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4.2 out of 5 stars
Southern Rock Opera
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 12 October 2003
I like Lynyrd Skynyrd and it was this that drew me into buying this CD. Thank you to the Sunday Times for bringing this album to my attention. This is a concept album but the Drive By Truckers don't let the concept get in the way of the songs. The loose concept is the story of a rock fan growing up in the southern US and the linked story of Lynyrd Skynyrd, here disguised as Betamax Guillotine. The Truckers have three guitarists on this album, just like Lynyrd Skynyrd at their peak and the sound is awesome. This is not commercial, radio friendly rock, it is far superior to that and if you like Skynyrd you won't regret buying this.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on 14 October 2004
..A brilliant, intelligent homage to southern rock. Musically the Truckers put me in mind in different moments of Skynard, Green on Red, Neil Young, Tom Petty, Steve Earle - a growly, dirty southern rock style. There are different singers too which keeps things varied and intersting but still sounding consistent. If I had one contention its that the live production style muddies some of the dynamics of the three guitars. But its a minor niggle as the quality of the songwriting is quite superb - stylistically varied and with lyrics full of genuine feeling, reflection, insight and humour.
The CD is really nicely packaged in a gatefold sleeve with lots of artwork and lyrics and you can just tell that its a real work of love which seems a rare thing for a record these days. If you like the southern rock thing, this CD is essential.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 29 September 2011
If you liked "God and Guns" by Skynyrd,then you'll probably like most albums by this band.Each and every track nothing like the previous,or following,song.A real eclectic mix of southern rock,story telling sublime,and politically incorrect home truths, ancient and modern.Strong lyrics,sometimes mixed with un-self conciously delivered expletives.Many a'normal' person has puzzled at the sight of a beard
ed,greying, outpatient, 50+ ,with a mile-wide grin!Seriously clever music!
P.S.Buy it,Or Y'all Goin To Hell....Love, Jinx
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
After recording Pizza Deliverance, DBT quit their day jobs and embarked on a frenetic musical road trip, during which they composed Southern Rock Opera and became a different band. They transformed from hayseed burlesque into a true power with something serious to say about the world and a serious delivery mechanism.

Nominally the story of the fictional band Betamax Guillotine, mostly the opera is a dedication to legendary southern rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd, and most of the songs are about, or contain references to, them.

Thematically there's something of Bat Out Of Hell about the opening track, Graduation Days, with the wreck on the highway; and the image of the girl screaming with her body embedded in the dashboard ranks high in rock's League of the Macabre. The masterstroke though is the way the teen rumour machine proceeds to create the myth that Lynyrd Skynyrd's Freebird is still playing as the emergency services arrive on the scene. It is, Patterson Hood's narration asserts, a very long song (in reality about nine minutes, so not long enough given the story's timeline).

The Skynyrd story is developed, telling of the connection with Neil Young and all that went with that relationship, culminating in The Three Great Alabama Icons. This peroration by Patterson Hood alone is worth the money and, contrary to some opinion, deserves repeated listening, a little like some of Steve Earle's narrations. It is a reminder of a time when the American South stood for bigotry and segregation, personified by Governor George Wallace.

Hood is totally on the money when he describes the effect Wallace had on the reputation of the South: even in the mid-nineties, when I first visited Texas, I was apprehensive about the attitudes I would encounter, and was amazed and relieved to be working in a mixed race environment, such was the effect that Wallace had on my opinion of the South. Amazingly, Hood reveals in the narration, Wallace had begun as a liberal, and only converted to the segregationist cause through opportunism. For this sin Hood hilariously consigns the ex-Governor to hell, where the devil, also a Southerner, puts another log on the fire and brews up some sweet tea. This cues in the song Wallace, sung by the devil himself.

The point Hood makes about the intended irony in some of Skynyrd's image is probably a little less well made. It's all fine and dandy telling the story from the other side, as Skynyrd were trying to do, but as with Merle Haggard's Okie from Muskogee, which Hood cites as a precedent, sometimes the joke can backfire, and it did with Skynyrd. My copy of their Greatest Hits includes on its cover the symbol of the segregationist South, the Confederate Stars and Bars. The state of Georgia has been criticised for making excuses for its use in their flag; the same misunderstandings applying to the state can accrue to rock bands in equal measure.

The second CD becomes less political but the Betamax Guillotine story continues to be thin. Cassie's Brother, for example, deals with the drafting of Skynyrd backing singer Cassie Gaines's brother Stevie into the band. The female vocal on the track creates a feel reminiscent of some of the Delta Blues around in the early seventies, and there's some really great slide accompaniment.

Shut Up And Get On The Plane is a rock'n'roll vehicle for Mike Cooley to sing some of the best lyrics on the opera - take "Your bad dreams and intuitions/Are about as much good to me right now as a brand new set of golf clubs," or "Guess the price of being sober's being scared out of your mind," for example.

And Greenville to Baton Rouge deals with Skynyrd's final flight, which began in South Carolina and ended tragically in Gillsburg, Mississippi, well short of its Louisiana destination. This is a real belter, with some excellent blending of multiple lead guitars, a la Skynyrd themselves.

