Lynyrd Skynyrd (Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd)

I don’t review many albums…because frankly I’m not great at it and there are other sites that do it much better…but I wanted to give this one a try.

Looking back on this album…it was one of the greatest debut rock albums of all time. The track listing

I Ain’t the One
Tuesday’s Gone
Gimme Three Steps
Simple Man
Things Goin’ On
Mississippi Kid
Poison Whiskey
Free Bird

That is four classic rock songs on their debut album! It’s great if you can luck out with one good song on your first two albums. There is not a weak song on here. They had been playing around 7 or so years by this time… around Jacksonville and Atlanta. They did not improvise like other bands…they played for the song and the song only.

Al Kooper discovered them in a rough club called Funochio’s in Atlanta Georgia. He ended up signing them on MCA’s Sounds of the South label and produced this album. They were called the American Rolling Stones and their concerts backed that claim up.

It was idiotic but they were compared to the Allman Brothers…who had nothing in common except both were from the south. The Allmans were a very versatile blues/jazz/rock jam band and Lynryd Skynryd was a southern rock band that was influenced by British rock and blues… the closer comparison would have been Paul Rodgers’s band Free. One listen to I Ain’t The One will verify that.

I Ain’t The One – One of my favorite songs on the album. It does remind me of the band Free with Paul Kossoff’s guitar sound. A rocker…

Tuesday’s Gone – A simple epic song that is structured beautifully. One of their best slower songs.

Gimmer Three Steps – A song that has been played and played on the radio but a rocker about getting out of Dodge really quick.

Simple Man – The song is simple and effective… now it’s been in numerous commercials. It’s the third most streaming song from LS just behind Free Bird and Sweet Home Alabama.

Free Bird – The signature song of their career. It usually ends up in the top 3 of the best rock songs. Both Stairway to Heaven and this one build up into a never to be forgotten ending. This one ended each of their shows with an incredible high. When they played this at Knebworth no other band could touch it.

They only released 5 albums in their career before the crash. Of those 5 albums, 3 were great and 2 were really good.

Robert Christgau…the crusty rock critic loved this band and album: Lacking both hippie roots and virtuosos, post-Allmanites like ZZ Top, Marshall Tucker, and Wet Willie become transcendently boring except when they get off a good song. But in this staunchly untranscendent band, lack of virtuosos is a virtue, because it inspires good songs, songs that often debunk good-old-boy shibboleths. Examples: “Poison Whiskey,” “Mississippi Kid,” and “Gimme Three Steps,” when Ronnie Van Zant, instead of outwitting the dumb redneck the way onetime Dylan sideman Charlie Daniels does in “Uneasy Rider,” just hightails it out of there. Savvy production from onetime Dylan sideman Al Kooper. A

Harry Nilsson – Jump Into The Fire

I remember this song most in Goodfellas in the scene where Henry is doing cocaine, then walking out the door, placing guns in the car trunk while a helicopter circles above. The song has a Stones feel to it. It would have not have been out of place on one of their albums.

The song was released in 1971 on his album Nilsson Schmilsson. It also contained the Badfinger cover Without You and Coconut.  Jump into the Fire peaked at#27 in the Billboard 100 and #16 in Canada. This song was more rock than he usually released. From the man who wrote Coconut, Me and My Arrow, and the Puppy Song… this was a departure.

Harry’s voice was one of a kind. That is said a lot about singers but with Nilsson it was true. Just one listen to how he reimaged Without You tells you all you need to know. He was also a great songwriter on top of that. This song was the follow up to Without You.

The song featured Chris Spedding’s driving guitar, Jim Keltner’s drums and a cool bass solo by Herbie Flowers. The bass alone on the track is worth the price of admission.

In 1968 John Lennon and Paul McCartney were asked who their favorite American group was…they said “Nilsson.” John Lennon would later produce Nilsson’s 1974 album Pussy Cats.

Harry Nilsson:  “I’ve had a lot of publicity out of the fact that the Beatles liked my album Pandemonium Shadow Show, and named me as their favorite singer. But I didn’t really like that. Obviously I was very pleased and very flattered – and now I’ve got to know John and Paul quite well, and we get on well together. They’re both very gentle people. But I wasn’t keen on getting all that publicity because of them. It made me feel that I was riding on someone else’s back – in other words it was because of them that I was being talked about, and not because of me. But I think the whole thing was blown up a bit out of proportion by the Press.”

Al Kooper: “I went to visit him at his home in L.A. That first day we smoked a lot of pot and just laughed. Then we went swimming in his pool, with our clothes on, for what was the first and only ‘Brian Jones Memorial Swim Party.’ Later on, we sat down at his piano and traded songs. His voice and songs were fantastic, some of the greatest I’d ever heard.”

He never performed before a live audience during his entire recording career. Shortly before his death, however, he did join Ringo Starr on stage one night during the ex-Beatle’s tour.

Here is the Goodfellas scene where Jump Into The Fire goes into a Stones song

“Jump Into The Fire”

You can climb a mountain
You can swim the sea
You can jump into the fire
But you’ll never be free

You can shake me up
Or I can break you down
Whoa-o-o-o-, whoa-o-o-o-

We can make each other happy [4X]
[Repeat entire 3 times more]
You can jump into the fire [4X]

Al Kooper: Backstage Passes Backstabbing Bastards

This is an autobiography of Al Kooper. Al has worked with many people in the music industry. He was a songwriter, musician, producer, A&R man and everything in between.

