There is no need to discuss Street Survivors here as an artistic release. Its brilliance and success precedes this reissue by 30 years. The album is easily, if not arguably, the band’s best, released at their creative peak, and outselling the rest of their earlier catalogue. However, the unfortunate event of the crash brought about the end of the band, which later reformed even though the magic was long gone.
The tragedy that surrounds Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Street Survivors was devastating to the band, occurring just as they were beginning to support the release of this album in 1977. The cover of the album showed the band immersed in flames, a horrifying picture given the event that took the lives of two members of the band, Ronnie Van Zant, and new guitarist, Steve Gaines, and claimed the life of Gaines’ sister, backing vocalist Cassie Gaines. MCA Records promptly changed the cover by removing the flames on subsequent pressings and replacing with a black background. For this new 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition of Street Survivors, the once controversial cover has been restored to reflect the originality of the album, a respectful tribute of sorts to the band and their creativity.
On this newly released version of Street Survivors, the two-disc set offers not only a clarifying brand new remaster version of the original album (Disc One), but also the unused Criterion sessions recordings of the album, noted for the fact that those recordings were the first creations of songs that you’re completely familiar with. The song structures are intact, even as the songs are different in many ways. Also included on the second disc are several live versions of some of the songs, as well as some outtakes from Street Survivors. The complete history of the album from the original Dowd sessions to the end-product are recounted in an engagingly informative essay written by Ron O’Brien and found within the pages of a solidly packed 24-page booklet.
The second disc assembles what we know as The Criterion Sessions (note: Criterion Studios is in FL, the band’s home base), and was produced by Tom Dowd. As noted earlier, the songs’ working structure is the same. Not all the songs on the release version of Street Survivors were recorded specifically for the album. “One More Time” is not here as a Criterion Session issue because it was an overdubbed, previously recorded (1971) ‘natural’ for the new album brought to the table after the Criterion recordings (I still would have loved to hear the previous version of this excellent ballad). Again, as noted before, there are marked differences to the Criterion songs. The Criterion Session or, as they are referred to as, ‘the original album,’ are songs that are simpler, more raw versions of the classics that you remember. On the official album release, the songs take on a fuller, more satisfying sound.
Without question, the released album is the better version of Street Survivors. On “That Smell,” the Criterion version is a rougher cut. As an example, the whistle heard in the middle of the Criterion version of “That Smell” is a fast one, while the released album cut has a drawn out whistle. Despite the differences, however, the songs are unmistakable. The band had very clear ideas on what these songs were going to be. The finished differences heard are all window-dressing but the results made for a better tune and we’re glad they made them.
While there are no earlier version cuts of “One More Time,” “I Know a Little,” and “Honky Tonk Night Time Man” available here, there are bonus cuts of two songs that did not make the final album, in “Georgia Peaches,” and “Sweet Little Missy.” “Sweet Little Missy” is a song intended for the Criterion album and is here in its complete form as well as a demo version of it. It, like “Georgia Peaches,” was not good enough to make the eventual MCA release album but both are great songs nevertheless. Another bonus track included here is a rework of the Merle Haggard song, “Honky Tonk Night Time Man” named “Jacksonville Kid,” a re-worded autobiographical sketch of Ronnie Van Zant, crafted from that Haggard song. “Jacksonville Kid” is found on Collectybles, as issued by MCA in 2000.
Rounding out the selections for the second disc are five live performances (“You Got That Right,” “That Smell,” “Ain’t No Good Life,” “What’s Your Name,” and “Gimme Three Steps”). These were culled from a ’77 Fresno, CA live show not long before the crash and are excellent performance cuts, if not historically important for their closeness to the tragedy, and representing the last of the original lineup live recordings.
The housing of the set is a double fold-out digipak with the discs sitting in trays, and the booklet in a slot. The O-Card protector, a plastic slipcase that slips around the entire package, completes it. This reissue does the release proud in many ways and is a welcome addition to libraries. This Deluxe Edition is the definitive Street Survivors from Lynyrd Skynyrd.