Deborah Frost
August 12, 1994 AT 04:00 AM EDT

As tragedies go, the 1977 airplane crash that killed three members of Lynyrd Skynyrd just as the Southern rockers were nearing superstardom is closer to a disaster affecting an entire community — a schoolbus wreck, say, or a mining accident — than the usual rock star calamity. Few bands have so succinctly articulated the regional complexities of American desire and shame. Skynyrd, perhaps more for the fans than for themselves, have made previous attempts to reunite. But the psychic wounds were slower to heal than their guitar-picking fingers. For the first time since the accident, they have found a meaningful way to celebrate the band’s history. That’s because, unlike most greatest-hits packages, Endangered Species, which includes ”unplugged” versions of their ’70s material, has intrinsic emotional power of its own. Performed by the group’s revamped ’90s lineup, including four original members and the late singer Ronnie Van Zant’s younger brother, Johnny, it’s the latter’s moving vocals and the bittersweet slide guitars moaning through such classics as ”Sweet Home Alabama” and ”Saturday Night Special” that provide the salve and the solace of a perfect eulogy. A

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