4. Lynyrd Skynyrd (Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd) // Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1973
While Lynyrd Skynyrd are far and away best known as the band behind ‘Sweet Home Alabama’, with more than double their second-highest stream song on Spotify. But the band, originating from Florida, did something better than any on this list – embraced rock’s country heritage.
Rock music is steeped in the foot-tapping, back and forth rhythm so associated with the Southern United States, and the varying lead guitarists of Gary Rossington, Allen Collins and Ed King all incorporate the country moan of unsettled riffs, withheld and patient, yet still infused with elements of rock. Billy Powell’s keyboards add a much-needed romantic element, splitting the composition of typical rock music to excellent effect. Ronnie van Zant’s voice is exactly how you’d expected an American South Robert Plant to sound, just as much as Plant is the English van Zant.
And sticking with the Led Zeppelin comparisons, Lynyrd Skynyrd has not one but two rock ballads which seriously contend with ‘Stairway to Heaven’: ‘Tuesday’s Gone’ and ‘Free Bird’. The band went on to great success, although a plane crash in 1977 saw the tragic deaths of van Zant, guitarist and vocalist Steve Gaines, backup vocalist Cassie Gaines, as well as the pilots and road manager, Dean Kilpatrick. But this album is one of the quintessential country-rock fusions and announced Lynyrd Skynyrd to the world, revitalising a breed of rock.