Lynyrd Skynyrd Live at the Fox Theatre (Revisited): The 25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition of One More from the Road
Between July 7 and July 9, 1976, audiences at Atlanta’s Fox Theatre witnessed three classic performances by Lynyrd Skynyrd, as the band recorded the songs that would become One More from the Road, one of the best-selling live albums in rock history. It didn’t take long for One More from the Road (originally released September 13, 1976, on MCA) to become Skynyrd’s most lucrative album; achieving triple-platinum status, One More from the Road was also the band’s first album to chart in the Top 10. Recorded and released just over a year before lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, vocalist Cassie Gaines, and road manager Dean Kilpatrick were killed in a plane crash, One More from the Road was a milestone for “southern rock”, a genre of music whose chief players — Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Allman Brothers Band, and the Marshall Tucker Band — have influenced a range of artists and musical styles, including the upstarts of today’s “white trash” rock (e.g., the Drive-by Truckers, Nashville Pussy, and Kid Rock).
Given the historical significance of One More from the Road, it’s no surprise that a remastered, deluxe edition would coincide with the 25th anniversary of the album’s original release. This two-CD package contains reproductions of the original album art — complete with the inner-jacket collage of floating cartoon images (including a Coors beer can, a Jack Daniels’ whiskey bottle, handcuffs, a spilled soda cup, a Confederate flag, and Polaroids of the band in action) emblematic of the band’s hard-working, hard-living image — along with the original liner notes by Cameron Crowe.
The additions to the Deluxe Edition are notable. Audiophiles will appreciate that producer Ron O’Brien has gone back to the original 2-inch, 16-track master tapes that were recorded in 1976. As O’Brien explains in the liner notes, “These analog masters were first baked in a special oven to revitalize the oxide backing glue so they would play long enough to be transferred to digital tape. Digital fixes and repairs were then made to these new digital masters using the ProTools system”. Sound engineer Kevin Elson created new mixes of each song using a vintage Neve 8078 mixing console to “capture the full analog warmth of the original recordings”.
The Deluxe Edition also contains some previously unreleased songs and onstage dialogue that enrich the listening experience and broaden the context of Skynyrd’s three-day stint at the Fox. Disc 1 contains “Simple Man” and “Gimme Back My Bullets”, neither of which appeared on the original album. Disc 2 of the Deluxe Edition contains alternate takes of “Workin’ for MCA”, “I Ain’t the One”, “Searching”, “Gimme Three Steps”, “Call Me the Breeze”, “Sweet Home Alabama”, and “Free Bird”. In an attempt to recapture further the original performances, O’Brien and Elson have resequenced the songs to appear in the order that they were performed at the Fox.
The Deluxe Edition showcases the dynamic nuances of performance, capturing the essence of live performance better than the original. For example, “Crossroads”, Skynyrd’s remake of Cream’s cover of a Robert Johnson classic, appears twice on the CD. In the alternate take, lead singer Ronnie Van Zant prefaces the song by telling a story about himself, guitarist Gary Rossington, and guitarist Allen Collins collecting empty Coke bottles and turning them in for refunds so that they could make enough money to buy tickets to see Cream. This brief introduction to the song foregrounds the rags-to-riches story of the struggling rock band who went from collecting Coke bottles so that they could afford concert tickets, to opening for the Who, to headlining stadium shows. Returning to Atlanta, a city whose clubs booked Skynyrd in the early days when the band was struggling, Skynyrd now pays homage to Cream, adding their own touch to a blues-rock classic. Similarly, in an alternate take of “Free Bird”, Van Zant urges the band to “play it for Duane [Allman]”, lead guitarist for the Allman Brothers Band, another of Skynyrd’s influences. The reference to Allman is especially significant, for several years earlier (in 1971), Allman had been killed in a motorcycle accident in Macon, Georgia.
When we compare the original tracks to alternate takes, we are treated to a new story by Van Zant, an additional note here and there, an unexpected riff, and the spontaneous sonic bursts that are inherent in live performances. As a result, the Deluxe Edition enriches our listening experience. While listening to a CD certainly can’t capture completely the experience of seeing the live show, it can do a pretty good job of conveying the power of Skynyrd’s live performances.
This recording of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s shows at the Fox also emphasizes the band’s connection to a particular place. Skynyrd donated part of the proceeds from the Fox Theatre shows to the “Save the Fox” campaign, a last-ditch effort to help preserve the ailing theatre. For their efforts, Ronnie Van Zant (vocals), Allen Collins (guitar), Gary Rossington (guitar), Steve Gaines (guitar), Billy Powell (keyboards), Leon Wilkeson (bass), Artimus Pyle (drums), Cassie Gaines (backup singer), Jo Billingsley (backup singer), and Leslie Hawkins (backup singer) were granted honorary citizenship certificates from the City of Atlanta. Although most of the band members hailed from Florida, fans in Atlanta were instrumental in helping the band achieve its success, and the Fox performances were heralded as a kind of homecoming for the band. On several of the CD’s tracks, Van Zant thanks Atlanta for their continued support, and “Sweet Home Alabama” — a song embraced by many as the anthem of the New South — receives an especially enthusiastic response from audience members.
One More from the Road (Deluxe Edition) is a welcome addition to the Skynyrd collection. For new fans of the band, the CD provides an audio snapshot of the band at a crucial stage in their musical development; long-time fans will appreciate the care and attention to detail that the production team has given to this rock classic.