Seventies Southern-rock giants Lynyrd Skynyrd continue to defy reality with their ongoing career: Now down to only two original members, Skynyrd have kept rolling as a live act with the late Ronnie Van Zandt's sound-alike little brother Johnny in front, and have been replenished over the years by veterans of bands such as the Outlaws, Blackfoot and Damn Yankees. But sometimes being around ain't the same as living. An echo of the Skynyrd sound is present on Vicious Cycle, but the soul is sure gone on these smug songs offering endless praise to Mama, flag-waving and drinking. Kid Rock's shout-till-you're-hoarse cameo on a remake of "Gimme Back My Bullets" does manage to bring some life to the party. But nothing can forgive the shameful, pandering "Red White and Blue," a Toby Keith-style piece of jingoism with a guitar solo nicked from "Freebird." The best that can be said of Vicious Cycle is that it will give a few die-hard Skynyrd fans one more reason to cheer at state fairs and foodfests across this great land. They'd be better off going for the corn dogs.
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