Thursday, August 2, 2012

Lynyrd Skynyrd-Gimme back my bullets

Gimme Back My bullets
Gimme Back My Bullets is generally considered the least successful of the original Lynyrd Skynyrd albums, but it has always been my favorite. I rate it just slightly ahead of the essential "Pronounced". I remember staying up late as a teenager, to hear its midnight debut on the local radio station (WDVE, Pittsburgh), and buying it ASAP after that.

"Bullets" is a transitional album for Lynyrd Skynyrd. Most obviously, it features a 2-guitar line-up, coming after the departure of Ed King, and a few months before Steve Gaines joined. The 2-guitar sound is a bit leaner that previous albums, but Collins and Rossington are more than capable of carrying the load! But it's also their first production with the legendary Tom Dowd replacing Al Kooper who had produced their first 3 albums. And it has the debut of the Honkettes, the female backup vocal group consisting of JoJo Billingsley, Cassie Gaines and Leslie Hawkins.

Gimme Back My Bullets is very much Allen Collins' record. Over the first 3 Skynyrd albums, the songwriting was spilt pretty evenly between the 3 guitarists (along with Singer Ronnie Van Zant, of course). Allen Collins co-authors 8 of 24 songs, Gary Rossington and Ed King each co-author 7. But Allen wrote many of Skynyrd's best songs, including "Freebird", "Gimme 3 Steps", "Tuesday's Gone" and "Needle & The Spoon". On "Bullets", Allen has songwriting credits (along with RVZ) on all 8 of the original songs (Rossington is also part of the team on 3 of the songs).

Musically, "Bullets" didn't have any big hits, but does include several Skynyrd standards. All of the songs are great. The title track, "Double Trouble" and "Searchin" are all Skynyrd standards, along with the acoustic-ish "All I can Do Is Write About It". "Roll Gypsie Roll" is a reflective piece about life on the road, and one of my all time favorite songs. "Every Mother's Son", "Trust" and "Cry For The Bad Man" are all solid songs. There's also a cover of J.J.Cale's "Same Old Blues" that has a great, almost funky, feel. Trivia note: Lynyrd Skynyrd only did 2 covers on their first 4 studio albums, both were of J.J. Cale songs. The other was "Call Me The Breeze".

If you're a casual Skynyrd fan, start with "Pronounced", or the original band's live set "One More From The Road". But if you want to get deeper into the spirit of the band, this album can't be beat.

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