This is the bottom of the Lynyrd Skynyrd barrel: what did you expect ten years after the band’s plane went down? But even the least of its work provokes some interest. The Jacksonville, Florida, band was the most consistent of the Southern hard rockers, and the late Ronnie Van Zant was an astute writer and crafty singer who expanded on the Allman Brothers’ rambling themes and riffs.
Not all of Legend is “new”: two of the nine tracks were released as B sides in the band’s lifetime, and a third, an admittedly potent “Simple Man,” is a live version of a song from its first album. At its worst, though, Legend is nearly as edgeless as the version of Lynyrd Skynyrd that, led by Johnny Van Zant, paraded around arenas this fall. The laughable “When You Got Good Friends” spouts empty-headed regional chauvinism with enough stridency to make “Sweet Home Alabama” sound shy.
Still, there is some point to scraping this barrel. Ronnie Van Zant’s growls spit life into the otherwise sputtering Chuck Berry homage “Sweet Little Missy,” and “Truck Drivin’ Man” is a welcome “What’s Your Name”-style shouter, even if the guitar solo is a bit buried and Van Zant’s vocal somewhat weaker than his caustic best. More restrained, almost overheard, is “Four Walls of Raiford,” an I’m-in-jail ballad that doesn’t suffer from the fake heroism with which such numbers are usually stuffed.
There are three new songs on Legend worth hearing, but don’t search this out before you buy any Lynyrd Skynyrd album released while the band was intact. Legend isn’t wretched, but if you want to rediscover one of the sturdiest American bands of the Seventies, there are half a dozen better places to start.