Nuthin' Fancy

Lynyrd Skynyrd

MCA Records, 1975

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Southern boogie-rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd has gone from one of the leading bands of its genre to a band remembered for one or two songs that are played to death on classic rock radio. What people have forgotten is that this band was more than "Sweet Home Alabama" and "What's Your Name," they were a band that successfully merged country and rock, and were poised on the verge of superstardom before that fateful day in 1977 when their charter plane went down, killing vocalist Ronnie Van Zant and guitarist Steve Gaines.

Back in 1975, Lynyrd Skynyrd was trying to deal with both the stardom that "Sweet Home Alabama" brought and the departure of original drummer Bob Burns. Adding Artimus Pyle into the mix, they cut probably their most overlooked work, Nuthin' Fancy, which has lost little of its luster in 22 years.

The opening cut, "Saturday Night Special," revives the moral-based songs the band had done on occasion ("The Needle And The Spoon"). A powerful rocker, Van Zant and crew take a stand against handguns, especially the type the song was named after. The triple-guitar team of Ed King, Gary Rossington and Allen Collins is as powerful as ever on this one.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

But Lynyrd Skynyrd dare to explore different mixes of rock and country on Nuthin' Fancy, leaning more towards the country/folk side of their roots. "Railroad Song" has a touch amongst the electric guitar work, and Pyle's drumming is absolutely incredible. The song is an enjoyable epic of life riding the rails - by choice, no less - and experiencing the joys and perils of hobo life along the way. "Am I Losin'" sounds like it could have been written for Burns, an acoustic song akin to the Marshall Tucker Band about the loss of a friendship. (The only negative on this one is a rehash of the guitar lick from "Sweet Home Alabama.")

The return to roots is most evident on "Made In The Shade," featuring not electric guitars, but foot stomps, dobro, and a down-home feel to the track that makes it pleasurable - even for those who hate country music.

In fact, the country roots are so well explored on Nuthin' Fancy that the rockers suffer a bit. Sure, "Saturday Night Special" is a great track, but "I'm A Country Boy" fails to light the speakers on fire, while "Whiskey Rock-A-Roller" is an improvement. "On The Hunt" could have been a great track, but it lacks the Skynyrd magic that turned older songs like "Workin' For MCA"and "Call Me The Breeze" into classics.

That leaves us with one other song, "Cheatin' Women," which again takes Lynyrd Skynyrd into a different musical vein - that of pop. Billy Powell's organ work adds an AOR flavor to the track, while Van Zant drawls the magic into the song. Slow enough to be dropped as a rock song, fast enough to not be classified as a ballad, this may be the only real time Lynyrd Skynyrd delved into the pop world - pity, for they captured the moment well.

Nuthin' Fancy may not have the oversaturated radio tracks the newer fans are looking for, but has something even more important - substance, as well as a little attitude. The record's back cover used to feature a member of the band giving the finger to the photographer as the band walked past - which captures the spirit of Lynyrd Skynyrd perfectly.

Rating: B+

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© 1997 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.