Second Helping

Lynyrd Skynyrd

MCA Records, 1974

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


The phrase "sophomore slump" is tossed around here at "The Daily Vault" more often than a football at training camp. Usually, whenever an artist or band experiences any kind of success with their debut album, they always feel some kind of pressure to outdo that success - and in turn, release an album that disappoints critically and/or commercially.

In the case of Lynyrd Skynyrd, their dictionary must have left that phrase out, because Second Helping, their 1974 release, could well be one of their best albums, sitting on the shelf next to Street Survivors for that honor. Bringing back bassist Leon Wilkeson into the fold after Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd was recorded, the group was firing on all cylinders and had learned many lessons, both from that first album and the accalim that followed. (Note: I'm reviewing my ancient vinyl copy; the album has since been re-issued on CD with three bonus tracks.)my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

You can sum up Second Helping in three words: "Sweet Home Alabama". Quite possibly the most recognized song in Skynyrd's catalog (next to "Free Bird"), this song captures the band's Southern roots while holding onto their rock sensibility the best. It's been 27 years since this song was recorded, and with the exception of the Watergate references, this track doesn't seem to have aged at all. It still crackles with energy, and the wrong-key solo from guitarist Ed King (he admitted later down the road he played it in "G", when the song was in the key of "D") is still an amazing slice of six-string work.

But Second Helping is so much more. Continuing on the "mind altering substances are bad" theme started by "Poison Whiskey," "The Needle And The Spoon" delivers a powerful anti-drug message that is still meaningful today. "Workin' For MCA" could be seen as a bitch-slap against their label at the time or as a partial praise for someone taking a chance on them; either way, it's a fun song to listen to, even today when the band is long removed from those days.

Lynyrd Skynyrd even dares to use a song written outside of the band - thus giving J.J. Cale's "Call Me The Breeze" new life, and calling attention to a songwriter you might not have otherwise heard about, Eric Clapton's covers notwithstanding. Billy Powell's piano work helps to seal the deal, both on this song and "Sweet Home Alabama"'s outro.

The lessons concerning the blues from Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd are well learned on Second Helping, from their cover of "Call Me The Breeze" to the funky down-home style of "Swamp Music". Two words: well done! "I Need You" isn't strictly a blues song, but it definitely has soulful moments which suck the listener in. It might not be the band's best-known song, but it's still a powerful piece of work.

Yes, I could still talk about the two songs we haven't mentioned, "Don't Ask Me No Questions" (dealing with fame when the boys came home) and "The Ballad Of Curtis Loew" (detailing how the love of music was instilled in our heroes), but I think you get the point. Second Helping is a solid album from note one to the last drum fill that closes the disc.

If I could only have one Lynyrd Skynyrd album in my collection, I'd have a very hard time choosing between Street Survivors and Second Helping. In fact, I don't want to choose. I want them both. Bury me with them. Is this album that good? Oh, yeah.

Rating: A

User Rating: B-



© 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.