Van Zant II

Van Zant

CMC International Records, 2001

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


It seems like it would be the perfect meeting of two Southern Rock powers, pairing Johnny Van Zant (Lynyrd Skynyrd) and his brother Donnie (38 Special) together. It's already been done once, on Brother To Brother a few years ago - one of the few discs out of the CMC stable I haven't checked out.

Now the brothers meet again for Van Zant II, a disc that tries not to be either Skynyrd or 38 Special - and the end result is near chaos.

Mind you, I'm not against the brothers Van Zant doing albums together; both have incredible voices and are talented singers in their own right. But it sometimes feels like they're trying to leave their musical roots behind and step out onto a path that is less familiar to them. Oh, sure, had they made an album that sounded like Lynyrd Skynyrd or 38 Special, someone would have complained that they were resting on their laurels. After hearing the bulk of my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Van Zant II, I know that's exactly where I'd prefer them to be.

Right from the get-go, you can tell this is a troubled album. Part of the problem is that both Van Zants are so good that it's hard to know when each individual singer should be in the driver's seat. Having both sing at the same time, especially when harmony vocals are eschewed, is merely a recipe for disaster, as "Oklahoma" proves.

But part of the problem is also in the songwriting, something both Van Zant brothers and producer Robert White Johnson can share the blame for. Many of the songs on Van Zant II don't even sound like the "B" material for either of their respected groups. Instead, tracks such as "At Least I'm Free," "Imagination," "Get What You Got Comin'" and "Baby Get Blue" all sound like they were written for someone else and tackled by the Van Zants. Had both Johnny and Donnie Van Zant not been songwriters for all 10 tracks (though Donnie Van Zant seems to be the main songwriter of the two), I'd think that was the case. Even the guitar talents of Kenny Wayne Shepherd on two tracks seems wasted.

This isn't to say that all of Van Zant II is a waste. There is a light of hope held out early on with the track "Heart Of An Angel," a song which admittedly has to grow on you a bit. But the real fireworks are saved for the closing tracks of the album. "What's The World Coming To" begins to have the feel of a classic Southern Rock band (reminding me a little bit of the solo work of Warren Haynes), while "Alive" (the only track co-written with Jim Peterik) shows the potential the Van Zants and their backing band had throughout this disc. "Wildside" is a lesser track of the three, but still stands out among the carnage.

It's surprising that Johnny and Donnie Van Zant would miss the target as they did on Van Zant II. I'm told that Brother To Brother was an amazing disc - and it makes me wonder if it's just impossible to recreate that initial magic.

Rating: D+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 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 CMC International Records, and is used for informational purposes only.