DISCOGRAPHY by John Molet
Today, and since '87, Johnny Van Zant is mostly known as the lead singer of the famous Lynyrd Skynyrd, but people sometimes forget about the wonderful beginning of musical career from the youngest Van Zant brothers. It started back in the '80s, and the french fanzine "Band of Dixie" wanted to come back on the discography of this "little" guy who started his musical career as a drummer and who is now recognized as one of the greatest voices in southern rock music. The Johnny's musical career starts around '77-78, where he plays mostly in clubs and bars in the Jacksonville area with his band, "The Austin Nichols Band" (named after a famous whisky brand), playing some originals and covers from Lynyrd Skynyrd, Pat Travers among others. After he changed his band name to "The Johnny Van Zant Band", he finally releases his first album in '80, "No more dirty deals".
NO MORE DIRTY DEALS - 1980
After being on the raod for two years with these songs, supported by his brother Donnie and buddy Jeff Carlisi, musically between Lynyrd Skynyrd and 38 Specials, his first album seems to be what southern rock fans expected and what they were waiting for. The band is two great lead guitarists (Erik Lundgren and Robbie Gay), Danny Clausman on bass, Johnny's nephew Robbie Morris on drums, and of course Johnny on vocals. This first album is absolutely fabulous, great guitars , great rythmn section, and Johnny is ....already Johnny. With songs such as "No more Dirty Deals", "Only strong Survive", "Hard luck Story" and the wonderful; "Standing in the Darkness" (a tribute to his brother, the late Ronnie), this first album is well desserved as the southern rock album of the year (well, at least to me).
ROUND TWO - 1981
Johnny Van Zant is back a year later with a new album, "Round two". The musical approach is a bit different from the first album, but it is for sure, a great new album. If the band had got more time, they certainly would have written more great songs, as the ones from the first album. Well, it's much more easier to tell than to achieve. They may be not were that patient but can they be blamed for that ? But don't get me wrong, the JVZ's spirit is still there.Killer guitar riffs on songs such as "Who's Right or Wrong ?" or "Night Time Lady" are there to prove. Another point is the band in performing ballads, such as "Standing in the falling Rain" and "Yesterday's Gone". Jeff Carlisi, Steve Perry (vocals with Journey) and Jonathan Cain (piano with Journey) were in the studio performing and helping the band making a great album. The only surprise on the album is the Beatles "Drive my car" cover. With these two albums, Johnny Van Zant Band is becoming a band you can count on.
THE LAST OF WILD ONES – 1982
To me, this is their best album, even if the two first ones were great ones. With "The last of the wild ones", the band went a step further, a bigger sound, really well worked and arranged songs. A few songs ("It's You" and "Can't live without your love") show a new direction for the band, rock-fm music (a bit like 38 Special with his "Tour de Force". This is the paradox, the transition from southern rock to rock-fm music seems to get more precise, with their best recording. There is still rock'n roll in his music ("Good girls turning bad", "Danger zone" and "The last of wild ones"), the concerts get bigger, the public audience came crazy sometimes but the question is still there : Which musical direction, the Johnny Van Zant is gonna take ?
VAN ZANT - 1985
The fourth album "Van Zant" is coming out 3 years after the fabulous "The last of the wild ones" and it seems the most sceptical fans were right concerning the musical direction of the band : this album doesn't represent the Johnny Van Zant everybody knew ! Look at the photos of the band members ! it says a lot about the changing in the band. Well, that was the ear, the Coverdale-Bon Jovi type of looking ! Even Rickey medlocke had that kind of a look ! So what, what about the music ? Southern rock roots sare not there anymore, the guitars are not so much used as they've been in the past, as opposed to the synthesizer, songs are FM type songs. Something noticeable is the very few songs written by the band members ("Midnight Sensation" and "Two Strangers"), the others ones were written by other people or are coovers. There are some good songs, such as "I'm a fighter" but the fans seem not to enjoy this new album and the darkest moments of the Johnny Van Zant band are coming.
BRICKYARD ROAD – 1990
It's been 5 years since the fourth album came out, times ar changing with a new musical scene and record labels are not interested by the Johnny Van Zant Band. He'll quit the music business for two years and he'll working as a trucker for 2 years, just like his father, till '87, when Lynyrd Skynyrd asks him to be their frontman (other choices were Ronnie Hammond, Paul Rodgers, and his brother Donnie, they all declined the offer). So, he went on the Tribute Tour with Lynyrd Skynyrd during '87 and '88. He'll record a new album, "Brickayrd Road", in '90, in Nashville TN, with a "new band" (Robert Paul on guitar, Jim Wheat and Jimmie Lee Sloas on bass….). Many sessionmen will collaborate to this album. The rock-FM music orientation is still there, but the guitars are much more used compared to the fourth album. He and his brother Donnie will write a superb song "Brickyard Road", as a tribute to their brother, the great Ronnie Van Zant.
JOHNNY VAN ZANT "COLLECTION -1994
This Johnny Van Zant Collection is a kind of "Best of" mostly based on the three first albums.
A really good way to discover JVZ's band, with a great booklet reminding their musical career.
A "must have" for the ones not having the three first albums. "Brickyard Road" is also included.
JOHNNY VAN ZANT LIVE - KING BISCUIT FLOWER HOUR - 1985
Lynyrd Skynyrd is getting success, their '97 album "Twenty" is released and BMG is releasing this live album from Johnny Van Zant Band. For us, frenchies, live performances from the band were completely unknown, except a few bootlegs. It was recorded on June 30, 1985 in the Florida Theater in Jacksonville, FL. It also includes some unreleased material with "Rock Survivors" or "In your Eyes".
BROTHER TO BROTHER (1998) VAN ZANT II (2001)
The Johnny Van Zant Band certainly ended after the short tour in '90 as a support to the "Brickyard Road" album. Johnny, then achieved one of his dreams, making an album with his brother Donnie.
They released the wonderful "Brother to Brother" in '98 with great songs such as "Show me", "Brother to Brother" and "My friend". Three years later came "Van Zant II" with a completely different musical approach, with good songs ("Get what you got Commin" with Kenny Wayne Shepperd" and "Alive"). I must admit I've been a bit disappointed by this album, as I was expecting something closer to their first album.
They went on a short tour (around 15 dates in March 2000), but as usual, not in Europe.