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  • Writer's pictureThe Sound Cafe

Lynyrd Skynyrd Commemorate A Half-Century Of Flying High With 4 CD Box Set 'FYFTY'

By Stevie Connor.

Southern by the Grace of God indeed. On October 13, Geffen/UMe/Universal Music Canada Recordings is set to release FYFTY, a 4CD/digital 50th anniversary box set that celebrates the enduring legacy of one of rock & roll’s most pre-eminent bands, Lynyrd Skynyrd.

The career-spanning 50 tracks featured on FYFTY represent the best of the best music the band has offered up to its loyal, worldwide fanbase from the very beginning. Within this box set, fans of all eras of Lynyrd Skynyrd can trace the band’s roots by way of their early Muscle Shoals recordings through an abundance of iconic songs that defined the literal soundtrack of the ’70s. From there, listeners can revisit live cuts from the historic 1987 tribute show that ignited the band’s ensuing reunion, then continue onward and upward with the determined last-band standing defiance of fist-pumping latter-era tracks like “Last Of A Dyin’ Breed” and “Last Of The Street Survivors,” and eventually touch back down on earth with a special live performance of “Gimme Three Steps” that was culled from the band’s final show with co-founding guitarist Gary Rossington in November 2022, a previously unreleased live track.

FYFTY comes housed in the sturdy, vinyl-size 12x12-inch format, with a gatefold jacket that holds a detailed 40-page booklet featuring opening notes penned by a longtime friend of the band —esteemed rock journalist, screenwriter, and director, Cameron Crowe — along with detailed liner notes and track-by-track analysis by respected Detroit rock journalist Gary Graff. Additionally, FYFTY is filled with unreleased photos of the original band and the reformed band, a stirring visual chronicle of Lynyrd Skynyrd both then and now.

The legacy of Lynyrd Skynyrd is etched in stone, and it is most readily accessible through the band’s deep, rich catalog of great songs — a half-century’s worth of material spread across 14 studio albums and myriad of compilations and live recordings that, over the years, have unearthed unreleased gems and rarities that have only served to enhance one of rock & roll’s richest bodies of work. “We just kind of notice what’s going on around us and write songs so people relate to them,” Rossington observed in the liner notes. “That’s always been our style. We learned that from Ronnie [Van Zant]; he always had a great way to take a subject and write a cool story around it so people could relate. We’re just trying to keep that going.”

Lynyrd Skynyrd’s story is a well-told tale of triumph amidst and over tragedies. After five years of touring small venues under assorted monikers with varying line-ups, the band officially became Lynyrd Skynyrd in Jacksonville, Florida in 1969. The group’s handle, a sly twist on the name of a long hair-hating high-school gym teacher they all knew firsthand, Leonard Skinner. Skynyrd spent years honing its craft through relentless touring, hard living, and hot material including the down-home mission statement “Sweet Home Alabama” and the anthemic opus “Free Bird” — the latter represented here on FYFTY via a previously unreleased live version from the band’s performance at the Fabulous Fox Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia, on July 7, 1976. These and other iconic Skynyrd tracks like “What’s Your Name,” “Gimme Three Steps,” “Simple Man,” “Call Me The Breeze,” and “That Smell” all contributed to making the band one of America’s biggest acts by the mid-’70s. Lynyrd Skynyrd had become such a bona fide arena headliner that gave the likes of The Rolling Stones and The Who a run for their money when opening for them — a confident band that even had the impudence to take shots at Neil Young for disrespecting the Southland. (Good ol’ Neil didn’t seem to mind too much, by the way.)

The group’s ascent abruptly and tragically stopped on October 20, 1977, when the plane taking Skynyrd to its next show in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, crashed in a Mississippi forest, in turn killing three band members — vocalist Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, and backing vocalist Cassie Gaines. Guitarists Gary Rossington and Allen Collins, bassist Leon Wilkeson, keyboardist Billy Powell, drummer Artimus Pyle, and backing vocalist Leslie Hawkins were all seriously injured, but all survived. As a beyond tragic result, Lynyrd Skynyrd ceased to be for a decade.

