Bone Against Steel

Video may have killed the radio star, but it looks as if 38 Special only got maimed. Lucky us. Once you get past the firm, sweaty torso displayed on the cover of Bone Against Steel‘s booklet, and the photos of the most hilarious poodle haircuts in rock (wisely tucked inside where no one but the band will see them), you’re left with an untelegenic group that’s continued to thrive because luck — and someone with a decent ear for a melody — has always been with them. Though the band’s nominal leader since 1977 has always been singer Donnie Van Zant (brother of both the late Lynyrd Skynyrd singer, Ronnie, and Ronnie’s current replacement, Johnny), what’s kept Special special has always been someone else. It used to be guitarist-vocalist Don Barnes, who gave the band tracks like ”Caught Up in You” and ”Hold on Loosely” before splitting in the late ’80s; now it’s keyboardist Max Carl, who sings the album radio hit ”The Sound of Your Voice” and hummable fluff like ”Signs of Love,” while fifth wheel Donnie apparently pursues the unexplained ”practical jokes” he is credited with in the album notes. It’s simple: When Van Zant sings, this album drags. When Carl sings, it works. And — at least in terms of getting a paycheck — so does Van Zant. C+

Bone Against Steel
  • Music