In all, it's a fantastic collection of songs - possibly outshining its real subject's music in many ways - and is also on a level with some of the songs it references (Southern Man, Alabama) as a beacon against the racial intolerance which has for too long besmirched the southern states of the USA.

Demonstrating the strength of the whole project, it is possible to treat each track on its own merits, without any particular concern for the "opera" straitjacket. The live versions of Women Without Whiskey and Shut Up And Get On The Plane on the live DVD bear testament to that.
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33 of 38 people found the following review helpful
Don't be deterred by the rather misleading title. Not a rock opera in the sense of Tommy or Jesus Christ Superstar, this sprawling double disc is more akin to a song cycle about Southern rock, in particular Lynyrd Skynyrd. Almost six years in the making, the Drive-By Truckers have created a startlingly intelligent work that proudly stands with the best music of their obvious inspiration. Largely written and conceived by lead trucker Patterson Hood (son of famed Muscle Shoals bassist David Hood), who sings the majority of the songs in a torn, ragged but emotionally charged twangy voice somewhere between Tom Petty and Rod Stewart, these 20 literate tracks encapsulate a remarkably objective look at what Hood calls "the duality of the South." Rocking with a lean hardness, the story unfolds over 90 minutes, but the savvy lyrical observations never overburden the songs' clenched grip. While bands like the similarly styled Bottlerockets have worked this territory before, never has a group created an opus that's thematically tied to this genre while objectively exploring its conceptual limitations. The two discs are divided into Acts 1 and 2; the first sets the stage by exploring aspects of an unnamed Southern teen's background growing up as a music fan in an environment where sports stars, not rock stars, were idolized. The second follows him as he joins his Skynyrd-styled dream band, tours the world, and eventually crashes to his death in the same sort of airplane accident that claimed his heroes. The Drive-By Truckers proudly charge through these songs with their three guitars, grinding and soloing with a swampy intensity recalling a grittier, less commercially viable early version of Skynyrd. A potentially dodgy concept that's redeemed by magnificent songwriting, passionate singing, and ruggedly confident but far from over-the-top playing, Southern Rock Opera should be required listening not only for fans of the genre, but anyone interested in the history of '70s rock, or even the history of the South in that decade. More the story of Hood than Skynyrd, this is thought-provoking music that also slashes, burns, and kicks out the jams. Its narrative comes to life through these songs of alienation, excess, and, ultimately, salvation, as seen through the eyes of someone who lived and understands it better than most.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This was my first Drive By Truckers purchase, after seeing them on Jools Holland and thinking how they reminded me of early Steve Earle, so I had to buy. So, what did I think? For one thing, I wish I`d discovered them before as this a fantastic release; not just in simple terms of value for money with two full length CDs, but the quality is so high throughout and doesn`t dip off. It`s a great mixture of a heartfelt and genuine (and overdue) tribute to the original freebirds of southern rock (Lynyrd Skynyrd), but also addresses the fascinating link between Ronnie Van Zant and Neil Young and the controversial politics and polemics of many times-governor George Wallace.

Both CDs are fantastic. There are not many songs I don`t like, and some of them are fantastic - "Ronnie and Neil" and "Icons" particularly from Act One, also "Guitar Man Upstairs", which essentially uses the music from Skynyrd classic "Gimme Three Steps". Act Two is a little more downbeat, as it has to be, as it ends describing the tragic events of Baton Rouge in 1977 through the beautiful song "Angels and Fuselage", but even the shift in mood can`t hide the gems that are "Plastic Flowers On The Highway", "Let There Be Rock", and the Steve Gaines-inspired "Cassie`s Brother".

Great idea, great music.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 24 May 2011
Like a previous reviewer I have experienced the Drive By Truckers in reverse order and started with A Blessing and a Curse . Their releases since then encouraged me to look back and being a child of the 60s the thought of a concept album intriqued me. One of my favourite albums as a teenager was One More From The Road and a tribute /concept album to Lynyrd Skynyrd sounded like manna from heaven. So it proved to be- excellent songs with humour ,pathos and a history lesson or two about Alabama and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Strains of Sweet Home Alabama infuse the openings to a number of tracks. Let there be Rock and Ronnie and Neil are the stand out tracks for me but the two discs work well as a whole with the ending plane crash played out in dysphonic tragedy. I would love to see this live .
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on 13 May 2011
Start your journey here. In my opinion this is one of the best live acts in the world. Their music is just mind blowing. This is such a great place to start and after this you will not look back. There are so many hooks to their music. Do your self a favour and expand your mind here!!Southern Rock Opera
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on 19 March 2014
Saw this double album as a reasonably priced download, and if you like Lynyrd Skynyrd, Black Crowes and such like, then you're likely to enjoy this.
Give it a good and see what you think!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 2 August 2010
This is very much a tribute to Lynyrd Skynyrd and the influence Southern America and Ronnie Van Zant have had on the band, but it rocks, well and truly. The list of bands in the song "Let There Be Rock" is a give away, if you like ZZ Top, AC/DC, T.Rex, Queen, Thin Lizzy, Status Quo, The Rolling Stones, and especially Lynyrd Skynyrd you will like this album. "And Bon Scott sang: let there be rock", oh yes, he certainly did and don't we miss him, and obviousley Drive-By Truckers do too. Four stars because it reocks, not five because it is alittle too much a LS tribute album.
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