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Southern Rock Bands: Top 10 Albums

Lynard Skynyrd, Allman Brothers Band & Co
by Matthias Mineur,

Fans of this style claim: Southern rock is not just music. Southern Rock is a creed, a philosophy of life and an independent attitude. The spicy mixture of howling slide guitars, whiskey-soaked chants, smoke-laden riffs and the flair of wine, women and singing - or actually: beer, barbecue and brides - has been captivating whole host of fans since the early seventies.

The most famous Southern Rock bands are certainly Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers, as well as Blackfoot, Molly Hatchet and the Outlaws. There are plenty of great records from the southern rockers, including real classics of the genre.

Without claiming to be exhaustive and purely subjective, I dug out some of the most important albums for me from the past 35 years from my archive in order to link the fascination of this musical direction with specific releases. Knowing full well that there is nothing like arguing about musical taste, I am presenting my personal best-of-southern-rock-list, in order to let all readers know at the same time that I am also top with bands like Black Oak Arkansas, ZZ , Marshall Tucker Band, Atlanta Rhythm Section, Doobie Brothers, Jo Gun, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Mountain, Ozark Mountain Daredevils or the Charlie Daniels Band and also the Grateful Dead can discover many great productions.

So it's about Southern Rock in the broadest and best sense. Here are my ten very personal highlights.

LYNYRD SKYNYRD: NUTHIN ‘FANCY (1975)

What do you think of when you hear the name Lynyrd Skynyrd? Of course, Freebird ‘with his ecstatic guitar solo and the anthem, Sweet Home Alabama‘, the band's angry response to Neil Youngs, Southern Man Man. Nevertheless: Lynyrd Skynyrd only reached their true maturity in the mid-seventies with Nuthin ‘Fancy‘, a cornucopia of different ideas and fabulous compositions. The band rocked straight into "Saturday Night Special" and moved across the southern states with the hobos in the driving "I'm A Country Boy".

The band members called themselves Whiskey Rock-A-Roller ‘- a reference to their favorite drink, which Zakk Wylde later encouraged to come out publicly as a staunch beer drinker from the South. The connection between three excellent guitarists in particular excited the audience, Nuthin ‘Fancy‘. Ed King with his unbelievably cool way of playing long solos and never losing your calm. Sometimes with a Fender Stratocaster, then again on a wonderful Gibson SG, for me it was the discovery on this disc. You already knew what his colleague Allen Collins was up to, and he, too, elicited great tones from his Gibson Firebird. There is no longer anything to be said explicitly about Gary Rossington.

He's Mr. Lynyrd Skynyrd, and the country song he wrote, Am I Losin ’‘ alone, was worth buying the album. And then there is the natural vocals of singer Ronnie Van Zant, who with a blond mane and rough tone of voice told little stories of freedom and adventure, and - when the cattle farmer's fur was itchy - of the hearty dealings with women. Text excerpt (, On The Hunt ‘):" In those two things you must take pride, that’s a horse and a woman, yeah, well, both of them you ride. "Is there a better way to describe good southern sex? This album is my alltime fave!

 

THE ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND: LIVE AT FILLMORE EAST (1971)

Somehow the two most important southern rock bands, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Allman Brothers Band, share a similar fate. Like the Skynyrds, who were torn from life and badly decimated by the tragic plane crash in October 1977, the Allman Brothers Band had to mourn the loss of their guitarist and creative head Duane Allman. On October 29, 1971, Allman died in Macon, Georgia as a result of a motorcycle accident. Shortly before that, the ultimate southern classic, Live At Fillmore East worden, had been released and had turned heads all over America and Europe within a few weeks.

The DoLP, Fillmore East ‘was the breakthrough of the Allman Brothers, a prime example of sweaty rock with a strong blues touch and that dry sense of humor for which the musicians are still known today. Did the term “Southern Rock” actually exist back then? If not, it was christened on March 12th and 13th, 1971, when the band members played their way through a breathtaking set of great rock and blues numbers, including pieces like 'Whipping Post',, In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed ',' Stormy Monday 'and' Statesboro Blues' stood out. Everyone involved in this concert seemed motivated to the tip of their hair, not a single note that was played without special meaning, not an arrangement that could have been made better.

