Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: Lynyrd Skynyrd
My sister actually locked her bedroom door this morning – I’m shut out of her awesome record collection! But never fear, I’ll pull out one of mine – hmmm, let’s go for the good stuff today. And so we have the soundtrack for Freebird: The Movie, by Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Freebird: The Movie is ostensibly a documentary film, released in 1996, but it’s really a concert movie featuring Skynyrd’s vintage three-guitar attack, filmed during various concerts in 1976 and 1977. Most of the footage comes from a 1976 performance in Knebworth, England in ’76 and features most of the original lineup with lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, the three stinging guitars of Steve Gaines, Allen Collins and Gary Rossington, and the keyboard work of Billy Powell. Somewhere along the line Ed King left the band and was replaced by Steve Gaines – I haven’t seen the movie, but apparently only Gaines is on the soundtrack although King is in the movie.
So let’s slap on the soundtrack LP – It kicks off with some recordings from England in 1976, “Workin’ For MCA,” “Saturday Night Special,” “Whiskey Rock-A-Roller.” You hear immediately this recording is a bit rougher and less polished than the classic live Skynyrd album One More From The Road (1976 ). But I like the gritty sound of this one; it sounds more like a concert recording to me, although I think engineers boosted the audience sound in places.
About seven songs in, we switch to a performance from July 1977, where Skynyrd performs “What’s Your Name” and “That Smell,” and between the two Van Zant mentions the new album they’re from, “comin’ out around September.” Then we go back to England and 1976, with awesome performances of “Gimme Three Steps” and “Call Me The Breeze” before the band winds it up for a rousing version of the Jimmie Rodgers classic, “T For Texas (Blue Yodel No. 1).” The boys rock that Rodgers tune, and there’s some nifty guitar work here … and it’s longer than the version of One More From The Road!
And so we come to this version of “Free Bird.” Probably not as definitive as the version from Road, which receives the most radio play today, but this is my favorite because it has a warmer, rougher feel. And at about the 2:50 mark, as Rossington glides into his first guitar solo, Van Zant tells him to “play it pretty for Oakley,” referring to Berry Oakley, the Allman Brothers Band bass player who died in a 1972 motorcycle crash. This version of “Free Bird” was recorded at a July 4 concert in 1977, and it has an elegaic feel – especially when you consider that just a few months down the road Van Zant, Gaines and his sister/backup singer Cassie Gaines would die in the tragic plane crash. That moment when the song kicks into its last rockin’ phase with the fast guitar solos, that will always be one of my favorite moments in rock and roll.
The LP ends with a studio recording, an instrumental version of “Dixie” beautifully played on acoustic slide by Rossington. It’s a classy end to the album (and the movie, I suppose) that recalls Duane Allman’s brilliant little acoustic gem “Little Martha” at the end of Eat A Peach. I like this album much more than One More From The Road, because of its rougher “live” feel and because it’s a great party record.
I believe the CD version of the Freebird: The Movie soundtrack is out of print, although it can be found on Amazon as a used item. The movie itself is available on DVD, from the usual sources.