Back in March, each of us set out to pick 100 of our favorite albums. The intention was simply to focus on personal favorites rather than trying to pick a list of the 100 greatest albums of all-time.
When we got done with those lists, we compared our choices, and 12 of our picks were the same. So we decided to rank those 12 picks in order and present them in descending order from No. 12 to No. 1. Today we present No. 8.
- Chuck Cox and Kendall Webb
ALBUM OF THE DAY
Southern Rock Opera (2001)
"Days Of Graduation," "Zip City," "Let There Be Rock," "Women Without Whiskey" and "Angels And Fuselage"
I have Kendall to thank for introducing me to Drive-By Truckers in the form of this double concept album about the band's home state of Alabama and southern rock icons Lynyrd Skynyrd. The opening cut, "Days of Graduation," is a spoken-word narration about a fatal car wreck with Patterson Hood pointing out that "Free Bird" is "a very, very long song." That's a good indicator you're in for something special with this album — and that's an understatement. With Hood and Mike Cooley writing the majority of the 20 tracks, this musical tour de force is more like a novella set to music with vivid detail and insanely good storytelling throughout the narrative. Hood and Cooley also trade off as lead singers, which gives the songs even more of a feel of different characters being involved in the story. It's a feat that I'm not sure I've heard any other band pull off. The lyrics are some of the strongest I have heard to this day, including on the haunting album closer, "Angels and Fuselage." By the time it fades out, your musical perspective will have changed for the better.
Holy rock and roll. I wasn't sure exactly what had just happened the first time I listened to this album, but in the aftermath, I was pretty sure I had just heard one of the greatest double albums in history. And as Steve Earle once famously said, I'll stand on Bob Dylan's coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that.
Dylan, of course, established that a double album could be commercially viable with Blonde On Blonde and The Beatles arguably made the greatest artistic statement of all-time on a double album with The Beatles - better known as the "White Album" (with all due apologies to Pink Floyd and The Wall). You know about all of those, but you might not be as familiar with Southern Rock Opera by the Drive-By Truckers.
The album basically tells the story of a fictional young Southern rocker that mirrors the real-life story of Lynyrd Skynyrd including a plane crash similar to the one in 1977 that killed several members of that band including lead vocalist Ronnie Van Zant. It is a brilliant album that tackles many of the sociopolitical issues of the late '70s that dominated the headlines in the post-segregation era of the American South - many of which are on display yet again in the year 2020.
BONUS ALBUM OF THE DAY
Street Survivors (1977)
Why I Love It
Street Survivors was released just three days before the tragic plane crash that claimed the lives of Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines and backup vocalist Cassie Gaines near Gillsburg, Mississippi.
The band was flying from Greenville, South Carolina, to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, for a gig at LSU when the plane they were flying in ran out of gas and crash-landed near the Mississippi-Louisiana line. Both of the pilots were also killed in the crash.
Street Survivors is one of the band's strongest collections of songs with the group, and they even strengthen their ties to their country fans with a cover of Merle Haggard's "Honky Tonk Night Time Man." But the song that resonated the deepest was "That Smell" - a song that talks about the smells of the various substances the band was smoking and drinking and equating them to the smell of death. It's an eery coincidence, and Street Survivors is your bonus pick of the day.
"What's Your Name," "That Smell" and "You Got That Right"