 

EAGLES: DESPERADO (1973)

It may be that there is already initial resistance from those who do not want to see the Eagles album, Desperado ‘in the same context as Skynyrd or Allman Brothers. For me, this record has everything I've always liked in southern rock: a down-to-earth mixture of rock, blues, country, bluegrass and folk. The Eagles later reached their commercial peak with Hotel California, which was as authentic and conceptually homogeneous as in the story about the rise and fall of the Doolin-Dalton gang, but they were never again. Just terrific, how Randy Meisner creates his bass parts in Outlaw Man ‘. The title track, sung by drummer Don Henley, is a southern anthem par excellence. And with, Tequila Sunrise ‘, you will go into raptures just because of the acoustic guitars.

Also worth listening to: Bernie Leadon's playing on mandolin and acoustic guitar in the addicting numbers, Saturday Night ‘and, Bitter Creek‘. Here the classic Western becomes a pleasure to listen to, you can actually taste the loose dust of the prairie while listening. The cover artwork, by the way, with the shot down Doolin Dalton Gang, consisting of the Eagles plus John D. Souther and Jackson Browne, is also great. Here really every detail interwoven. In short: the perfect disc!

 

THE BLACK CROWES: THE SOUTHERN HARMONY AND MUSICAL COMPANION (1992)

The title of this masterpiece came from a gospel songbook and prompted singer Rich Robinson to make the - at least controversial - statement: "We want to prove that we are real and staunch southerners." Anyone who knows Robinson knows how ironic he meant this comment . Because the Black Crowes were convinced of nothing, except of their own qualities. Their contentiousness is legendary and certainly one of the most important driving forces behind the troops.

In the early nineties, the band was fired from ZZ Top during an ongoing tour because they mocked the beer sponsor of the Texas trio on the open stage. "ZZ Top are too old and too small to fire me", Chris Robinson then loudly and defiantly put on record, in order to present the noise abuse as his voluntary decision.

Two songs in particular made 'The Southern Harmony And Musical Companion' a real masterpiece: 'Sting Me' with terrific guitar riffing, a fabulous Hammond organ by newcomer Ed Harsh and his undisguised youthful pathos, as well as 'Remedy', downright classic rhythm & blues number with brothers Chris and Rich Robinson in the epicenter of the sound quake. While the two sounded even more melancholy on the surprise debut, Shake Your Moneymaker ‘, they now intervened firmly in the action.

Everything your heart desires can be found on this disc:

Rock, blues, soul, gospel, country and even borrowings from the seventies in, Sometimes Salvation ‘, the centerpiece of the album.

And has another band ever covered Bob Marley as fantastically as the Black Crowes in Time Will Tell ‘? The only serious comparison I can think of is Eric Clapton.

 

 

JOHN BUTLER TRIO: SUNRISE OVER SEA (2005)

Can you play Southern Rock in Australia? One can! I don't even know if John Butler himself knows how close he got to the roots of this genre with his album, Sunrise Over Sea. The fact is:

With a breathtaking and above all very unusual playing technique, Butler landed an absolute masterpiece full of country, rock, blues, reggae and southern flair. It's unbelievable how cool he works and at the same time the virtuosity seems to be in person. Anyone who has ever seen him sitting there with his arsenal of guitars, dobros and banjos will automatically be reminded of the young Ben Harper, but also of Leo Kottke and, at times, Bob Dylan.

'Sunrise Over Sea' achieved double platinum status in 'down under' within ten days, received three awards from the 'Australia Recording Industry Association' (the equivalent of the American Grammy, so to speak) and had a real single hit with 'Zebra', the besieged number 1 in the charts for months. And thematically, he could well be a role model for his American colleagues: In his songs Butler tells of environmental activists who risk life and limb to draw attention to grievances. Great guy, terrific work with several songs that you would take with you to a lonely island.

 

LYNYRD SKYNYRD: ONE MORE FROM THE ROAD (1976)

Folks, it's no use, but, One More From The Road ‘just has to appear on this list - even if it's the second mention of Lynyrd Skynyrd. Because, like, Live At Fillmore East Fill by the Allman Brothers, “One More From The Road‘ began a series of tragic events that decimated Skynyrd and the Southern Community. Guitarist Gary Rossington was injured in a car accident in Jacksonville and had to take a break for a while. In addition, Ed King left the group. Steve Gaines, also an excellent string acrobat, already played for him on the great "One More From The Road", recorded in July 1976 at the Fabulous Fox Theater in Atlanta / Georgia.

