The eighties saw most of the southern rock giants sense which way the musical wind was blowing and steer their ship in an AOR direction. Examples included BLACKFOOT (Siogo) and MOLLY HATCHET (The Deed is Done) but the band that enjoyed the most commercial success going down this route was 38 SPECIAL. So it was no surprise when another of the VAN ZANT clan sought a slice of that pie.
The same personnel that had released three albums as the Johnny Van Zant Band rebranded slightly, enlisted 38’s producer Rodney Mills, and went all out AOR from the moment ‘Midnight Sensation’, one of only two songs written or co-written by the band, opens with the classic lyric “Cruising down the boulevard…”.
‘She’s Out With A Gun’ takes them even further down that road with its keyboard intro and stately feel, as does the spacious arrangements of album closer ‘Lonely Girls’, with a sax solo adding to the cool eighties vibe. Johnny Van Zant has the perfect voice, southern-tinged but melodic, shown to best effect on the exquisite mid tempo ballad ‘You’ve Got To Believe In Love’.
Nevertheless, as you would expect from a southern band, there is fine guitar work throughout from Erik Lundgren and Robbie Gay. On the rockiest song on view, ‘I’m A Fighter’, an unreleased song from Jimi Jamison’s pre-Survivor band COBRA, they deliver some great harmony lines, and the guitar work is superb on the closing solo to ‘Two Strangers’.
Many of these songs are better known in the hands of other artists: ‘2 Plus 2’ (RPM), ‘Heart To The Flame’ (Jeff Paris) and the Eddie Schwartz penned ‘Does A Fool Ever Learn’ (HELIX), but they fit the vibe of the album perfectly.
Within a couple of years Johnny Van Zant went into the family business, joining a reformed LYNYRD SKYNYRD where he does an admirable job to this day. Confusingly, he also resurrected the VAN ZANT name for a series of more country-influenced collaborations with brother Donnie. However he left this short-lived legacy of one of the best southern AOR albums ever.