Ranking Every Lynyrd Skynyrd Album Featuring Ronnie Van Zant From Worst To Best

Lineup changes undoubtedly change the bands’ sounds, and in Lynyrd Skynyrd’s case, Ronnie Van Zant’s shoes were hard to fill. After the tragic plane crash that took the lives of Ronnie, Steve Gaines, and Cassie Gaines, the band couldn’t decide whether they should continue and took a ten-year-long hiatus before returning with Ronnie’s brother Johnny Van Zant as the lead singer. They decided it would be best to continue and keep the Lynyrd Skynyrd legacy alive.

If you take a look at Lynyrd Skynyrd’s discography, you see that the band released an album each year with Ronnie Van Zant, while the reunited Lynyrd Skynyrd released twice as many after the tragic crash. However, their most successful efforts and timeless hits belonged to the Ronnie Van Zant era. They indeed made great songs after Johnny Van Zant’s addition, but Ronnie witnessed the band’s golden age. Below is the list of these five albums ranked from worst to best.

5. Gimme Back My Bullets (1976)

‘Gimme Back My Bullets’ was released during a period of conflict for Lynyrd Skynyrd. By 1975, personal issues began to arise within the band, and Lynyrd Skynyrd underwent several lineup changes. Besides, manager Alan Walder’s financial control over them caused discomfort, which resulted in Peter Rudge taking his place. So, the recordings took place in a time of conflict and loss of direction.

The title track and ‘Searching’ were the most prominent efforts featured on this album. Among other songs, ‘Cry For The Bad Man’ reflected Ronnie Van Zant’s frustration about Alan Walder, his close friend. However, the musician later regretted writing this song. Following its release, ‘Gimme Back My Bullets’ reached number 20 on the US albums chart but failed to get higher rankings in Canada, Sweden, and the UK.

4. Nuthin’ Fancy (1975)

This album was released at the height of the conflicts mentioned above. In January 1975, Bob Burns left the band following a mental breakdown he suffered on their European tour. Lynyrd Skynyrd then hired Artimus Pyle as his replacement. Recordings of ‘Nuthin’ Fancy’ was completed in 17 days, resulting in their then-producer Al Kooper’s disappointment. So, he parted ways with the band after the tracking and mixing.

‘Nuthin’ Fancy’ was the first Lynyrd Skynyrd album that managed to reach the top 10. It peaked at 9 on the US album chart and 17 in Canada. Although the album was a success as fans were eager to listen to the follow-up of ‘Second Helping,’ it fell behind its predecessors and had lower sales. ‘Nuthin’ Fancy’ is best known for its only single ‘Saturday Night Special,’ an anti-gun song that peaked at 27 on the US Billboard chart.

3. Street Survivors (1977)

‘Street Survivors’ is probably the most controversial effort Lynyrd Skynyrd made due to its album cover and the conspiracy theories surrounding it. According to some, the original album cover (which featured band members amid flames) predicted the plane crash as it was released days before the tragedy. Sadly, the album was the final record that featured Ronnie Van Zant and Allen Collins and the sole studio album Steve Gaines recorded with the band.

Despite these theories, ‘Street Survivors’ was a huge chart success — it became their second platinum album and reached number 5 on the US album chart. It was also an instant success for Lynyrd Skynyrd after its release, achieving gold certification in just ten days. Steve Gaines had a chance to showcase his musicianship on this album and shared vocals with Ronnie on ‘You Got That Right’ and ‘I Know A Little.’

Looking through the songs featured in ‘Street Survivors,’ it’s apparent that they experimented with a new approach in this album as it had a more adventurous and energetic tone. However, the band took a ten-year hiatus following the plane crash, and Johnny Van Zant decided to stay in the country rock territory rather than follow the new direction of Ronnie’s era. ‘What’s Your Name’ was ‘Street Survivors” most successful single, while the second single ‘That Smell,’ written after Gary Rossington’s car crash, failed to chart.

2. Second Helping (1974)

After they opened for the Who on the band’s Quadrophenia tour, Lynyrd Skynyrd started to appeal to a broader audience. ‘Second Helping’ was released during this period. It saw King, Collins, and Rossington collaborate with Ronnie on the songwriting and was a milestone for them as a breakthrough album. Besides, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s dazzling triple-guitar performance was showcased in ‘Second Helping,’ especially in ‘Call Me the Breeze.’

The album represented the band’s unique take on Southern music-influenced blues rock. It featured some songs that became essential pieces of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s repertoire, including ‘The Needle and the Spoon,’ ‘Call Me The Breeze,’ ‘Don’t Ask Me No Questions,’ and ‘Workin for MCA.’ However, the most successful hit spawned from ‘Second Helping’ was ‘Sweet Home Alabama,’ which the band wrote as a response to Neil Young’s ‘Southern Man’ and ‘Alabama.’

1. (Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd) (1973)

The Lynyrd Skynyrd album that deserves the number-one spot on our list is their iconic debut ‘(Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd).’ Released in 1973, the album features songs that are still Lynyrd Skynyrd’s favorite efforts, such as ‘Tuesday’s Gone,’ ‘Gimme Three Steps,’ ‘Simple Man,’ and, of course, ‘Free Bird.’ Most songs on this record were already in their repertoire, and the band mesmerized Al Kooper with their flawless performances in the studio.

‘(Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd)’ was the album that built the Lynyrd Skynyrd legacy. ‘Free Bird’ became the band’s signature song and the longest in their catalog, which the band often played for more than 14 minutes when on stage. The song is also responsible for launching the band to national stardom. ‘Simple Man,’ on the other hand, is a song Gary Rossington and Ronnie Van Zant wrote after the passing of Rossington’s mother and Ronnie’s grandmother. It was later dedicated to Ronnie after the plane crash.

Following its release, ‘(Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd)’ became a huge success and secured them a slot opening for The Who on their American tour. The album peaked at number 27 on the Billboard 200 in 1975 and was certified gold a year after its release. Representing the relentless efforts all band members put together, the classic Lynyrd Skynyrd debut well deserves this spot.