As loyal as the musicians were, they agreed to pay homage to their record company at the beginning of the set (, Working For MCA ‘) and ended it with the irresistible, T For Texas‘. There was also a sweaty version of J. J. Cales, Call Me The Breeze ‘, of course the biggest hit, Sweet Home Alabama‘ and a more than 14-minute version of their hymn to freedom and adventure, called Freebird ‘. Clear highlights of a disc, which also sounds wonderful in the rather unspectacular numbers like "Travelin 'Man", but above all "Simple Man" and the drug charge in disguise, The Needle And The Spoon ". By the way:

It is strongly recommended to buy the deluxe edition that was released five years ago, with alternative versions of some songs. Because it is the "Freebird" version that Allen Collins actually played on July 8, 1976. On the first version (at that time still in vinyl) an overdub version from August 1976 (from Criteria Studios) could be heard, which Collins recorded in allegedly 29 variants.

 

RIDE & GLORY: PRIDE & GLORY (1994)

Insiders have known for many years that Zakk Wylde is a staunch southern rock fan. He always likes to play with his friends from Lynyrd Skynyrd and in 1994 he tried his own band of similar caliber. Before that, the 18-year-old guitar prodigy had been hired by Ozzy Osbourne for the band and had actively helped the former Black Sabbath frontman to compose classics like No More Tears.

With his own band Pride & Glory (nickname: The Band Of Beers) Wylde threw himself into a short and violent adventure, which however did not lead to the desired success, even if almost 100,000 copies of the album were sold in America alone. The fans loved the record, but especially in Europe it fell short of expectations. Why? Maybe because it came out of the blue and Wylde still lacked the appropriate reputation. Nevertheless, the work is a prime example of how the genre could have developed further if other bands had picked up on this thread and spun it further.

It is pure Wylde, his view of things without compromise. Incidentally, Zakk Wylde's first solo album, Book Of Shadows ‘(1996), should also be mentioned in this context. The man not only plays the guitar first class, but is also a soulful and expressive pianist with a voice that would have done Ronnie Van Zant, the late Skynyrd singer, to honor. A complete album full of acoustic ballads by one of the wildest string stretchers of our time: What sounds like a contradiction, reveals itself on this disc as a grandiose contrast program with depth effect.

 

GOV´T MULE: LIVE AT ROSELAND BALLROOM (1996)

Certainly no coincidence that four of my ten favorite southern rock records were recorded live. On the one hand, the bands in this genre obviously have the strength to surpass themselves on stage and to contrast the studio versions of their songs with even better live versions. On the other hand, for me Southern Rock is synonymous with liveliness, sweeping solos and the opportunity to dance to this music. It is probably no coincidence that Gov’t Mule generally allow their fans to record the shows.

'Live At Roseland Ballroom' is one of several great albums by the group headed by active Allman brother Waren Haynes. By the way, the band name Gov’t Mule has nothing to do with military rank, but is an American slang term for a woman's (round) bottom. The history of this band is also marked by tragedy and loss. The group emerged from a spin-off from the Allman Brothers, where Warren Haynes, the guitarist, and Allen Woody, the bassist, replaced two musicians who had died in motorcycle accidents. In the late summer of 2000, Allen Woody suddenly died - the usual tragedy. On 'Live At The Roseland Ballroom' the unbeatable duo of Haynes / Woody plus drummer Matt Abts were still united, played a fabulous 16-minute version of the instrumental 'Trane' The trio's improvisational art and their gift of making gripping music with only three instruments, fascinated by this New Year's concert 1995/96, which was left almost raw. It's just great how the 'Kind Of Bird' flies even higher than in the original by the Allman Brothers Band. You can also hear and marvel at the slide guitar playing Haynes in, Mule ‘: pure emotion, pure passion.

And from the Steppenwolf piece, Don‘t Step On The Grass, Sam man, one can only be enthusiastic in this version. Is there a downer in this album? If anything, then only the fact that Gov’t Mule did not (yet) intone Little Feats, Spanish Moon ‘that evening. You have to hear it!

 

DEREK TRUCKS: THE DEREK TRUCKS BAND (1998)

Derek Trucks is considered a shooting star among the new blues guitarists and became a recognized member of the current line-up of the Allman Brothers Band at a young age. He is the nephew of Allman drummer Butch Trucks and was lifted into the legendary formation through him. Trucks is a remarkably calm and pleasantly humble musician who plays blues-rock as well as southern rock, jazz, country, folk and world music on stage. Its slide technique in particular is breathtaking.

His nimble fingers flit effortlessly over the fingerboard of his guitar, with which he varies fluently between improvisations and fixed components of the songs. Trucks only plays with its fingers - perhaps the secret of its extremely warm sound, which is perfectly embedded in the overall sound of its exquisite band. All his skills could already be seen on the Derek Trucks Band's debut album, which was released in Germany in 1998 and documented the extraordinary talent of the string talent, who was just 19 years old at the time, in purely instrumental pieces.

