Triple-Guitar Front of Steve Gaines, Gary Rossington, and Collins Remains Rock’s Most Formidable Assembly of Six-String Players
Street Survivors remains Lynyrd Skynyrd’s finest hour, and for many reasons. The last album recorded with original vocalist Ronnie Van Zant and guitarist Steve Gaines, who passed away in a tragic plane accident three days after its release, the 1977 set is both mythical for its historical significance as well as infallible songwriting quality. Then there’s the triple-guitar front of Allen Collins, Gary Rossington, and Gaines, which, together, comprise the most formidable combination of lead six-string players assembled on an original album. Add in freshly inspired performances and classic Muscle Shoals production, and you have a timeless work of art.
Mobile Fidelity Silver Series' limited edition LP presents Skynyrd’s landmark effort in a dynamic, organic, soulful, and balanced sound that puts the musicians on a wide soundstage that will make you think they are standing on a stage in your room. In particular, Van Zant’s reenergized singing comes through with utmost clarity and verve. The complex web of guitars is now unraveled, with each of the instrumentalists possessing their own space, allowing their contributions to assume a transparency that further lends to the music’s impact. Background vocals, too, rise up above what had heretofore been an artificial ceiling.
Produced by iconic producer Tom Dowd, Street Survivors is drenched in earthy vibes and live-from-the-floor rawness, the sense of spontaneity and interplay underlining the group’s taut albeit loose material. Skynyrd comes out firing, after 1975’s solid Nuthin’ Fancy and the following year’s equally hot Gimme Back My Bullets, on Street Survivors and never let up. The septet’s nucleus was never better—it’s lamentable that this stands as the lineup’s only studio record together, but the music here makes you all the more thankful for the chance to at least hear them reach their potential.
Gaines’ incredible abilities spur on his mates, which respond with strong ideas and even stronger performances. Melodies are sharp, hooks are abundant, rhythms in command. A miasma of blues, rock, country, gospel, and soul informs the arrangements, and those three guitarists play as if their lives depended on getting everything just right. Songs flow with an effortless ease, and whether it’s the slithering organ-backed rollick of “I Never Dreamed,” swampy drug-abuse warning “That Smell,” or autobiographical honky-tonk “Ain’t No Good Life,” Skynryd clicks on all cylinders. Swagger, swing, and strut. What an album.