His book is well written and Al uses humor all the way through.

A few of his career highlights are helping to form Blood, Sweat, and Tears, playing the organ on “Like a Rolling Stone” (although he didn’t know how to really play organ), organized the Super Sessions with Stephen Stills and Mike Bloomfield, found and signed a band while in Atlanta named Lynyrd Skynyrd. While in Atlanta he started a record label called “Sounds of the South” in conjunction with MCA records.

He goes over working with Lynyrd Skynyrd and how their first three albums were recorded and why they parted company. Another band that he signed was Mose Jones who was going to be his Beatles type group to counterpoint the Lynyrd Skynyrd Stones sound for his label. Mose Jones ended up being ignored my MCA.

There is so much musical history this man was involved in…he makes light of getting called Alice Cooper on many occasions.

In Al Kooper’s words 

Let’s clear the air.
This is not a book by or about Vincent Furnier (né Alice Cooper.) It is a book by and about Al Kooper. If you don’t know who Al Kooper is, that’s fine. But don’t let that stop you from perusing these eye-opening accounts of encounters with Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Gene Pitney, The Royal Teens, Bill Graham, Quincy Jones, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Mike Bloomfield, The Rolling Stones, Lynyrd Skynyrd, George Harrison, Miles Davis, The Tubes, Nils Lofgren, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and all the other wonderful people I’ve been fortunate enough to cross paths with over the last forty years.

What was really interesting to me is he shared the same manager (Stan Polley) as Badfinger and was able to get out of his clutches with at least some of his money intact. I picked the book up cheap and I really have enjoyed it. I would recommend this to music fans. Many funny stories and he is such a talented musician.

Another quote from Kooper on the Like A Rolling Stone Session… Tom Wilson was the producer who knew Kooper didn’t normally play the organ.

Thirty seconds into the second verse of the playback, Dylan motioned toward Tom Wilson. “Turn the organ up,” he ordered. “Hey, man,” Tom said, “that cat’s not an organ player.” Thanks, Tom. But Dylan wasn’t buying it: “Hey, now don’t tell me who’s an organ player and who’s not. Just turn the organ up.” He actually liked what he heard!

Al Kooper and Bob Dylan

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George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Barbara Bach, and Al Kooper

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Jimi Hendrix and Al Kooper

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Al Kooper…he wanted to set the record straight

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The Zombies

Since the first time I heard this band, I loved their sound. I liked their hits but a few years ago I bought their album Odessey and Oracle and was blown away. The Beatles were big fans of them in the sixties.

They formed in 1961 by Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone. The hit big in 1964 with singles She’s Not There that went to #2 in American and the follow up Tell Her No that went to #6 on the charts. After that, they released some more singles but nothing hit.

They went into Abbey Road studio right after The Beatles recorded the Sgt Pepper album. When recording the album they even used The Beatle’s Mellotron they left there. They recorded it in Abbey Road and some in Olympic Studio in London.

By the time the album came out they had already broken up. In 1968 CBS records were not going to release it in America at all but a young  A&R man at the time named Al Kooper who worked for CBS told Clive Davis (President of CBS Records) that there were hit singles on the album. The album was released and the single “Time of Season” went to number 1 on the Cash Box Top 100 and number 3 in US Billboard Hot 100…

The album contains much more than that though. Personally, I think “Care of Cell 44” is one of the best pop songs I’ve heard. It’s as if mid-60s Paul McCartney and Brian Wilson had a baby…and Care Of Cell 44 is it.

A Rose for Emily is another good pop song. “This Will Be Our Year” is another one. This album is one of my favorite pop albums of all time. The songs have well-crafted melodies and the sound is wonderful. Time of Season is a classic and has a mood, unlike any other song.

Colin Blunstone has a unique voice all his own. He did have a few solo hits in the UK charts during the 1970s.

Rod Argent went on to form the band Argent… they had a hit with “Hold Your Head Up” and “God Gave Rock and Roll to You” later covered by Petra and KISS with modified lyrics.

The Zombies regrouped in the 90s and are still touring. Get a good pair of headphones and listen to Care of Cell 44.

From the Al Kooper book, Backstage Passes… Talking about Odessey and Oracle

I made an appointment with Clive Davis and put the album on his desk. “I really think we should purchase the master rights to this album for the U.S.,” I aggressively suggested. He took one look at the cover and replied, “We already own this album. I was just about to sign off on our option to release it domestically.”
Now, it got good to me—
“I think that would be a huge mistake Clive. Why there’s at least two hit singles here.” He told me he would sleep on it and thanked me for bringing it to his attention. Two weeks later I got an interoffice memo saying they were gonna put it out, with instructions to rewrite the liner notes and pick a single. Cautiously, Clive released it on a little subsidiary label CBS had called Date Records, in case I turned out to be wrong. But my lucky streak was goin’ strong and that is how the single “Time of the Season” by The Zombies came to be number one. The album Oddesey [sic] and Oracle had been out quite awhile in England. (In fact, the band had already broken up and metamorphosed into a new band called Argent that CBS had signed before “Time” was released.) A buncha Zombies crossed the ocean to take photos and get gold records. No one at CBS thanked me for this; I received no gold record or cash recompense. But The Zombies, who knew what really happened, made sure to come to my office and thank me profusely. That was worth it all to me at that time.