Lynyrd Skynyrd’s present doesn’t live up to its past

Lynyrd Skynyrd established itself as one of the most innovative Southern rock bands in the early ’70s. A revamped version of the group is still rocking and has released Vicious Cycle to commemorate 30 years in the music business.

The 15 tracks on this new CD make it painfully clear that this is not the original Skynyrd. Only two members, guitarist Gary Rossington and keyboardist Billy Powell, remain from the legendary supergroup. They are supported by a host of talented musicians, including lead vocalist Johnny Van Zant, the younger brother of previous frontman Ronnie Van Zant, who perished in a plane crash along with two other band members in 1977.

Throughout much of the album, the group relies heavily on Southern rock clichés, such as fast cars, cold beer, and Sturgis motorcycle rallies. By incorporating these stereotypes, the band is trying to capture the rebellious, but honest nature that characterizes this music. Instead, their lyrics sound forced and awkward at times. The band spirals into mediocrity on several predictable tracks, including “Red, White, and Blue,” “Sweet Mama,” and “Lucky Man.”

Skynyrd does show some potential on “The Way,” a haunting introspective rocker where the nature of life, religion, and politics is examined. Another standout is the intelligent “Hell or Heaven,” which contemplates the importance of controlling one’s own destiny and seizing the advantages that life has to offer. The CD’s highlight comes on “Pick ‘Em Up,” a fun, honky-tonk piano number that features each band member on vocals.

For the most part, however, Vicious Cycle would be more aptly named Wimpy Cycle. While none of the songs is bad, few are actually impressive. To be fair, not many bands could be expected to successfully follow in the immortal footsteps of the “first” Skynyrd. If you are looking for a good Southern rock CD, your money would be better spent on an older Lynyrd Skynyrd album.

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