Eight years ago Trucks didn't play quite as mature and smoothly as it does today, but The Derek Trucks Band ‘was such a surprise that the press hailed it like a new messiah. This album is very important to me because it gave the listener the opportunity to watch a very young talent as it matures. His debut is certainly not perfect, shows minor weaknesses in the arrangements and even seems a bit naive at one point or another. But that's exactly what makes the record so appealing. Its sponsors had the courage to leave trucks raw and untreated. He thanks them with one of the most authentic debut records of the genre of all time, perhaps comparable to, Pronounced Lehnerd Skehnerd ‘, the first work of the Skynyrds.

 

LITTLE FEAT: WAITING FOR COLUMBUS (1978)

We have reached number 10: Yes, I admit that Little Feat is actually a synonym for a first-class rhythm ‘n‘ blues.But still: let's remember songs like, Dixie Chicken ‘, Lowell George's truck driver anthem, Willin’ ‘and all the crazy ideas you could find on, Sailin‘ Shoes ‘, for example. That's why I'm sticking to it: At least at times, Little Feat also fed their songs with a good southern rock esprit. And where better than on the group's ultimate masterpiece, the incredibly dense live opus, Waiting For Columbus ‘can you hear this better? The opener 'Join The Band' presented the band while they were warming up in the dressing room, the actual beginning of the concert, 'Fat Man In The Bathtub', was a rhythmically refined rock song with a grandiose slide guitar, in which George autobiographically deals with his drug addiction argued.

This was followed by 'Oh Atlanta', a straight, rolling boogie rocker driven by Payne's honky-tonk piano, George's homage to his favorite American southern city and his version of 'Sweet Home Alabama' (Lynyrd Skynyrd) and, Southern Man '(Neil Young). The focus of the album is of course that nine-minute, Dixie Chicken ‘, an absolute classic in rock history, sung by George and based on the honky-tonk piano and a slightly distorted rhythm guitar, mixed with howling slide tones and refined jazz phrases. In the middle part, you feel like you have been transported back to a western saloon, in which barely clad girls dance on the stage. A pleasure!

 


So that was a possible top 10 list of southern rock. Also worth mentioning are the following great bands and instrumentalists:

MOLLY HATCHET: FLIRTIN WITH DISASTER (1979)

Similar to Zakk Wylde, Molly Hatchet later developed into a steadily harder band, which purists no longer assigned to the southern rock genre, but rather to the hard & heavy terrain. But at the end of the seventies the blues and country influences could still be clearly felt.

WALTER TROUT BAND: TRANSITION (1992)

There are now supposed to be contemporary witnesses who complain about the excessively excessive solo excesses of the former Canned Heat member. In his concerts, Trout unfortunately does not always play as useful to the song as he did on his fabulous Transition ‘in 1992. Crisp pieces, pithy solos and vocals that went straight to the ear. Always a pleasure for me, in contrast to some annoying gig.

BLACKFOOT: MARAUDER (1981)

Today Blackfoot's bandleader Rickey Medlocke plays with Lynyrd Skynyrd, by the way, together with original member Gary Rossington and Hughie Thomasson from the Outlaws. In my opinion, 'Marauder ‘from 1981 was the strongest of all Blackfoot records, as it let the fabulous guitar playing of Medlockes shimmer through permanently.

THE OUTLAWS: THE OUTLAWS (1975)

The Outlaws' debut album is quite simply a small masterpiece. Full of driving songs and great melodies, played by three singers and guitarists and a perfectly coordinated rhythm group. Some say this is less southern rock and more a country rock album. But I claim: The almost ten-minute, Green Grass & High Tides ‘alone can compete with Skynyrds, Free Bird‘. 38 SPECIAL: WILD EYES SOUTHERN BOYS (1981)

The offshoot of Lynyrd Skynyrd was really flawless southern rock for only a few years and then watered down its stylistic devices in the direction of a radio-friendly mainstream. But, Wild Eyes Southern Boys ‘showed the band as a European southerner had always wanted. In addition, there were two of the toughest 38 special songs ever with, First Time Around ‘and, Bring It On.

DICKEY BETTS & GREAT SOUTHERN (1977)

Dickey Betts had a great team: Dan Toler, Ken Tibbets, Tom Broone, Jerry Thompson and Doni Sharbono - they are all masters of their craft. No wonder, then, that this group produced a powerful rock album that could certainly be compared with the works of the Allman Brothers and which at least reached number 31 on the American Billboard charts.