Lynyrd Skynyrd bassist Leon Wilkeson got me to thinking about the classic Southern rock group and their impact on music for nearly three decades. It also caused me to think that it's been a long time since I dusted off any of the band's earlier works - namely, those recorded before the tragic plane crash in 1977.

Into the Pierce Memorial Archives I went - and out I came, retrieving Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd, the group's 1973 debut release. Ironically, this album is one which doesn't feature Wilkeson; he had left the band prior to their entering the studio to record this with Al Kooper. Guitarist Ed King handles the bass chores - and despite the stories of lead vocalist Ronnie Van Zant telling King he was the worst bass player he had ever heard, I tend to think that King does a pretty good job here. (In all fairness, Wilkeson composed most of the bass parts.)

This particular album features Lynyrd Skynyrd in the growing pains that almost every single band goes through... namely, they don't quite know which direction they want to take their music. There's the Delta-like blues that harkens back to the Allman Brothers, there's the all-out rock, and there's the overplayed but still enjoyable classics. We'll talk about them first.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

If you're my age or older, you have to have been living under a rock most of your life to not know "Free Bird," quite possibly the biggest concert stereotype any band faces. (I admit to having shouted "Free Bird!" a couple of times during lulls in shows... and I'm surprised I still have all my teeth as a result.) The song that defined Lynyrd Skynyrd, this still has a lot of magic left in it, despite being played to death by almost every classic rock station around the world. Going from gentle melodies to all-out rock at the midway point, "Free Bird" showed that Skynyrd was truly the master of its own domain.

That being said, they tend to rely a little too much on their blues traditions on Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd, featuring two meandering blues tracks that just don't seem to go anywhere. Of the two, "Things Goin' On" is the better one, yet even this song lacks a lot of the punch that it could have had. There's even a slight hint of funk in this one - and it might have been interesting to have heard how Lynyrd Skynyrd would have handled that genre, even if for just one song. "Mississippi Kid" might be hampered by the hand of producer Kooper, who's given a songwriting credit (along with drummer Bob Burns). This particular song just tries too hard to capture the Delta blues roots of the band, and sounds out of place.

Okay, so I've deviated from talking about the overplayed classics. "Tuesday's Gone" might have been brought back to prominence thanks to its use in Happy Gilmore, but it actually is a pretty song that gives each member of the band room to express themselves musically. "Gimme Three Steps" - I'm sorry, but this one is so overplayed in the Chicagoland area that I'm absolutely sick of hearing it. (Besides, the live version on One More From The Road, which gives the band room to stretch this one out a bit, is superior.) And if there is one track from this particular era which has been overlooked for far too long, "Simple Man" could well be the one.

Of the remaining tracks, "I Ain't The One" and "Poison Whiskey" both have the hearts of rockers, something which Lynyrd Skynyrd would explore more deeply as they grew musically - namely, in songs like "Saturday Night Special," "Gimme Back My Bullets" and even "What's Your Name". They're not the greatest selections in the Skynyrd backcatalog, but they're hardly failures. (If there's one complaint, it's how "Poison Whiskey" comes to an abrupt end, almost like the band was out of things to say about the demon alcohol.)

Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd is an album to explore when you want to try and get past the overplayed pabulum on classic rock radio and discover the beginnings of the group. While this disc suggested great things for Lynyrd Skynyrd, it's not necessarily the best release in their catalog.

Rating: C+

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© 2001 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of MCA Records, and is used for informational purposes only.