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Lynyrd Skynyrd - 'Sweet Home Alabama' http://rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/08/63/fe/lynyrd-skynyrd-sweet-home-alabama-70-1446581113.jpg Hot

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Another essential purchase for diehard fans of Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Think of Southern Rock and ultimately the first band that springs to mind is the triple guitar attack of the legendary Lynyrd Skynyrd. This month is a real treat for Skynyrd fans with not one but two multi CD/DVD releases.

The first of these is 'Sweet Home Alabama' that was originally released as a DVD only package back in 2008. It captures the band on top form at Rockpalast's Loreley Festival on the 23 June 1996 and is notable for being one of the first ever performances with ex-Blackfoot member Rickey Medlocke on lead guitar (he had briefly been in the band in 1977 as the second drummer and backing vocalist). It has now been released as a 2CD/DVD entity and is also available in a double LP format. The set-list will be well known to probably even the most casual of Skynyrd fans and contains all the classics.

Sonically, this is an excellent live recording with Johnny Van Zant's vocals and the guitars of Medlocke, original member Gary Rossington and Hughie Thomasson (The Outlaws) all sounding mean and lean. The visual recording is good without being awesome, as anyone who has ever attended a live show will well know. The second half of the performance is better and shows the band really enjoying themselves although the German crowd do come across as a little subdued at times.

The band hit the stage with the 'Workin' For MCA' and the synonymous Confederate Flag backdrop – this has now been contentiously removed from all their shows and website merchandise. 'I Ain't The One' continues the Southern Rock whilst 'Down South Jukin'' (misspelt on the CD case) shows the band's Country leanings. 'Double Trouble' puts the band back on full Southern Hard Rock mode and highlights the benefit of having the backing singers Dale Krantz-Rossington and Carol Chase. 'I Know A Little' and 'Swamp Music' sandwich the brilliant 'Saturday Night Special' that really shows how tight the nine members of Lynyrd Skynyrd were on the evening.

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The poignant message in 'That Smell' is delivered with gusto but 'Simple Man' is arguably the pick of the songs, especially on the DVD in glorious Dolby Surround 5:1 (also available in stereo and DTS Digital Surround). The band can physically be seen to really enjoying themselves during the classic 'Gimme Three Steps' that features the four guitarists lined-up Scorpions style and there is a fantastic elongated version of the J.J. Cale standard 'Call Me The Breeze' that features solos from all three guitarists. Naturally, the set concludes with the classics 'Sweet Home Alabama' and 'Free Bird'.

Watch out the different hats that, the now sadly departed original member, Leon Wilkeson wears throughout the set.

The bonus features (CD/DVD set format only) will really appeal to diehard Skynyrd fans as it contains three classics, '...MCA', '...Bird' and '...Alabama' performed live at Hamburg Musikhalle on 5 December 1974 by the original line-up of Ronnie Van Zant (vocals), Rossington (guitars), Allen Collins (guitars, backing vocals), Ed King (guitars), Billy Powell (keyboards), Wilkeson (bass, backing vocals) and Bob Burns (drums).

The sound on the CD is, unsurprisingly, a little dated but substantially improved on the DVD version. The band looked incredibly young and it is difficult to watch without thinking of the tragedy that lay only three years later.

'Sweet Home Alabama' is another essential purchase for diehard fans of Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Mark Donnelly

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