The show goes on, as perhaps it must. Before grunge, there was
grungy, as in floppy hats, endless hair, and dirty jeans: say,
has what went around come around?
Let's say not, and suppose you wanna relive those dusty days
of getting-down known as the '70s. You've already got the
memories, the T-shirts, the box-sets ... now what?
Just your luck! Two bands are celebrating their third decades of frequently
lucrative existence -- Foghat and Lynyrd Skynyrd, the former endlessly
troopering on, and the latter newly, bravely reconstituted.
The great thing about Foghat is that they were never cool. Never.
Lots of people you possibly know made hits out of
"Slow Ride" and "I Just Wanna Make Love To You." Singer "Lonesome
Dave" Peverett even calls the "Hat" "the ultimate cult band,"
selling platters like proverbial hotcakes without anybody in L.A.
or New York knowing a thing about it.
So here's a live album with, woo, all the original members --
and what sounds like the original audience: "give yourselves
a hand ... it feels way to good to stop now," and so on. Road
Cases highlights the band's signature touch untouched by the
passage of time or the hand of fate -- you get Rod Price's
endless slide guitar, not-so-lonesome-from-the-sound-of-it
Dave's competent vocals, and the alleged hits. If you were
there, wherever there was, it's some kinda dream come true;
for the rest of you, it's no Frampton Comes Alive.
All God's children arguably need to boogie, and speaking of
heavenly, when it comes to Lynyrd Skynyrd, Ronnie Van Zant
has picked up his fallen brother's mantle, with help recruited from
Southern blueblood bands, Blackfoot and The Outlaws. It's a
tribute to Skynyrd's uniqueness that things don't sound the
same in this earnest configuration. Beneath the misleading
packaging, which doesn't make clear that this is the reconstituted
band, these guys actually fare best with their own recent, non-hit tunes.
"This is a song about livin," one of them goes. Yet behind
the necessarily pale versions of the familiar Skynyrd classics,
this is a credible effort, not a fraud or cash in, and it mostly
avoids knee-jerk death-worship: Johnny's own take on Ronnie's vocals
ensures that tunes are far from embalmed. There's even the nice
touch of pulling the unexpected "On the Hunt" out of the cowboy
hat. Yet devotion ain't no substitute for energy, and the band sometimes
sounds depleted, as on the enervating, inevitable "Free Bird."
For "real" Skynyrd and "original" Foghat, you will obviously need
to turn to the ample, even underestimated back catalogues of
these good old bands. But if, and only if, you simply refuse to let
the good times die, by all means, pour yourself a Second
Helping of both of these. And give yourself a hand.