The band’s re-emergence in 1987 for what was supposed to be a one-off tribute tour was surprising and controversial — until the group hit the stage, that is. With younger brother Johnny Van Zant now out front — of whom Ronnie had told others was the best singer in the family — Lynyrd Skynyrd became a formidable force once again, releasing nine more studio albums to date and continuing to do what they do best out on the road. Skynyrd also welcomed a myriad of additional band members to the ranks to carry the torch as others sadly passed on — namely, Collins in 1990, Wilkeson in 2001, Powell in 2009, original guitarist Ed King in 1996, and, most recently, Gary Rossington, the last co-founding member, who left us in March 2023. Thankfully, Rossington’s swan song has been captured forever in the aforementioned live version of “Gimme Three Steps” taken from the last show he performed with Skynyrd that took place at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee, on November 13, 2022.

As Johnny Van Zant himself put it quite touchingly in the liners about his lifelong friend Gary, “We miss him so much. What kept me going was calling [Rossington] and having these conversations. He was my cheerleader. So now I’m gonna have to remember his voice to keep my spirits up and keep this thing going. . . as a tribute, and so people remember him and Ronnie and all the others who have been part of this.”

Still going strong and true with its current lineup, Lynyrd Skynyrd most recently joined forces with spiritual Southern brethren ZZ Top for their first co-headlining tour — cleverly dubbed The Sharp Dressed Simple Man Tour — in turn getting to rock out together in over 22 cities in North America this summer. After that tour wraps up, and coupled with the knowledge of how these perennial Street Survivors operate, Lynyrd Skynyrd may not be done touring just yet. For now, all current tour dates can be found HERE

As Cameron Crowe succinctly pointed out in his opening comments in the FYFTY booklet, as rock & roll only continued to get bigger and bigger, “through it all, doggedly making one authentically great record after another, Lynyrd Skynyrd had risen through the ranks to become one of America’s greatest bands.” The proof can be found within the grooves of all 50 tracks on FYFTY.


CD 1

  1. Comin’ Home (Original Version)

  2. I Ain’t The One

  3. Gimme Three Steps

  4. Tuesday’s Gone

  5. Simple Man

  6. Sweet Home Alabama

  7. The Ballad Of Curtis Loew

  8. Workin’ For MCA

  9. On The Hunt

  10. Made In The Shade

  11. Whiskey Rock-A-Roller (Live)

  12. All I Can Do Is Write About It (Acoustic Version)

  13. Gimme Back My Bullets

  14. Double Trouble

CD 2

  1. Saturday Night Special (Live)

  2. T For Texas (Blue Yodel No. 1) (Live)

  3. Travelin’ Man (Live)

  4. Free Bird (Live – Unreleased)

  5. What’s Your Name

  6. You Got That Right

  7. I Know A Little

  8. Down South Jukin’

  9. White Dove

  10. Was I Right Or Wrong?

  11. Georgia Peaches

  12. Mr. Banker

CD 3

  1. Call Me The Breeze (Live)

  2. That Smell (Live)

  3. Smokestack Lightning

  4. Southern Women

  5. The Last Rebel

  6. Born To Run

  7. Devil In The Bottle

  8. Talked Myself Right Into It

  9. Berneice

  10. Voodoo Lake

  11. Tomorrow’s Goodbye

CD 4

  1. Mad Hatter

  2. Pick ‘Em Up

  3. Red White And Blue

  4. Skynyrd Nation

  5. Simple Life

  6. Still Unbroken

  7. God & Guns

  8. Gifted Hands

  9. Start Livin’ Life Again

  10. Mississippi Blood

  11. Last Of A Dyin’ Breed

  12. Last Of The Street Survivors

  13. Gimme Three Steps (Live – Unreleased)



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